In episode 27 of The Knowing Self Knowing Others Podcast, I had a captivating conversation with guests Nicki Eyre FRSA and Jonathan Wilson LLB(Hons) BA(Hons) on the topics of workplace bullying and the importance of self-aware leadership. This thought-provoking discussion shed light on the root causes and impacts of bullying behaviors, while emphasizing the significance of self-awareness in fostering a healthy and thriving work environment. Here are some of the top takeaways from this enlightening episode.
1. Understanding the Distinction Between Bullying and Harassment: our discussion clarified that while bullying and harassment share common outcomes, they differ in terms of legal protections. Harassment is connected to protected characteristics, such as race, sex, age, disability, religion, or belief, and is covered under workplace legislation like the Equality Act. On the other hand, bullying is not granted the same legal protection.
2. The Importance of Psychological Safety: Creating and maintaining a psychologically safe workplace is paramount when addressing unacceptable behaviour. Early interventions and open communication are key to addressing harmful words and personal attacks promptly. By prioritising psychological safety, organisations can help prevent the escalation of bullying incidents.
3. The Impact of Self-Aware Leadership on Bullying Prevention: Self-aware leaders play a critical role in addressing workplace bullying. Leaders who have a high level of self-awareness are better able to listen empathetically, build relationships, effectively manage conflicts and see situations from different perspectives. They create an environment of psychological safety, enabling open communication and innovation.
4. Understanding the Root Causes of Bullying: Bullying behaviours can stem from various sources, including learned behaviours from supervisors or managers, defence mechanisms, or a lack of awareness regarding the impact of actions on others. It is important to recognise that some people engage in bullying behaviour without even realising it.
5. The Potential for Change: Behaviours can be learned, which means people can also learn to change their behaviour. Self-awareness is the first step in recognising our impact on others and understanding the need for personal growth and improvement. By fostering self-awareness, organisations can encourage positive behavioural change and create a more inclusive and supportive workplace.
6. Adversarial Processes and the Importance of Fair Resolutions: Our discussion shed light on how organisations often prioritise avoiding public scrutiny over finding a fair resolution in bullying cases. The adversarial nature of grievance procedures and appeal processes may leave people feeling isolated, excluded, and distressed. Proper training for senior leaders and a shift in organisational priorities is crucial in addressing this issue effectively.
7. Embracing Individual Strengths in Leadership: Leadership should be based on individual strengths rather than predefined roles. Recognising and harnessing the unique talents of individuals within the organisation can lead to more effective leadership and people management. It is essential to provide necessary training to leaders who are responsible for managing people.
Our discussion provided valuable insights into workplace bullying and the significant role of self-aware leadership. By recognising and addressing bullying behaviours, organisations can cultivate a positive work culture, enhance productivity, and safeguard the well-being of their employees. It is imperative for leaders to develop self-awareness, empathy, and effective communication skills to create an environment where everyone can thrive.