Bullying at work

In a recent addition of The Family Business Advisor, an online newsletter from The Family Business Consulting Group, Inc., an article appeared about bullying in the workplace. At first I was surprised, I mean sure, bullies in the playground or on the walk home, I've heard of, but not bullying at the place of employment. Also, our industry is full of family owned and operated businesses - surely they would be bully free. Then I read further and the author notes how Henry Ford publically chastised his only child Edsel in front of company employees, even when Edsel was president of Ford. Edsel died at 49.

The infamous case of Edsel and his father certainly isn't conclusive, but it did make me wonder. Family in the workplace can be a blessing, but depending on the dynamics, family working together can cause tension and conflict over even the smallest details.


Bullying to get what you want

So what does the bullying at work look like? It's what you would expect. People in the higher position bully, humiliate or withhold vital information from someone else in order to get their way. In a family business, bullying is even more detrimental than in the corporate world because it affects the business, multiple family members could lose their livelihood and ultimately, because family is supposed to be a support, not a source of humiliation.


Solutions to bullying

The author made some interesting points, such as there's research to support that 37 percent of people in the workforce report being bullied. And to stop it, the board of directors and executive staff have to create and enforce a code of conduct that makes it clear the behavior the bully used thus far is no longer allowed. That begins with making it clear everyone is to be treated in a respectful and professional manner, maintaining a healthy family culture, teaching good communication skills, creating a reporting system for when someone feels bullied or sees bullying and training supervisors how to handle complaints of bullying quickly and effectively.

In a family run vending operation, encouraging respectful and professional treatment of others is always important. Owners and managers set the tone for a company, and if they allow the embarrassment of employees, family or otherwise, the culture will quickly turn sour.