Updated: Dec 14, 2020
Written by: Evelina Silveira, President
Susan was sent to me after making racist comments in the workplace, passive-aggressive behaviour, intimidation and for acting as an overall big bully. Why hadn’t Susan been fired from her job? The answer was simple: she was highly productive and hardworking. But there is more. Not only was her boss a bully but so was the business owner, cementing and legitimizing a hostile, toxic workplace.
Susan’s behaviours were never challenged as there was no standard of workplace conduct and basically no accountability. Until one day, a Hispanic Human Resources Manager was hired who heard her comments and became extremely upset and documented the incident. She was then sent to sensitivity/empathy and anti-bullying training with me.
Susan was extremely resistant and one of the most challenging participants I had until now had. You see, prior to coming to one-on-one training with me, she was given online, generic sensitivity training. She liked it and did not want to go through two days of training.
I came to realize why online insensitivity training can be a preferred alternative for workplace bullies.
1. Awareness - Online courses can be useful tools for raising awareness, but they fall short when it comes to skill development. A bully needs to learn new skills to replace their destructive behavioural patterns.
2. Impersonal - Covering a broad range of problems, the participant may feel none apply to them. This type of training gave Susan a feeling that “Well, I don’t do any of that, so my behaviour can’t be so bad.” For example, “I’m not a homophobe!”
3. Passive - The trainee passively participates. All they have to do is click a few boxes, listen and advance the slides. You can go through this process without having any emotional impact as you would if you were directly confronted about your bullying and harassing behaviours. As a facilitator, I try to encourage participants into making responsibility and “I” statements which are a powerful exercise in moving ahead and altering problematic behaviour.
4. Comfortable - Workplace bullies need to get out of their “comfort zone” and feel a little bit “uncomfortable” and have someone else control the situation for a change. Along with remaining a passive form of training, it can be extremely comfortable. Since no one is being challenged for their specific behaviours and you can routinely undergo the training anywhere at any time; it is quite convenient.
5. Sense of Completion - Taking an online course in sensitivity training makes it seem like your work has been completed, however, usually with customized one-on-one training the journey has just begun. You learn valuable insights about yourself, you gain additional resources for coping plus you are encouraged to seek out other outlets like therapy, counselling and forms of relaxation.
In the case of Susan, one-on-one sensitivity/anti-bullying training provided her with all of that. Despite, her workplace culture being toxic from top-down, Susan received the communication and coping skills she needed to diffuse her anger, communicate more assertively, and understand the impacts of continuing on with biased behaviour for herself, the organization and the public on the whole.
To learn more about our signature anti-bullying and sensitivity training, please visit.