What To Do To Stop Bullying In The Workplace

August 21, 2020 by  

In workplaces of every size, there can be differences of opinion and personality. In some organizations, banter can quickly turn to insulting behaviour. Robust management styles can be seen as an abuse of power. A strong personality might be construed as intimidation.
So, what exactly is workplace bullying? Traditionally it is described as “offensive, intimidating, malicious or insulting behaviour, abuse or misuse of power through means that undermine, humiliate, denigrate or injure the recipient.”

Such actions can include:
• Being constantly criticized
• Shouting, aggressive behaviour
• Ignored, victimized, left out
• Picking on, regularly undermining someone
• Misuse of power such as threats about job safety, or denying training or promotion opportunities
• Mocking, being made to be the butt of all the jokes
• Unwelcome sexual advances

There is a notable lack of a legal standard for bullying – however, any harassment linked to a ‘protected characteristic’ under the Equality Act 2010 is illegal and can form part of a legal case against an employer that does not act against such behaviour.
If bullying becomes an issue in your work environment, it can lead to problems for everyone involved. These can include low morale and poor employee relations, poor performance and lost productivity, absences and resignations, loss of respect for management and damage to company reputation. In extreme circumstances, tribunals and court cases can follow however it is simple to take action to ensure that your workplace remains a safe, friendly place to work.

So, what can employers do to prevent this from becoming an issue in your workplace?
Firstly, you need a robust workplace policy in place, which has a clear statement regarding how bullying and harassment will be dealt with. This might include examples of unacceptable behaviour, with investigation procedures and timelines. It should always include what steps need to be taken to address this, from approaching managers and HR, right through to formal grievance procedures.
To make this policy most effective, it is always good practice to consult with employees about what they want to be included. With open and honest discussion, managers and employers are setting a good example for colleagues working together to make all employees safe from harassment.
As part of this policy, you may want to set standards of behaviour. This might involve guidance booklets, training sessions and seminars, extra training for management and HR, and even contracting external counsellors, trainers and mediators.

The most important thing that any manager or employer can do is take any complaint of workplace bullying or harassment seriously. All complaints need to be dealt with fairly, confidentially and sensitively. Any person that feels that they are being bullied needs to be listened to and the issue needs to be investigated.
There is an obvious advantage to dealing with any bullying informally, to begin with, if this is appropriate. It could be that people don’t realize that their behaviour is a problem, and a quick one-on-one discussion is all it takes to nip it in the bud. If this isn’t the answer, then you might consider counselling and this can be someone from within your organization that has received special training, or you might have an Employee Assistance Program in place where they offer counselling and mediating services that, as a third party, ensure that all issues are dealt with objectively.
If the bullying or harassment merits a formal grievance, disciplinary procedures may need to be started. This might include formal meetings, suspension or transfer but it must be objective, fair, confidential and dealt with promptly. Any disciplinary actions must be based on a formal procedure that is transparent with designated timelines for each outcome.

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