As it’s Anti-Bullying Week, we wanted to shine a light on this incredibly important yet often overlooked problem. Far from being an issue that was left behind in the school playground, bullying can occur at any age or anywhere – including in the workplace.
Bullying can be defined as behaviour that makes someone feel intimidated, humiliated, or offended and is a pattern of repeated behaviour rather than one-off incidents. It can take many forms, including constant criticism, deliberate exclusion and unreasonable demands, and can happen just as damagingly via social media or email as when face-to-face, often making it difficult to spot.
As well as damaging their personal wellbeing and self-worth, workplace bullying can have a profoundly negative impact on an employee’s productivity. From an employer’s perspective, it leads to an increase in absences, which can come at a huge cost to the business. On top of this, it creates a poor working atmosphere with low morale and a loss of respect for management, potentially resulting in increased resignations.
It should be in any employer’s best interests to take whatever measures necessary to prevent workplace bullying, both from a cost standpoint and on an interpersonal level – no one should feel threatened when they are just trying to do their job. An employer has a duty of care to their employees and must take reasonable action to prevent bullying, so what should you be doing?
Create a bullying policy
It needn’t be complicated, but having a written policy in place ensures that everyone knows the correct procedures if bullying is going on, and feels more comfortable talking about it openly. In the publicly accessible document, outline what constitutes as bullying, the responsibilities of the management team, the action that will be taken and the support that will be available to those affected. It’s important for employees to know the expected standard of behaviour and the consequences of disregarding it.
Train your management team
Providing training on the handling of workplace conflict means that your staff will be better equipped to deal with bullying. Train your managerial staff on how to spot the signs – perhaps an increase in absences, or poor work performance can be identified – and how to deal with incidents of bullying. Training can be delivered through online courses or through conflict management workshops, and are an effective way of ensuring managers are confident in recognising and handling issues.
Good communication is crucial across all aspects of the workplace, but it is particularly important for employees to feel comfortable discussing any problems they are facing. Allocate several members of staff across different teams to whom complaints can be made – it’s important to give employees options of who to raise issues to, in case it is someone in their team who is the problem. Letting employees know that the workplace has a zero-tolerance policy to bullying will make it easier for them to come forward and feel confident that their issues will be dealt with appropriately.