Sarah Laruffa

How do I deal with an employee who is bullying another of my employees?

I have two women on my team and I have noticed consistent aggression from one of the employees towards another. 

I am aware the woman who is doing the bullying behavior is somewhat jealous of the job position of the other position (one is admin, the other a marketing position), but giving her any additional responsibility has made her manipulative. 

Both women are good workers and each is creating stellar work. 

Their behavior is reflecting badly on me, but I know dismissing one of them would create worse problems for me.

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2 Answers

Paul Fanali

The bully's work may be stellar, but she will damage the whole team beyond her own results. As the matrix of the bully is complex, the re-alignment may be the job for a professional. If you have access to a troubleshooter in your organization, seek their help, or escalate as soon as possible to your superior, ready to accept that the best long term solution may be relocating the bully within the organization, or dismissing her.

Understanding the dynamics of bully-victim is more esoteric than it seems. The changes have to occur simultaneously in the two individuals, and in the WHOLE TEAM. A set of complex self and projected judgments are woven at a subconscious level. The bully-victim duality asks a question which has profound implication: If the answer remains hidden, it will manifest again as a variant, much like a nightmare.

In most cases, the attachment to the reward of the work performance, prevents management from seeing the devastation caused by a bully: This is the second layer of forceful manipulation. The third layer is stepping on management itself by controlling how the team reacts to what they see happening. Ultimately, this ego is likely to undermine everyone in some way.

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Jef Lippiatt

Jef Lippiatt , Owner at Startup Chucktown

Sarah,

That definitely sounds like a powder keg situation is brewing. I would first make them aware that you are happy with the work both are doing individually. I would then ask them individually if there is anything about their particular job that is frustrating them, or if they are more passionate about another type of work. If there is opportunity, I would then give them a test project to see how they fair (or perhaps better yet, have one mentor the other in case out on leave or an emergency comes up).

See if there is a way for the two to work together while highlighting that a positive outcome is necessary for the overall success of the company. Look for giving mentoring and training opportunities as situations arise. Also, see if there is a desired career path and let them know if moving up (or over to a different role) is a possibility in the short or long term.

Let them know you hear them both, and let them see you taking action (even small steps) to alleviate the disagreements and discord.

Marcus Tjen

Marcus Tjen , Owner at Rugged Computing

Communicating with the problem employee is the first step. Acknowledge her stellar work and making sure that she feels as valuable as the other employee. Then... read more
Communicating with the problem employee is the first step. Acknowledge her stellar work and making sure that she feels as valuable as the other employee. Then bring up the issue of bullying with her. Ask her whether she is aware of her bullying actions, some people don't even know that they are a bully until you point it out. If she is aware, ask for her reasons and see whether you can work out solutions to those reasons. Give her a time period to make amends and improve and evaluate when time period ends. Make sure you document all conversations. All the best.
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