12/19/18 9:00 AM Gabriel King

We got a chance to talk to writer, author, and speaker Kim “Bo” Arnold to discuss some great ways to recognize when harassment is taking place and what we can do to fix it. Arnold has over 30 years in the safety and risk management industry and is the President and CEO of KLA Risk Consulting. When asked about why we sexually harass and bully people, Arnold points to a root cause perspective that is rarely, if ever, talked about in relation to this topic. Arnold mentions, “We’re all trying to be good enough. We’re doing this and doing that to try “be” okay, to be approved of, to be accepted and to be good enough.

 

But we do this and we do that, we try this and we try that. We acquire, yet we still feel inadequate—we still feel as though we aren’t good enough. This sense of inadequacy comes from poor training. The training isn’t correct. No one is inadequate. It’s time to go deeper to bring this issue to light and heal from the inside out. This is how harassment and bullying finally come to an end in our organizations, and in society at large.”

 

The Root Cause

  1. You need to get to the root cause of why we sexually harass others or bully them.

  2. Bullies and victims come from the same belief that they are inadequate. For those going through life feeling inadequate, they carry a tremendous amount of pain. Bo details that people in pain will, naturally, look for pain relief. What’s one way to do this? Being a bully.

  3. Bully behavior results when someone is passing off their pain to another, in an attempt to alleviate the hurt. Sometimes it’s simply poor training that allows someone to carry on believing that their own problems of feeling inadequate are solved by making someone else feel more inadequate than they do.

  4. Bullying may take the form of humiliation, intimidation, threats, or behaviors of destruction.

  5. A bully thinks, “If I can do that to someone else -- now I’m not powerless like I felt when I was inadequate.”

 

Am I The Bully? The Victim? Or Both?

Have you ever found yourself the victim of harassment? Or second-guessed your behavior because it might be seen as harassment to others? Maybe you don’t realize that you’re being harassed and deflecting that onto others. It’s important to take a look at ourselves and recognize the signs and symptoms of harassment so that we can work on stopping them from the inside-out.

 

If you’re the bully:

  1. Ask yourself, “Why am I acting like this?”

  2. Look for the root cause of inadequacy (poor training is the only real cause)

  3. Remind yourself that there is no reason for anyone to feel inadequate

  4. Understand there is never a reason to intimidate others

 

If you’re the victim:

  1. Ask yourself “Why do I feel I deserve this?”

  2. Where do these feelings come from?

  3. Remind yourself that you never deserve to be treated poorly

  4. Remind yourself there is nothing about you that proves you are inadequate and that you do not deserve such treatment

 

Now we can see what it means to say that bullies and victims share this feeling of inadequacy and feel that they deserve to be harassed or harass others.

 

Bo says, “For me, from an organizational perspective, it feels important not to just have the written policy, do the annual training and say ‘zero-tolerance at our workplace’ but rather to really start looking at employees from a whole person perspective and not just as an employee who works for us and then goes home. People are more than workers. They are a whole person who feels inadequate at home, too. Let’s deal with the root cause to end harassment and bullying.”

 

Everybody, in the Western world at least, deals with a sense of inadequacy in some way.”

 

More Than No-Tolerance

We asked Bo what she suggests we could do to actually evolve a no-tolerance policy that is already in place and go a step further to increase collaboration. She tells us that we need to encourage employees to feel better about themselves and give them the opportunity to see each other, and themselves, from a new perspective – one that supports collaboration, understanding and wholeness. Bo suggests:

 

    1. Look at the overall health of your employees

    2. Help people with exercise, food choices, and give them time to read or rest during work

    3. Let people go outside to boost mood, positivity, and morale

    4. Engage in team-building activities and help everyone work as a team

    5. Don’t put profit before people

    6. Ask yourself how to make your workforce collaborative

    7. Work toward shared goals

    8. Look at things from the “top-down”

    9. Showing that you care makes people feel better

    10. Pay attention to patterns and irregular behavior

 

Are there things that get in the way?

Bo referenced a study done in the workplace about why employees don’t go outside during their breaks. Two of the reasons they gave were due to inconvenient weather and because they were too busy. When asked if they knew that being outside was good for their health, 100% of participants said yes. She wonders why we aren’t doing these things that we know will improve our situations. Is work really that much more important than our own well-being?

 

How To Identify Health State

Bo tells us a story about a school that placed two plants in separate hallways. The one plant was greeted warmly and told it was loved. The other plant was yelled at and told it was hated. Can you guess which plant flourished?

In your workforce, are you taking steps so that people feel comfortable, safe, and that they belong? Or are is your workforce’s overall health declining because of the poison that’s seeping into the soil from those that harass or bully others?

 

Bo shared examples of an unhealthy workforce. Although she admits there are many indicators, here are some to look for in your own workplace:

  • A workforce that is constantly running low on energy

  • A workforce that can’t survive without sugar or caffeine

  • People miss work often or they are late

  • Working on break

  • Mass amounts of headaches or digestive issues

 

Recommended Additional Resources

Bo gave us a few great suggestions for extra resources that she has found helpful along the way and explains that all of them are very relatable and easy to make personal connections so that we might be able to come to understand the message more clearly. These books will inspire people to ask themselves questions to understand why they allow themselves to be in difficult situations. It can further help us get to the root causes of where these things can begin.

 

 

When asked about her own book and how it’s possible that the story she had to tell was so similar to their own, Bo admits, “I wasn’t raised any differently, really, than anybody else as far as what I believe in myself. Somewhere along the line, I knew that belief was destructive and incorrect.”

 

Upward and Onward

Bo has taught us that being self-aware is critical to identifying bullying in the workplace. Once you are able to identify the problem, there are many tactics you can use to mitigate the action. You should focus your attention on both the victim and the bully; lending support and guidance will help you to understand why the bullying is taking place.

 

Focus on working together in a supportive, single unit as opposed to each employee having their own individual role; as Ms. Arnold said, "In most workplaces, we're not collaborating; were compromising. It needs to be the other way around".

 Does Your Safety Culture Stand Up Against The Best Of 'Em?