In this second of a two-part series, I’m outlining some of the strategies I would…
What Happens When the Bully Is a Co-owner? (Part I of II)
“How was your first day back (after being away for a week on stress leave)?”, I asked. “Joseph (an owner) walked in and said, good morning to everyone except me”, she replied. So, the bullying continues, I thought.
Mandy took sick leave for five days, the first time in her 30-year working career because she had been the victim of repeated workplace bullying, in this Small Business. Every one of the twelve staff members had personally experienced and witnessed the wrath of Joseph’s bullying tactics; including his business partners. So why wasn’t anyone doing anything about it?
Well, if we look at the recent history of the business, previous employees had done something; they had walked! In the preceding 18 months, seven employees had come and gone; one left on the same day she arrived! And, in that small industry, word quickly gets around that there’s something wrong.
“The business partners should be concerned about that turnover rate as it screams that something is wrong and they are losing profit.”
As Mandy’s friend, I recommended some strategies she take to look after and protect herself. These included: keeping a diary of what happened when it happened and who else was there; going to a doctor to have her stress noted and having time out from work so she could separate herself from the situation to enable her to think clearly again. Mandy wasn’t sleeping well and had been pushed to a point where she was crying when she thought about Joseph and his behaviours; this shouldn’t be happening as a result of going to work and doing a job she loves!
The final straw happened on a Friday when Joseph was the only one of three owners at work. On Sunday afternoon, Mandy called her boss, another owner, and explained to him what had happened in his absence on Friday, how she was feeling and that she wasn’t coming to work for the week. Mandy was very clear on the impact Joseph’s bullying behaviours were having on her.
During the week, Mandy heard through her colleagues, that Joseph’s business partners had a meeting with him. It isn’t known what was said or what happened at that meeting and this gave Mandy hope that finally, Joseph would be brought into line. Hopefully, they have realised all their reputations were at stake because of his bad behaviours as they were equal partners in the business.
As mentioned earlier, Joseph’s initial behaviour on Mandy’s return was to exclude her; a classic example of bullying. As business owners, we are all expected to know the law around many things such as tax, pay rates and yes, even what is and isn’t bullying. For areas such as tax and pay rates, you can hire someone to ensure you meet the requirements of the law. However, for areas such as bullying, harassment and discrimination, everyone is expected to comply with the law; regardless of the industry, you are in. The Fair Work Commission makes it very clear owners of all sized businesses are to follow the law in these areas.
In my next post, I provide strategies I would recommend to business owners in the same position as Joseph and his partners. As Small Business owners, we may consider at one time to expand our business and to bring in a partner. Let’s hope you don’t find you have brought in a ‘Joseph’.
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