Bullies in the workplace — a creative solution example

Originally published at jimcanterucci.com

There are many forms of bullying that occur in the workplace. After all it’s a competitive place. I don’t intend this post as a comprehensive solution set to the issue.

It’s a big problem dealing with a bully personality. This article is intended only to get the wheels turning for how to potentially deal with these difficult situations.

First, as leaders we must ensure that the environment does not allow or support bullies. We have a responsibility to everyone on the team. Most everything we talk about within The New Leadership Normal framework provides building blocks to a winning culture so that bullying is not an issue. Our workplace though is a reflection of society to a certain extent and before everyone knows the rules and norms of the culture you are establishing it can happen.

For example, I frequently work with physicians, some of whom by the nature of what they do may not have the highest social skills in their workplace. It’s typical for what I call intellectual bullying that takes various forms until the brain surgeon realizes that you can hold your own.

This article was prompted by a great example of a solution to bullying that used a creative and moral high ground solution. The example came from the TV show Blue Bloods.

Blue Bloods is a cop show about the NYPD. In the episode that aired October 10, 2014 (Season 5, episode 3) one of the main characters was challenged by another officer who “stole his collar” and took credit for an arrest. This wasn’t the first time this cop did this to our main character. A conflict was immediately created.

In this testosterone heightened environment you can anticipate a big clash with some juicy payback.

I suggest you stop here and watch the episode, however you view it, on demand, online, etc. Watch it here. If you don’t want to take the time to watch I’ll recap the story below.


Don’t read below this line if you want to watch the Blue Bloods episode.

Show recap:

Jamie went to the police academy with a detective that shows up at his crime scene. It’s obvious that there is tension. It turns out that the detective has stolen Jamie’s work in the past in order to get ahead. In fact he made detective before Jamie.

The detective offers to take in Jamie’s perp while Jamie gets stitched up at the hospital. The detective promises not to steal the arrest. The detective does of course take credit for the arrest. Jamie confronts the detective and all of the detectives in the squad laugh at Jamie’s naïveté. A very similar scene that occurs on playgrounds every day.

Jamie begins to plot his revenge. He arranges to arrest one of the bully detective’s suspects while the detective is away for the weekend.

The twist:

Jamie shows up in the detective squad with the detective’s suspect and while we anticipate he will gloat, and as viewers we’re rooting for the good guy, Jamie takes it up a notch. Rather than take advantage of the arrest, he gives the detective the suspect and lets him take credit. He proves that he can play the game but that he also will take the high road. He also shows all the other detectives the “right” way to do things.

OK, good story but real life is a bit more complicated right?

The art of leadership requires a leader to determine when to act and when to let things play out.

While bullies are never a good thing in any culture, a bully turned around can be a huge benefit.

We’re dealing with people so you win some and you lose some. The key though is to be aware and strategic about how you orchestrate the handling of these situations.

Here are a few things to think about as a leader when bullying may be taking place:

  • Are you aware of it?
  • Are you actively managing the situation?
  • Are you protecting the safety of your team members?
  • Are you getting professional advice?
  • Are you contributing to the atmosphere that makes this OK?
  • Are you hiring the right people?
  • You are responsible!

Please share your bully solutions in the comments below.

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