Changing the Bullying Policy

Question:

The CFO wants to modify our workplace “no bullying” policy to say that it is OK to raise your voice and shout if there is poor performance-like the “old days”.

The CEO has a tendency to lose his temper when he wants get get his point across. It is not often and he feels it is justified. Changing the policy would be condoning the behavior that we are trying to avoid. Any advice?

Signed,

Worried


Answer:

Dear Worried:

It seems almost unfathomable that someone in an executive position would want to memorialize in writing approval for people to yell at each other, if it’s about work quality or quantity.

Someone who would even consider that is not likely to be persuaded by reason or logic. However, you may want to point out the obvious, that employees who bully or harass others, or who are rude to coworkers, often say their anger has to do, with work performance. (“You don’t do good work.” “You keep me from doing good work.” “You don’t think I do good work and I feel disrespected.” “If she did her work right I wouldn’t have made that comment.”

By making it OK to talk angrily or shout at an employee, you essentially won’t have a bullying policy at all. You certainly will negate any policy or rule about courtesy and professionalism.

Think of the liability if someone is harassed or if the person being harassed is from a protected group and can show that the negative actions toward them were sanctioned by the company!

Another aspect of this is that raising one’s voice or shouting nearly always leads to intemperate speech. It’s almost inevitable that someone will say a bad word or use an insulting phrase, if they are shouting. It is also inevitable that if one person shouts at another, the other person will shout back. I’m sure your CEO and CFO don’t want to create that kind of workplace.

You say the CFO suggested the change and you think it’s because the CEO loses his temper. Could it be the CEO wouldn’t want the change of policy? Could it be the CFO was just thinking out loud but didn’t mean it to be something that had to be acted on right away? This sounds so bizarre that I would like to think even the proposer realizes it now.

The one thing that is certain is that if the CEO and the CFO can convince the other CO levels that this would be a good thing, you won’t have much choice about it. But, if they value your input and you have any influence with them, perhaps you can present the reasons mentioned above as well as your own, to convince them that there are effective ways to talk to people about problems, other than raising your voice to exert power–and that opening the door to that kind of behavior could create some major problems.

Best wishes with this. If you wish to and have the time, let us know what develops.

Tina Lewis Rowe