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Recruiting — Your First Defense Against Workplace Bullying

This guest post is by Phil La Duke, co-founder of Rockford Greene International a Monroe, Mich.-based business optimization company. He is also an editorial adviser for Facility Safety Management magazine, a regular contributor to ISHN magazine, and a contributing editor and safety columnist for Fabricating and Metalworking magazine.

What can your recruiting methods do to decrease the threat of workplace bullying?

It turns out, plenty. Here’s how.

  • Ask if candidate has ever engaged in behavior that could constitute workplace bullying. It may seem ridiculous — after all what sane candidate would knowingly and deliberately disclose such egregious behavior? — but simply asking the candidate and gauging his or her response a good recruiter may hear or see things that will tip him off. But beyond this, if a candidate has been accused of bullying and fails to disclose after being directly asked in an interview he or she has provided grounds for immediate dismissal when the lie comes to light.
  • Ask the candidate to tell you about a time where they played a practical joke on a co-worker. Bullying is typically a pattern of escalating behavior that often begins with pranks, practical jokes, or teasing of a coworker. Even candidates savvy enough to lie about accusations of out-and-out bullying will sometimes proudly recount their “funniest” pranks and practical jokes to a skilled interviewer.
  • Listen for tips of an aggressive personality. Individuals who tend to bully view strength, aggression and toughness as strengths that make them better at business. A skilled interviewer should listen to the language a candidate uses and ask him/herself if the language belies a predilection toward inappropriate aggressive behavior.
  • Be alert to nonverbal cues of aggression. There was a time when a crushing handshake and “hurry-up” gestures were seen as signs of confidence. While there is no single nonverbal cue that would definitively identify a propensity for bullying, taken as a whole nonverbal cues can often send up warning signals.
  • Look for alignment with your organization’s values. People who bully tend to look for victims who are different from the office norm. Bullying is an affirmation that the aggressor is more an accepted part of the organization than the victim. By making organizational fit a priority, a good recruiter can greatly reduce the risk of hiring someone likely to become a bully.
  • Trust your instincts. If a hunch tells you that something in the candidate’s demeanor, work history or answers to interview questions isn’t quite right, pass on the candidate. As a veteran human resources manager once said, “We hire them for their technical skills, and fire them for their interpersonal skills.”

There are many factors that can lead to bullying in the workplace, and even the most talented recruiter will occasionally hire someone who ultimately behaves inappropriately aggressive in the workplace. Even so, workplace bullying is not likely to cease being a problem and an astute interviewer may save the organization millions simply by avoiding hiring someone who has a history of bullying.

This article was originally published on monsterthinking.com.

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