Over the past year, many workplaces have adopted flexible working arrangements.
While this new way of working has been welcomed by many, it has also created a dangerous power shift that has resulted in some bosses being bullied by their own employees.
The pandemic has shone the spotlight on upward bullying - where workers run roughshod over their bosses.
Multi-tasking during remote meetings, refusing to return to the office, ignoring directives and belligerent acts are some of the new behaviours confronting leaders.
Upward bullying is a relatively new phenomenon.
It's under-reported and needs to be addressed in policy and legislation to protect management so they can lead their teams without being undermined.
Existing policies fail to address and label upward bullying.
When the boss isn't in the office building with their employees, it makes it difficult to call out behaviour.
To prevent upward bullying, workplaces should:
- Enforce a hybrid office policy: The policy should include expectations and guidelines so employees are clear on the new rules; allocation of tasks, who works from home, who is expected in the office, new responsibilities when working from home and how the hybrid office hierarchy works in terms of the chain of command.
- Re-write the code of conduct: The hybrid office has created new norms and new rules challenging existing policies. To avoid ambiguity around expectations, the code of conduct requires a complete re-write to reflect the organisation's culture, and address other workplace policies.
- Get tougher: Remote working requires strong leadership. Bosses need to clearly communicate expectations so their employees trust the flow of information, follow company directives and don't baulk at being asked to complete relevant tasks.
- Learn how to manage from afar: Remote management requires a different skill set. Organisations need to upskill managers and resource them better so they can lead with clear direction and authority.
- Make it easier to report: It's crucial organisations invest in a robust grievance system that includes policies and processes to deal with upward bullying. Managers need to know how to identify upward bullying and feel encouraged that when they report cases their complaint will be supported by management.
If you're a victim or are aware of upward bullying in your workplace, speak up.
Maureen Kyne is a workplace bullying, sexual harassment and discrimination specialist and principal of Maureen Kyne & Associates.