I devised a process that, rather than finding a villain-victim, looks to the culture, the structural mechanisms, the behavior expectations and workplace practices, and seeks answers from those things. It doesn’t assign blame, and it shifts the focus from the bully to the bullying behavior. This means that we understand the bullying behavior is a symptom of a toxic culture as the problem, rather than the person as the problem. This allows personal blame to be removed from the equation, and replaced with personal accountability and organizational responsibility. Most people develop insight into how they’ve blamed someone fairly quickly, and they’re horrified when they learn how and in what way they’ve caused harm.
In my experience, most people act from a lack of interpersonal skill, a lack of self-awareness and the inability to self-reflect. They don’t act from a place that means to cause deliberate harm. My approach moves from an individual focus to a system’s focus, meaning responsibility for what is shared is shared among all involved, but it also comes from a place that says bullying behavior is learned and, therefore, can be unlearned. The focus is on the whole of cultural response that restores and heals macro and micro relationships, and it needs three main ingredients to be successful. My experience in using this approach has been encouraging. An example of this is an organization I’ve been working with. Using root-cause analysis, I identified three problem areas in the organization. The solutions included: new systems developed to manage and prevent conflict; individual conflict coaching and leadership coaching was applied; and teams engaged in restorative relationship building and communication practices.
After six months, I hardly know the place, and neither did the workers. Congratulations must go to my client and their employees for committing to a process that’s a complete paradigm shift from the way that they would normally handle conflict. In future, they have the skills, understanding and strategies to effectively address conflict issues. Staff and management have changed the way that they understand, see and approach conflict, and, even better, conflict is dealt with proactively and early.
By removing the blame and punitive processes and replacing them with a preventative focus, the whole organization is able to build a culture that expects and reinforces respectful behavior. For me, an unintended consequence of this way of working has been that it also changes the way people see and deal with conflict in other areas of their lives.
My clients tell me that they now have a transferable set of skills that they can use and pass on to others, especially their children. We have an opportunity to shift from the victim-villain narrative and move to a unified system that respects all parties and perspectives. Thank you.