Bullies don’t just exist in the schoolyard. They can be lurking in your company, decreasing workplace morale and compromising organizational culture. Even superstar performers can have a detrimental effect on the bottom line if they are participating in workplace bullying by creating a hostile work environment, sapping overall productivity.
The best way to control bullying in the workplace is to make sure bullies never join your organization in the first place. While it can be difficult to screen out potential aggressors in the recruitment process — you won’t get far by simply asking “Are you a bully?” — there are subtle ways to determine a candidate’s predilection for workplace deviance, which can be a predictor of bullying behavior.
Workplace deviance can be either positive or negative. When it’s positive, people will think outside the box, even break the norms, to improve the company. But when it’s negative — which we’ll be discussing here — people can violate the culture and values of the organization in harmful ways.
To stop bullying and harassment in the workplace, first you need to determine if candidates looking to join your organization might be prone to negative workplace deviance. Say no to bullying by sending a strong signal to candidates through your employment brand that bullies simply aren’t hired or tolerated.
Bella Galperin, a management professor at the University of Tampa who specializes in workplace deviance, says a good way to identify potential deviants is to examine their personality and look for antecedents.
She says negative deviants usually display these behaviors:
It’s important to probe candidates carefully during the screening process to determine if they display any of these traits. There are two important things to remember, though. First, these behaviors aren’t always a sign of negative deviance, so you must always take other factors into account to build a well-rounded picture of the candidate. Second, impulsiveness and risk taking might not necessarily be a bad thing — they can also be characteristics of positive workplace deviance, which could have a beneficial effect for employers. Look further for real examples of these behaviors to determine the type of deviance.
If you set the right tone with your employment brand, bullies probably won't want to work at your company. The employment brand is your personality — it’s the image you project to candidates and current employees.
At WilsonHCG, honesty and respect is built into our company’s DNA. We tell all candidates and employees that we expect collaboration, ownership, integrity, clear communication and passion from them. Because of this, we’ve built a corporate culture that makes it more difficult for bullies to get ahead. The positive attitude among our employees squelches negativity.
Leading companies bluntly tell bullies to look for work elsewhere. Netflix famously has a policy nicknamed “no brilliant jerks.” That means if you don’t play well with others, you are not wanted at Netflix no matter how talented you are.
Your employment brand should leave no doubt that you want employees who champion inclusion and collaboration — you want them to excel, but not by stepping on others. If an aggressor sees that he or she can’t take advantage of others at your company, they’ll search for work elsewhere.
For more information about workplace bullying — causes, costs and possible cures — visit the Workplace Bullying Institute.
David Simanoff is WilsonHCG’s editorial strategist. He helps WilsonHCG win work and engage stakeholders. David graduated from Emory University with a bachelor’s in English and history, and is now pursuing an MBA and a master’s in marketing at the University of Tampa. When not working, he is either traveling, watching movies or spoiling his rescue dog, Lucy.