Archive for bullies

A New Manager’s Guide to Honesty

LeadingFirst, a short story.

Not long ago, a team we are familiar with described their experience with a difficult manager. The frustration level was such that the core team were ready to quit.

Their issue? A lying Manager.

The team was weary, distrustful, often cranky and angry at each other, and they were beginning to unravel thread-by-thread. It was easily traced to the manner in which the manager had been handling the team.

Sadly, the issues they had went on for a number of years:

  • They were all privately told different versions of what was going on in the team.
  • The manager made promises to all of them, separately, but did not always back it up or follow it through.
  • The manager continually deflected accountability for actions by pointing in any direction but his own, including pointing up the chain or at other team members.
  • Many of the stories pitted members of the team against one another.
  • The manager promised roles to team members when that role already belonged to other team members, without using professional due process.

In addition to lying, the key ingredients to frustration were the manager’s inability to take ownership or accountability for most actions, especially anything the employees disliked or when they challenged his lack of willingness to be open about future planning.

The thing about lying is, as mentioned in a previous post Liars get caught, period, the lies are almost always found out, eventually. When a manager lies to his team, he destroys trust. Avoiding difficult situations, or conflict altogether, are as good as lying and continues to diminish trust within a team.

Ways to be an honest Manager, especially through change

Hold yourself accountable and take responsibility for moving the team forward. The manager who falls into the habit of blaming their bosses for decisions made loses the team and creates an ‘Us against Them’ environment. This can be avoided by one of the foundational principles of management, keeping the team unified and in alignment with the company strategy.

  • Take ownership of the decisions which are out of your control and made at a higher level.
  • Champion these decisions as your own and encourage your team to do the same.
  • Recognize when you are powerless to change the decision and move on professionally, even if you disagree (keep it to yourself) as you are the ambassador for the people who lead you.

Build the functional capability of the team as a team. Many a manager believes that once given the title they are empowered to make all the decisions and the team must simply follow it through. While that may be true in terms of power and authority, by disrespecting your team members’ valuable knowledge and ignoring group decision making, a manager may be putting the team, and ultimately the company, at risk.

  • Make meetings productive by listening, not by trying to be the smartest person in the room. Ask a lot of questions and get answers from your experts, leverage the team ‘on the ground’ and utilize and respect their knowledge.
  • Mine solutions from the whole group then ask all in the room to question the validity and be the ‘friendly critic’ who can identify associated risks.
  • Keep ‘water cooler’ conversations away from planning and decision-making unless you are focused only on that team member’s performance.
  • Never make promises you cannot keep, the entire team will slowly begin to distrust your leadership.
  • Focus on the strengths of the whole team united, the importance of a team that works together and is not in conflict.

These are a just a few ideas for helping your build honesty and trust within your team. An honest, transparent and trustworthy manager is far more effective than a top-down, distrustful one. Leadership is not about you, it is about the team and what is best for the company. Open, honest transparency will be a far better guide through change and will serve you as a new leader in all walks of life.

What ideas can you share with new managers?


Bullying in the Workplace – An Epidemic Worth Having A Discussion About

Strategic Sense, in addition to providing Leadership Training, has made a commitment to highlight some of the remarkable authors, leadership professionals and business people we’ve had the great fortune of meeting and working with over the last 3 years. On Wednesdays you will see guest-posts from some of these folks. All are leaders in their field and have solutions to some of our biggest workplace issues.

As with Professor Robin Stuart-Kotze PhD who wrote about Getting a Handle on Different Cultural Values today we have a guest post that talks about Bullying.


Today’s Guest Post is by Michelle Berg, President & CEO of Elevated HR Solutions in Calgary


Photo Courtesy of Rene Asmussen, Denmark

And now, here’s Michelle…

Tell me if you’ve witnessed this before: A manager thinks of himself as strong and effective. He continually brags about keeping his employees in line – they even have to ask to go to the bathroom. In terms of a work environment, he doesn’t allow for idle chit chat. His door of his office is open and if he hears anything that doesn’t appear to be work he stands up and makes a comment such as, “I hear McDonald’s has an opening. They like to chat.” Tasks are broken down for each individual into teeny tiny steps, so that each milestone can be checked and rechecked before continuing. When the employee gets it “wrong”, the manager criticizes harshly to ensure that the employee gets what he/she did wrong and to never repeat the mistake twice. When someone asks to take time off for vacation, his reply is always, “Must be a nice life. I guess you expect me to pick up all your slack for you.”

Do you know this guy? Chances are, you probably do. In my case, this is a true story.

It’s probably no surprise to you that turnover in this department was rampant. It’s probably no surprise to you that his employees that stood outside the Senior HR Leaders door wanting/needing/begging to talk to them. What may however, be a surprise is that no one did anything to stop this gentleman because he was the guy that “…knew how to get results.”

The broad definition of a bully is any behavior that intimidates, humiliates or demeans a person. In some cases it’s directed or it can just be part of a hostile and poisoned work environment. What organizations need to remember is that bullying is a form of harassment and to stand idly by, can only lead to more problems. As of 2011, BC, Saskatchewan, Manitoba, Ontario and Quebec are required to have a Psychological Harassment Policy in place and bullying is prohibited under human rights laws (Alberta will follow shortly.) According to BC Business Magazine in 2010 there were 4X more bullying complaints than sexual harassment complaints, meaning your organization could be next…are you prepared?

The effects of bullying are very real: The Employer will most likely see increased turnover and absenteeism, decreased morale, losses in productivity and perhaps legal costs incurred to defend claims brought on by employees.

Your HR department however, isn’t necessarily the ones to stop bullying in the workplace. Your Harassment policy won’t stop bullying either. Instead, it needs to be the collective leadership team who buys into the fact that bullying is not synonymous with management. A plan (as a team) needs to be devised and as a team, the plan needs to be followed. This isn’t just an HR issue – it’s a management problem.

Signs of a Bully:

  • anyone who yells, insults or name calls their employee
  • anyone who is persistent and excessive with criticism directed to an employee
  • anyone who spreads malicious rumours about an employee
  • anyone who excludes or ignores their employees
  • anyone who undermines an employees efforts by setting impossible goals or deadlines
  • anyone who sabotages another employees work
  • anyone who impedes upon an employee getting a promotion or a transfer

If you are a bully or allowing a bully to be in your workplace, the consequences are very real. If you need help in handling a bully, there are organizations that are there to assist management teams. It’s time to take off the blinders, drop the kid gloves and finally solve the issue. If you don’t do it now, your pocketbook could be the one who feels the most pain.

For more information on Bullying or Psychological Harassment in the workplace check out:


Michelle Berg, CHRP
Michelle’s twelve year experience has spanned the health services, financial services, information technology and professional service sectors. She has supported and set-up HR departments on both a national and international stage, from South Korea to South America. Her most recent post was the Senior Vice President, Human Resources and Administration for a mid-sized international, multi-million dollar firm. Dedicated to a quick turnaround and coming up with innovative ideas that promote the growth of the business, Michelle is committed to helping businesses move to the next stage. Michelle can be located via her website Elevated HR Solutions, Facebook, and Twitter.

Strategic Sense has bookings available for Executive, Director and Management Advisory sessions. Contact us for more information at 403-201-8512


Stew, Steward, Stewardship – Stirring the Pot

Stew or Stewardship?

image courtesy of Claudio Salvalaio, Brazil

Sometimes, when we work without role clarity, we can find ourselves feeling like everything is a jumbled mess, much like a stew with all the good bits thrown in. It isn’t awful, in fact it’s sometimes comfortable and easy, but you don’t get to taste the uniqueness of all the different flavours. When it comes to food, the intermingled flavours are great, when it comes to business it can be a flat-out mess.

I once worked for a company that was a little unclear in what roles everyone was to play in the organization, thus it all seemed to get mixed up. In their minds it was a messy sort of interdepartmental collaboration, but what it really amounted to was ineffective action and a lot of wheel spinning. Very little was accomplished and even fewer decisions were made. Why? Because no one was a true steward of their role – marketing, sales, proposals, operations, projects all intermingled with each other stealing the flavour from one to another as the situation seemed to suit various individuals. Nosy folks who wanted a piece of the pie would claim responsibility at the profit margin end of the game but claimed no responsibility for angry customers or actions gone wrong, thus passing the buck.

Webster’s Dictionary describes the word Stewardship as a noun; I prefer to reflect on it as a verb, performing the actions of being a Steward.

Being the Steward is about being responsible and accountable for a piece of the business – owning it. Stewardship refers to the actions every person in that piece of the business performs in order for it to go smoothly. Without clarity and set boundaries around who is responsible for what, a company’s going to experience a lot of “passing the buck” (or covering the butt) and those actions will start becoming a focus for frustrated employees rather than the work itself. This is not how collaboration and innovation are derived; a stew-like atmosphere holds greater potential to develop a culture of mistrust and internal competition.

Here are some ways to promote Stewardship within your company:

  • Define clear roles – and I say again – define clear roles.
  • Create an environment for autonomy and an understanding of just which decisions a Steward is allowed to make and then hold the Steward accountable for the results.
  • Empower the Steward to support their team-members with tools necessary to best accomplish their jobs.
  • Be willing to fire the person(s) who hold a large wooden spoon and are constantly trying to stir things up but take little or no responsibility for their actions (or worse yet, are covert or underhanded in their actions).
  • Get rid of bullies. Period
  • Bring in a facilitator to help your teams learn what true collaboration looks like, then support putting it into practice.
  • Celebrate your true Stewards – and recognize they are not always the ones who bring in the biggest dollars.

Does your company celebrate Stewardship?

NOTE: If you don’t know who the bullies are (or who is covert or secretly stirring the pot), simply ask your front-line workers where their greatest frustrations lie – eventually a path will lead back to that sneaky little whirlpool sucking down everything in it’s path.


Patti is a strategic advisor in Leadership, Customer Service and Cultural integration through Mergers and Acquisition. You can book her to speak at her personal page. Need Strategic Sense for your business? – hire us for Leadership Development of individuals, teams, group training and company strategy. Happy Workplaces Succeed, take the path to get there. (403) 201-8512