In Leadership, Managing Self, Risk

This is an article/some reflections on “bullying” and “harassment” – and it’s about hope and change, because it’s also about “Assertiveness”. And I know it’s not easy!

At a recent event, the leader asked a “warm-up” question of the participants: “If you had a one time opportunity to use a time machine, would you choose to go back in history or forward to the future?”. An interesting question, and as expected, lots of diversity in the responses. For me, going forward was of interest, in part because, as a woman, I’m not too interested in going back to a time where women’s rights were less progressive than they currently are – and I am aware – there is still work to be done.

This morning, as I opened my email, and saw the many articles that come through (I probably need to cull my subscriptions!) I saw the attached article about Harassment at work and again was aware of how women’s voices may not be heard or respected when their stories and experiences shed light on and/or challenge inequities and power.

In my practice as an OD Consultant and Leadership Coach, I am also aware of how bullying in the workplace manifests, sometimes between colleagues, sometimes between a person with power (formal or informal) and one with less (perceived) power,  and how difficult it can be for individuals and even groups of people, to speak up. People experience being silenced or dismissed, and feel unable or unsure as to how and when to speak up.

And so… we all need to get braver – stronger – clearer and more willing to stand up and speak up. First and foremost for ourselves, and when necessary, in support of each other.

As with most behaviours, I believe it begins with “self” and I believe it requires us to be Assertive – so here are a few tips:

  1. We need to acknowledge and give ourselves permission to feel confident in our strengths.
    • Don’t let others define you. Look in the mirror and smile back at yourself; talk to a friend; get feedback from those who know you; and trust that you bring a number of wonderful gifts and talents to this world!
  2. Recognize and be honest with yourself about what you need and want.
    • Ask for it! You may not always get the answer you want, but if you don’t ask, you certainly won’t.
    • And remember, sometimes we are asking ourselves for something – so say yes!
  3. Decide and pay attention to where your boundaries lie
    • We all have different boundaries e.g. I don’t really like being yelled at, so when people yell at me I typically ask them to stop. Now for you, yelling may not be an issue, and that’s fine, we have different needs. The point here is know what the limits are for you.
    • Sometimes, we don’t know our boundaries until we “hit the line in the sand”. We are in a situation and realize, in the moment, that a significant boundary is being crossed and it’s no longer acceptable.
  4. Stay safe
    • If at any point in an interaction you feel unsafe, physically, emotionally, or professionally, do what you can to create safety.
    • Consider any or many of these strategies: remove yourself from a situation; minimize contact with an individual; choose to take a cooling off period; engage and talk with others to hear different perspectives; get more specific help/support; share your story/experience with others; review #’s 1,2,3 above
  5. Listen to the other
    • Listen openly – turn off the tape in your head and stay curious
    • Consider what is being shared or asked for
    • Consider where you may choose to negotiate
  6. Choose
    • Choice contains risk and risks have consequences so this is where you may need to be brave!
    • Decide what you are willing to do or not do
    • Decide what limits you need to set
    • Decide what you are willing to accept or not accept
    • Decide what you are willing to share or not share
    • Sometimes you get to choose between what’s good and what’s great….. and sometimes the choice is between what’s bad and what stinks…. Either way – when you choose – it’s empowering because it’s your choice!
  7. Practice
    • I consider myself assertive, and I still practice everyday!
    • Look at the 6 steps above and pick one – practice that one for awhile…. then pick another, and practice that one…. keep practicing!