THE ULTIMATE BLOG ON ALL THINGS HR
& THEN SOME
& THEN SOME
I recently posed a question on social media: What topics related to HR would you be interested in reading about, from my perspective as an HR professional?
Before I dive into the meat of this, let me share with you my credentials. Nearly 10 years ago I began my career in Human Resources. Within 2 ½ years I tested for Professional in Human Resources certification and passed. It was through studying for this certification my eyes were opened to the larger scope of HR—recruitment, relations, and retention. Furthermore, I had an a-ha moment regarding the importance of fostering positive relationships in the work setting.
It is only fitting then the first topic suggested to me is INTIMIDATION. Looking at those capital letters, how many of you felt a twinge of uneasiness? According to Merriam Webster, some synonyms and related words for “intimidate” are as follows: blackjack, browbeat, bully, strong-arm, trash talk, harass, demoralize, disconcert, distress. By a show of hands, how many of you have ever felt one or more of these while at work? How many of you believe your work (product, effectiveness) has suffered because of intimidation?
Intimidation presents itself in many forms and can be pervasive or intermittent. To me, it can be the quiet second cousin of harassment. But both can be in your face or indirect. My belief is intimidation is borne out of fear. Unfortunately, it also creates fear. In other words, the intimidator may feel insecure and use intimidation to wipe away their insecurities. By using intimidation tactics, the intimidator passes on this unnecessary chain of insecurity to their victim.
Some examples of intimidation are:
Let’s take a step back and examine the scene further. You are this employee. You come to work on time, do your job in a timely manner, and there have been zero complaints about your work performance. So what gives?
It is your right to ask clarifying questions and give objective responses in a professional manner.
Don’t take the intimidation personally. Take an objective stance as if floating above the room and removing yourself—your ego—from the situation. The common thread in the above responses is using “I language” to smooth over communication and refrain from accusations. Gregory Burns, author of Iconoclast, states, “Think of fear like alcohol. It impairs judgment. You shouldn’t make any decisions while under its influence.” In other words, remove the fear and approach with solutions.
Often, the intimidation may stem from miscommunication or misinformation. I find when you tackle the issue directly—think flag football, not roughhouse football—it may solve the problem without allowing the problem to become bigger than it really is. Strive to not perpetuate the fear with aggression. Keep in mind the intimidator may be operating out of fear. Be the one to offer the olive branch.
Easier said than done when it is pervasive intimidation, right? If you are in a situation where the intimidation is ongoing and seemingly never ending, use your chain of command. It is there for a reason. I am sure you have all heard of “chain of command” and are familiar with its purpose and how it works. It is only right we give our chain of command the opportunity to know about and correct the problem. They may be oblivious. When you take the problem to them, they may be grateful to be made aware and hopefully they will take the issue up with the intimidator.
Let’s discuss the elephant in the room: what happens when the intimidation is coming from your direct report? Whether your direct report is a manager within your department, the director over your department, or even a chief officer, this behavior should not be allowed. Again, chain of command is the best course of action when used appropriately. Do not be afraid to go to the “C Suite” and air your concerns. At the very least, you will have used proper protocol. At the very most, your concerns will be addressed, investigated, and you will get relief from the intimidator.
REMEMBER: Human Resources always run parallel to the chain of command. Seek counsel from your HR professional at any time.
Here’s the deal: every single one of us deserves to come to work, do our job, and be successful. Period. Constructive feedback is key, and it works both ways. When you are upfront about behavior that makes you uncomfortable, you both win. How? You are free to focus on daily tasks while the intimidator is made aware of actions and behavior affecting the mindset and productivity of others.
Moving forward, consider what the authors of Communication: Principles for a Lifetime advise, “If you can view conflicts as problems to be solved rather than battles to be won or lost, you will better manage the issues that confront you in your relationships with others.”
Berns, G. (2010). Iconoclast: A neuroscientist reveals how to think differently. Boston, MA: Harvard Business Press.
Creator: That makes me sound all powerful. I suppose I am in many ways. Hi! My name's Amy and I've been practicing HR for twelve years now. No big deal. I am here to offer fresh perspective on HR topics and topics about the world we live in and life in general.