Dear Aunty B,
I think we have a workplace bully, but I’m not quite sure if it’s actually bullying.
I work in a fun but still rather corporate office. There are a few employees on our floor who are loud (sometimes very loud on a rowdy Friday afternoon) and, after a few incidents, the department manager hauled everyone into his office as a group and started saying there had been complaints about the noise level and we should try to have fun quietly, which I thought was fine.
He then singled out two employees in front of the entire group and told them how loud they are; he even asked around the group if people could hear the noise they make at their desk.
I was horrified, especially when one of the poor girls had tears welling up and was doing her best to hold it together.
Obviously excessive noise needs to be dealt with, but surely it’s wrong to do it in a group like that? One of the employees feels so humiliated and upset that she was singled out publicly. Does that make it workplace bullying?
Not Quite Right…
Dear Not Quite Right,
OK. Let’s hop into the helicopter, fly up and get some perspective.
Got a good view from up there? Good. What do you see? Oh yeah. That’s right. Your company is in deep sh-t. Not a pretty sight.
It’s going through a massive transformation as it tries to adjust to a digital world. It can’t. It is about to hit a tipping point. The senior managers know how dire the situation is and you guys would too if you weren’t so busy clowning around.
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In fact, the senior managers are frantically trying to save jobs, protect their departments and are under a lot of stress from the toe cutters who are doing the sums. No one in fact can work out what to do.
It’s actually nice to see that you lot can still have fun at work, totally oblivious to the life and death dramas being played out on Mahogany Row. And your nice department manager has let you have your fun. But everyone is feeling the tension and complaints have been made. He has defended you, asked you to tone it down a few times. Now he really needs you to tone it down.
It’s the last thing he feels like doing. So he brings you in and asks you to have fun a bit more quietly. Gee. How nice is he? He doesn’t tell you to shut up. He doesn’t tell you what a bunch of timewasters you all are and throw a book at your head (which actually happened to me many moons ago when I was working at the same place you now work).
He then points out that a few people are particularly loud and asks them if they are aware of it. Like most rowdy people they are probably oblivious to other people, which is why they are so loud in the first place.
Yes, he could have been Mr. Perfect Manager and not publicly named these highly annoying people who are also highly annoyingly sensitive to their own feelings.
But guess what? He has a lot on his mind. Like coming up with a plan that keeps you lot employed so you can be exceptionally loud, have fun and enjoy yourselves, particularly on Friday afternoon.
See the big picture, be supportive and stop creating new dramas. Your company has enough drama of its own to deal with.
Your Aunty B