Dealing with Workplace Bullying
Bullying is something no one should have to deal with…EVER! While we often associate bullying with childhood, the reality is that bullies can follow people throughout their entire lives, impacting the performance, and culture of workplaces.
While conflicts in the workplace are natural, there’s a difference between misunderstandings and consistent abuse.
Although it’s important for employees to stand up for themselves, and seek assistance when dealing with bullies, HR managers and business leaders also play a role.
Direct line managers, supervisors, and executives also need to implement strategies to ensure they’re creating a supportive, respectful company culture.
Here are some tips to overcoming bullying in the workplace.
Defining Workplace Bullying: Identifying the Signs
To overcome bullying in the workspace, business leaders and their employees first need to recognize the signs. Bullying can appear in a range of forms, from name calling, to the deliberate isolation of specific employees by other individuals or groups.
The Workplace Bullying Institute (WBI) gives the concept a clear definition. It says bullying is any repeated, harmful mistreatment of one or more people by one or more perpetrators.
Workplace bullying can happen both offline and online, particularly in today’s world of hybrid and remote work. It can also include:
- Name calling or abusive language
- Ignoring, isolating, or excluding team members
- Belittling or making fun of an employee
- Scapegoating or blaming other employees for issues
- Manipulation or coercion
- Spreading rumors about an employee
- Aggressive or violent behavior
Even business leaders can be perpetrators of bullying, when they set their employees up to fail, disregard them, or overwhelm them with menial tasks.
Workplace bullying is extremely common, with 30% of Americans saying they experience this issue. Unfortunately, the side effects can be disastrous for both businesses and individuals alike. Consistent bullying can cause stress, ill health, and burnout for employees.
It also harms team productivity, and increases a company’s chance of talent turnover, leading to significant skill gaps and problems with long-term performance.
Handling Workplace Bullying: Global Factors
Workplace bullying is an issue that arises all over the world. While the negative impact it has on businesses and employees is consistent wherever you are, the solutions companies and team members can use to deal with bullying vary depending on location.
In the US, workplace bullying is addressed through various channels, including legal recourse. While there are no specific federal laws against bullying, many US companies still adopt anti-bullying policies to create a safe and inclusive workspace.
Additionally, the US Equal Employment Opportunity Commission shares guidelines team leaders can use to address workplace harassment and bullying.
The UK and Australian governments have both implemented anti-bullying legislation, such as the Equality Act in the UK, and the Fair Work Act in Australia. In these regions, organizations are encouraged to implement comprehensive anti-bullying policies, outlining unacceptable behaviors, reporting procedures, and consequences for perpetrators.
Employees are also encouraged to deliver training and awareness programs, to educate employees about the effects of workplace bullying and how to recognize it.
Effective Strategies for Handling Workplace Bullying
Though there are different regulations and legal solutions in place for workplace bullying depending on where you are in the world, business leaders can still experiment with a range of universally effective strategies for mitigation, no matter their location.
Some of the best ways to combat workplace bullying include:
1. Establish and Share Clear Policies
First, it’s important to develop and communicate clear anti-bullying policies for the entire workforce. These policies should outline examples of unacceptable behaviors, as well as the potential consequences for perpetrators.
Ensure team members understand which reporting mechanisms are in place to ensure they can seek out assistance if they feel harassed by another team member. All employees should have access to accessible, confidential reporting mechanisms, to help them seek out help without fear.
2. Promote a Respectful, Inclusive Culture
Today’s most innovative companies are already investing in Diversity, Equity, and Inclusion initiatives, designed to create equality and respect between team members. This is important at a time when 76% of job seekers and employees believe DEI initiatives are crucial.
Promoting a culture of respect and inclusion in the workplace helps to minimize the risk of bullying. Team members should be encouraged to embrace the diverse characteristics of their coworkers, and be reminded that harassing behavior will not be tolerated. Leaders should set examples, by consistently treating team members with dignity.
3. Invest in Training and Education
Investing in educational programs in the workspace isn’t just crucial to give employees access to new technical skills or improve workplace engagement. It can also be a valuable way to promote bonds between team members, and hone soft skills.
Consider investing in educational resources that focus on teaching valuable communication, collaboration, and cooperation skills. Provide team members with educational resources to help them understand the effects of bullying, and what they can do to recognize, address, and even prevent the issue.
4. Respond to Reports Correctly
Simply ensuring employees in the workplace can report instances of bullying isn’t enough. Companies also need to be willing to act rapidly when an employee is facing harassment. All reports issued by team members should be investigated thoroughly, promptly, and impartially.
The consequences for perpetrators should be significant, but also consistent and fair, based on the nature of the situation. Additionally, business leaders should ensure support is available to victims following the event. This could include offering counselling, mediation, or coaching sessions.
5. Stay Vigilant
Unfortunately, even as business leaders continue to invest in initiatives to make their companies more welcoming and supportive to employees, bullying is still an issue. In today’s world of hybrid and remote work, it can be even harder to spot problems, particularly when harassment happens online, or through video meetings.
To stay on top of the problem, managers and business leaders need to be vigilant about monitoring the workplace environment. Pay attention to the behaviors of employees, investigate instances of severe stress and burnout, and constantly promote team bonding.
Workplace bullying is unfortunately a global, persistent issue, that requires attention from both employees, and business leaders. Addressing instances of bullying effectively isn’t just the key to creating a more attractive company culture.
It’s also important to ensuring employees can feel engaged and productive at work, and helps to reduce the risk of talent turnover. The right initiatives can even help to make your business more appealing to active and passive job seekers.