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The Fight, Flight & Fear Behind Workplace Bullying

Episode #1101: In this episode of the Arete Coach Podcast, Catherine Mattice, an Executive Coach, Culture Consultant, Strategic HR Expert, SHRM Certified Professional, Business Coach, Author, Speaker, and Founder and CEO of Civility Partners, discusses her work to end workplace bullying. Known for being an HR thought leader and disruptor who has appeared in USA Today, Entrepreneur Magazine, Bloomberg, CNN, NPR, and many other national news outlets, a founder of the National Workplace Bullying Coalition, and an active participant in the International Association on Workplace Bullying & Harassment, this episode gives you access to the thoughts and perspectives of one of the nation’s true experts on the social and relational aspects of workplace bullying and harassment, and ultimately how to resolve these issues.


During the episode, Catherine shares examples of bullying in the workplace, powerful questions and insights she has learned from helping leaders understand their role in bullying, as well as some lessons learned from her journey to executive coaching and consulting.



About Catherine Mattice, SHRM-SCP

Catherine Mattice is an Executive Coach, Culture Consultant, Strategic HR Expert, SHRM Certified Professional, Business Coach, Author, Speaker, and Founder and CEO of Civility Partners with a master’s in Human Communication and Thought Communication. At Civility Partners, she focuses on helping organizations create respectful and positive workplace cultures. Her clients range from Fortune 500 businesses to government, nonprofit, and small businesses in a range of industries. She and her team have served the likes of Chevron, the Marine Corps, the American Red Cross, Stanford University, and many more.

Catherine is an HR thought leader and disruptor who has appeared in venues such as USA Today, Entrepreneur Magazine, Bloomberg, CNN, NPR, and many other national news outlets as an expert. Leadership guru Ken Blanchard, called her first book Back Off, Your Kick Ass Guide to Ending Bullying at Work, “the most comprehensive and valuable handbook on the topic.” Catherine is one of the nation’s true experts on the social and relational aspects of workplace bullying and harassment, and ultimately how to resolve these issues.


Catherine was one of four founders of the National Workplace Bullying Coalition, a nonprofit focused on education and legislation regarding workplace bullying. The NWBC’s conferences have included keynotes from Congress members in California and New Jersey, and their proposed bill, The Dignity at Work Act, which passed in Rhode Island. Catherine is also active in the International Association on Workplace Bullying & Harassment, where academics from around the world share their research and knowledge on correcting and preventing these issues.


Catherine Mattice has a great passion for helping businesses put an end to workplace bullying and for making the world a better place one coaching session at a time.


Key highlights


Defining bullying in the workplace

Timestamp 04:25


When asked about the scope of bullying in the workplace, Catherine states that she believes “100% of people have experienced some bullying in their working life” and that some call bullying in the workplace “the silent epidemic.” She explains that there are three types of bullying behaviors. The first type of bullying behavior in the workplace is “aggressive communication, doing things like sending off nasty emails or in all caps, getting in someone’s personal space, aggressive body language, and facial expressions.” The second type of workplace bullying is “humiliation, pointing out mistakes in public, condescending remarks, sarcasm or jokes at someone’s expense in front of others.” The last type of workplace bullying is “manipulation” or “passive-aggressive” things such as “giving someone so much work that they can’t possibly achieve their goals, or taking a really key responsibility from someone without actually explaining why.”


The fight, flight, and fear behind workplace bullying

Timestamp 08:59


Severin shares a coaching scenario involving workplace bullying and asks how Catherine would coach this individual specifically. Catherine shares that “people who engage in bullying” all have a common thread of having to “fight for something their whole life.” Because of this continual fight, “there is no room for error in their mind” and there is a hyper-focus on “competence.” Due to these mindsets, the basis of Catherine’s coaching “is helping [clients] recognize fight or flight in themselves and the people around them and then helping them see that [their] job is to minimize fear… to get better results.” She explains that “fight and flight and fear happen all throughout the day.” Because of this, she teaches her clients to “observe body language and behavior and recognize that if they switch their behavior, then others will switch their behavior.”


Complex communication

Timestamp 25:29


When asked about the value of words in communication versus the value of context and body language, Catherine explains that even though many reference 7% of communication being verbal, this number is a misinterpreted statistic and the precise number is unknown. Catherine shares that “so many things go into how we communicate” including the surrounding environment, smell, temperature, posture, body language, gestures, and eye contact. There are also influences on communication that are unique to the individual such as future plans, how they are feeling, and what they are thinking about. Catherine states that “communication is way harder than we give it credit for.”


“You got this”

Timestamp 29:14


Catherine’s personal mantra is “just to always recognize that I can do this.” She shares that she has consistently put herself outside of her comfort zone in her business and in doing so, has put herself out there and not been “afraid of no.” She explains that because of her mindset, she has built her business, grown a team, and now has clients globally.


Gaining understanding

Timestamp 36:35


In Catherine’s coaching, she uses questions to gain an understanding of the “why” behind people’s behavior. One of her powerful questions is “why do you do that.” Using this question, she is able to dive deeper into the “why” with questions such as “tell me why people see that from you? Do you feel there’s some truth in these comments here?” She uses these types of questions from a place of non-judgment to help her gain an understanding of why a client is choosing to bully in the workplace.


The domino effect of work environment

Timestamp 46:45


The “why” behind Catherine’s passion for ending workplace bullying stems from the ripple effects that a work environment can have on an individual. From her own experience, she has learned the impact of workplace bullying and how it can affect an individual both at work and outside of work. She works to help end workplace bullying because she believes that “people deserve to be treated with dignity at work” because “what we do for a living is a huge part of our self-concept and self-esteem and employers can better society if they provide a safe, positive, place for people to come work.” By helping organizations and business leaders build more positive work environments, Catherine helps employees have a more positive “domino effect” inside and outside the office.

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