Tag: Bullying

6/13/11 “Healthy Boundaries”

Good day, team,

This past week the subject of setting healthy boundaries came up on several occasions. Here’s a previous challenge that addresses this subject.

The coach’s challenge this week is about setting healthy boundaries with people at work. Professional boundaries are important because they define the limits and responsibilities of the people with whom you interact in the workplace. When everyone in an organization is made aware who is responsible for what, healthier workplace environments are created. It then becomes very difficult for someone to blame others for their failed or inadequate performance and good job performance can clearly be identified.

When everyone on your team understands what to do, how to do it, and when to do it, team members feel safe in their roles. A smooth functioning organization is a tangible demonstration of the team leader’s commitment to their team’s success, which creates trust in leadership. It is the responsibility of every team leader to set the tone of the group by clearly defining acceptable and unacceptable workplace behavior. An effective leader understands that failing to define boundaries, having no boundaries, or having inappropriately rigid boundaries can have an unfavorable impact on their organization and employees. In some cases boundaries need to be firm. For example, lying, stealing, or verbally or physically abusing others is never allowed.

It may sound as if the responsibility to create a smooth functioning organization falls only upon the team leaders or managers; however team members have a role to play as well. It is the responsibility of everyone on the team to be willing to speak up to a colleague or supervisor and clearly define their problem and help find a resolution that works for the team.

Another important area that should be negotiated is interpersonal boundaries, because professional and interpersonal boundaries substantially impact workplace productivity and the quality of social environment. Interpersonal boundary parameters include:

* The tone people use with each other.
* The attitude and approach co-workers use with each other.
* The ability to focus on work objectives even with people you don’t
like or with whom you are having personal conflict.
* The ability to effectively set limits with others who have poor
* Clearly defining the consequences when a boundary is violated and
sticking to it.

Boundaries will have no meaning if your actions don’t back up your words.

Here are some suggestions for setting healthy boundaries with your team members:

1. Know your limits: what you can do well within the allotted time frame.
Don’t exaggerate your ability by overselling it. Give accurate estimates. Delivering a good product on time will improve your credibility, while missing deadlines or delivering a substandard product will only hurt your reputation.

2. Tactfully and openly communicate about goals and limitations.
Don’t try to undersell or misrepresent your ability. Underselling artificially prevents you from being able to demonstrate your professional skills, which might affect your career advancement. When discussing your limitations, focus on what you want and what you are willing to do to get it. Keep your focus on your positive intentions; ask for help when it’s needed to ensure good quality work; actively engage in problem solving, and don’t complain about the problem. Ensure that others are receiving the message you intended by asking for feedback when it’s not forthcoming.

3. Be available to discuss differences and reach agreements.
Reflect back your understanding of the other person’s needs, interests, and concerns. Attempt to negotiate win-win solutions.

4. Don’t be afraid to let someone know if they’re acting inappropriately. Work place bullying is much more common than we think; it can come in the form of expressing undo negativity towards another, intentionally excluding others from team activities, or ganging up on someone. It can also come in the form of domination by withholding information or not keeping one’s part of the bargain by actively engaging and contributing to the work. It’s important to let people know when they act out inappropriately and that it is unacceptable and won’t be tolerated. The emotional health and safety of an organization depends on direct and clear communication when someone has trespassed on a professional and/or personal boundary.

This week, try setting healthy boundaries with your team members. You’ll find that establishing boundaries and priorities go hand in hand because they both help manage interpersonal relationships in the workplace. Together they go a long way toward establishing productive work environments based on trust. Competent and credible leaders understand these principles and consistently model them for their staff.

Have a great week!


Kathleen Doyle-White
Pathfinders Coaching
(503) 296-9249

* Special thanks to the Faculty and Staff Assistance Program (FSAP) at UCSF for most of the information in this challenge. They are a great resource!

© Copyright 2011 Pathfinders Coaching, Scout Search Inc., all rights reserved.


Good day team,

This week’s challenge is about bullying. I’ve been reading about a young Irish girl who this past year moved from Ireland to Massachusetts, where she began attending a local high school. Soon after she arrived, she started to date a popular senior who was also a star on the school’s football team. Not long after, some of her fellow students, particularly a clique of girls, began bullying and abusing her. I won’t go into the details about how extreme the hazing and physical abuse was, but I was shocked and saddened that no one stepped in to help this girl. The bullying reached such an extreme that she committed suicide.

This story is especially meaningful to me because I had a similar experience. In the middle of my freshman year, I was transferred to a high school in Canton, Ohio, where we had just moved. I was 14 and frightened to be in a new school filled with nothing but strangers.

Before long, one of the seniors, a popular, good-looking boy who was the star quarterback on the football team, started being very attentive to me. Many of the girls at the school began calling me names and leaving swear words on my locker. They would whisper about me as I walked by or wait for me to go into the bathroom and then push me up against the wall and make threatening comments. If I tried to sit with others at lunch in the cafeteria, whomever I sat with would get dirty looks from these girls and eventually move away from me.

I became more and more isolated and frightened as they ramped up their bullying. At one point, one of them invited me to join her in the side yard of the school, behind the custodial building, to look at some cool pictures she said she had of the Beatles. I desperately wanted a friend, and so I naively joined her and was quickly encircled by a group of angry girls. They shouted and yelled swear words at me as they menacingly passed a cigarette around, which they threatened to burn me with it if I didn’t leave the football star alone. They told me to go back where I’d come from, that I was trash and no one at the school or in the town wanted me and my family there.

Fortunately, another senior boy overheard the girls taunting me and ran over to save me from the angry mob. I cannot begin to explain the relief I felt as he put his arm around me and walked me away from the middle of the circle. I’ll never forget what he told them: “You think you can threaten her, but you have no idea how strong she is. I wouldn’t continue to provoke her if I were you. She’s much stronger physically than she looks, and she wouldn’t hesitate to knock one of you out if you push her too hard.”

The following week one of the girls followed me into the bathroom and tried again to push me up against the wall. I gave her a strong right hook to the chin, and she dropped to the floor. I was not bullied or harassed again.

The point of my story is not to challenge you to punch someone out if they bully you, although I do recognize that there are times in life when you have to stand up for yourself or become a victim to the destructiveness of others. But I think it’s of paramount importance to see who the bullies are in your school, your organization, your team, your company or your family and take a stand against this behavior.

In my case, the kind of bullying that took place was obvious. But often that which takes place in our team or our families is more insidious. It can take the form of continual negative comments about other team members or creating doubt about someone else’s competency. This may not be as obvious as shoving or shouting, but it can be just a destructive when we continue to gossip about others or be overtly disrespectful of them.

As I wrote in a previous challenge about setting healthy boundaries (http://www.kathleendw.local/2006/10/14/coachs-challenge-for-october-15-2006/), workplace bullying is much more common than we think. It can come in the form of expressing undo negativity toward another, intentionally excluding others from team activities, or ganging up on someone. It can also come in the form of domination by withholding information or not actively engaging and contributing to the work. When people act inappropriately, it’s important to let them know such behavior won’t be tolerated. The emotional health and safety of an organization depends on direct and clear communication when someone has trespassed on a professional and/or personal boundary.

This week, be on the lookout for bullying and take a stand against it. Don’t be afraid to let others know that it’s unacceptable and won’t be tolerated. Sometimes it’s as easy as just reminding them of how gossip never has a good outcome and that no one feels good when they find out others are gossiping about them. Maybe you let someone know that certain actions are destructive and the results will only make the situation worse. Perhaps you have to counsel a colleague that continued bullying of a co-worker will result in your having to write her or him up for disciplinary action. Perhaps you can invite a sexual harassment trainer to your company to also address bullying, verbal harassment and emotional abuse.

If you are the victim of bullying, do not hesitate to seek help. Talk to your manager or human resource representative to alert them to the situation. In one case, a woman I worked with had to go through three levels of management in her company before someone finally took action against a bullying teammate. Because of her determination and courage, the company instigated more appropriate policies for bullying in the workplace and not only created a much healthier work environment but saved itself from a potential lawsuit.

Whatever the case, make sure you take action to create an environment that is free of bullying, one of the most frightening experiences a person can undergo—companies and teams that tolerate it are unsafe and non-productive.

Have a good week!


Kathleen Doyle-White
Pathfinders Coaching
(503) 296-9249

© Copyright 2010 Pathfinders Coaching, Scout Search, Inc., all rights reserved.

On Apr 3, 2010, at 10:25 AM, Kathleen Doyle wrote: