Attention Seekers…just recognition hungry or bullies in disguise?

Posted September 15, 2010 in Latest News & Insights

After losing my appetite by looking at Lady Gaga’s meat shoes on the cover of the paper this morning, I started thinking about attention seekers.  What makes some people feel the need to make everything all about “look at me!”?  Although most of us will never have to deal with an employee showing up to work in a meat dress, we’ve all experienced that person who seems to need a disproportionate amount of attention.  I started wondering… what’s going on with these people and what can you as a leader do about the behaviour?

 So, I did what all good bloggers do and googled the phrase “attention seeking employees” and up popped this interesting link from a UK website on bullying.  According to the site, attention seeking behaviours can actually be forms of bullying.  Although I’d never considered that before, it makes sense.  Here’s a sample quote:

“In most (although not all) cases, the identified serial bully is a female whose objective is to demonstrate to the world what a wonderful, kind, caring, compassionate person she is. Bold pronouncements, a prominent position, gushing empathy, sitting on many committees for good causes, etc all feature regularly. However, staff turnover is high and morale low amongst those doing the work and interacting with clients.”

Wow… the dark side of attention seeking behaviour to be sure!  The topic of workplace bullying has gained more and more awareness of late (especially here in Ontario with the introduction of Bill 168).  As leaders, we know that we have an obligation and responsibility to stop workplace bullying.  But where do you begin?  Here are some ideas culled from various web experts:

  1. Openly state that you will not condone bullying of any kind.  Share specific examples of what bullying looks like.
  2. Have an anti-bullying policy written down as part of your employee handbook.
  3. Prohibit actions like tantrums, screaming, and threats.
  4. Watch for signs of bullying… high absentee rates, continual staff turnover, individuals afraid to speak up in front of particular people.
  5. Take actions against bullies immediately.  Focus on their behaviour (not their personality).
  6. Clearly state the consequences (suspension, termination, etc.) and follow through.
  7. Document all conversations, and if it doesn’t stop, consider serious penalties.

But probably most importantly of all, remember, you’re the role model.  If you struggle to keep your cool under pressure or find yourself becoming someone you don’t like much when you’re stressed out, reach out for help.  Leadership is a pressure cooker and you don’t have to go it alone.  Find a coach, mentor, peer advisor or therapist who can be your sounding board and help you put your best foot forward.  Just make sure you’re not wearing a meat shoe.

Happy leading!


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