How Should a Leader Respond to Bullying?

My 15-year-old daughter recently changed schools, just four weeks into the academic year – not an ideal time to make a change! But, after weeks of tears brought on by bullying behaviour targeted at her, it became clear that leaving was the best option.

I’m used to working with issues of bullying and disrespect in workplace settings. At ACHIEVE, we are often called upon as consultants to intervene in these situations. I have seen up close how bullying behaviour impacts those who are targeted in the workplace. I had not, however, spent much time thinking about how bullying impacts school-aged children.

When trying to find a solution for my daughter, I found that she was impacted by bullying in much the same way adults in the workplace are affected. She lost interest in things she used to care about, had a lack of focus and desire to work on tasks, and all she could think about was leaving – going anywhere that wasn’t here. Those who are bullied lose focus, become less productive, and look for ways to escape.

What I have learned in both school and workplace settings is that leadership is critical to managing bullying behaviour. And yet, all too often the approach to addressing these issues is an attitude of “Things will eventually work themselves out.” However, for the target who is feeling isolated and bullied, waiting for things to “work themselves out” is not a very comforting option!

In both school and workplace settings, bullying behaviour can be complex – there aren’t always easy answers for how to address it. But I do know one thing: I know leaders need to be more vocal than they often are. They need to be clear about what behaviours will not be tolerated, and what the consequences are. And, when there are situations of bullying, they need to assert their influence and intervene quickly! They can’t just wait for things to “work themselves out.”

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Randy Grieser, CEO, Author, Speaker

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