CONSULTATION: Seek Help to Deal With Bullies

My manager is making my life miserable. I don’t want to leave my job as it is not easy to get another one and I have mortgage. Can you offer any advice?
Your situation sounds unpleasant. Often when people are being bullied they think the fault lies with them. The end result is lack of confidence, stress, and seriously reduced motivation. In your letter you said you were unsure if your manager is actually bullying you or whether you are misunderstanding the situation. Let’s look at what is happening.
You describe your manager as talking across you in meetings, not listening, insisting on their own way, not taking on board your ideas or recommendations, constantly questioning what you are doing, not smiling or taking time to have small talk with you, and not giving you opportunity to do things on your own without their agreement.
This could describe person who is unsure of their own role and place in the
organisation. In fact, you have mentioned that this manager has only been in your company for year. So, on the surface, it could be situation where you still need to gain their confidence and demonstrate your worth.
However, given the consistency of these behaviours from your manager and their
effect on you I suspect this manager may have drifted over the line into being an outright bully. This can happen when someone isn’t getting appropriate performance feedback. It can also happen when they have moved into role they are struggling with. There are also people who are generally insecure themselves and they compensate for this by trying to make other people smaller than them.
Whatever the situation you are in bad space. I recommend you document each bullying situation as it happens and also seek external support from close friend or counsellor. Both of these actions will help you gain perspective and perhaps work out solution. If the situation doesn’t resolve, I recommend you see more senior manager in your organisation and show them the evidence you have collected and ask for help. Finally, if necessary, you should seek legal advice and if necessary take personal grievance case. Clearly from what you say you are being bullied and the problem isn’t yours.

I am going to have to dismiss an employee for poor performance. The person involved doesn’t seem to be aware that they are not performing well and I am worried about how to approach it. Can you help?
Carrying out dismissal can be very difficult for the manager as well as the employee. The process that you follow is critical. First, you need to make sure you have good performance management process in place in your organisation and that outcomes are documented. Second, it is good idea to have documented policy on handling poor performance which defines the procedure to be followed.
There are number of key stages. Initially, you should set up meeting with the person concerned to discuss the performance issues. Give them notice in writing and also advise the reason for the meeting. They should be allowed to bring support person to the meeting if wished. At the meeting you need to make sure you give the person clear and fair assessment of their performance linked to their job description and personal objectives and targets.
Having done this you should give them the opportunity to respond and explain their view. Your role at this point is to listen and consider their explanation. You should then outline reasonable performance expectations and establish targets for improvement with the employee together with appropriate time scales. The meeting should be recorded in writing and copy be given to the employee. At the end of the meeting, set date for follow-up meeting and, if necessary, organise to provide appropriate support to help the person achieve their targets – eg, training if there is lack of skill.
For the follow-up meeting you again need to give advance notice in writing and include the reasons for the meeting. The meeting should follow similar direction to the first one. If the performance expectations have not been met then advise the person of this and agree some further targets. Also at this point communicate that their employment may be in jeopardy if there is no improvement.
It is appropriate to give written warning at the same time explaining the unsatisfactory performance and the improvements required. The warning should make it clear that if the targets are not met then disciplinary action, including the possibility of dismissal, could take place.
You should hold further follow-up meeting after reasonable time. If dismissal becomes inevitable because performance expectations are not being met advise the employee that you are moving to dismiss them and, very importantly, give them opportunity to comment. You need to take this explanation fully into account before making the final dismissal decision. If you decide to go ahead you should follow the terms and conditions of their employment agreement.
Dismissing someone is never pleasant but good process helps both parties.

Kevin Gaunt, FNZIM, FAIM, is CEO of NZIM Auckland and has been senior executive with, and consultant to, some of New Zealand’s largest companies.

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