8 steps to bark back at bullies before they bite your team
So when a team member uses the “B” word—bully—how’s a manager supposed to respond? When I started working at my practice, Miller Clark Animal Hospital in Mamaroneck, New York, we were facing some serious staffing issues. But I was a new team member, so I hadn’t witnessed any of these issues firsthand. I didn’t want to make decisions based on secondhand information—especially regarding staffing—so I launched an investigation:
1. Interview each team member. I spoke with each team member individually. I was careful to avoid repeating anything others told me.
2. Ask open-ended questions. This gave team members a chance to tell me their opinion of the office climate and of other team members.
3. Watch how your team works together. I spent some time observing staff interactions and showed up unannounced on different days and times (our practice is open seven days a week).
4. Review your existing policies and procedures with your team.
5. Meet with your suspected culprits. Once I’d gathered the information, I went back to the team members I suspected were causing many of the issues. I used this time to gauge whether the issues were fixable, weighing what was best for the team as a whole.
6. Fire your bullies. I fired two team members and issued a verbal warning to a third.
7. Update your practice policies. I implemented new policies that supported a more positive practice culture.
8. Meet with your team to announce the change. I planned a mandatory staff meeting to explain our practice’s new policy and how we’d move forward. We explained the new zero tolerance policy about bullying and contributing to a negative workplace environment. The staff meeting served as a verbal warning. If a staff member engaged in a behavior considered to be bullying or contributing to a negative work environment after the warning, they could be sent home without pay, placed on a corrective action plan or fired without further notice.
The team supported my decisions, and I know I made the right ones for our team. Just remember, changing the practice culture is a very demanding and time-consuming task—especially when the bullies have been in charge for a long time. It’s still a work in progress for us, and it requires constant attention.