Workplace bullying can be a significant issue in the workplace and has been a frequent reason for compensation claims and work safety complaints to regulators. There’s ample evidence that the practice has continued in some workplaces and it often presents business owners significant challenges. In this article we take a look at workplace bullying and provide some tips to help safely control it at your workplace.
What characterises a workplace bully?
Workplace bullies are the immature adults who never outgrew schoolyard antics. Bullies are the mean girls and guys who assert their workplace dominance by intimidating others.
Workplace bullies often derive their power from putting down colleagues and stirring up chaos. Bullies tell derogatory jokes and toss hurtful insults. Bullies spread false rumors and sabotage other workers’ projects. Bullies instigate problems and shift blame to scapegoat their colleagues. Bullies create childish cliques and intentionally exclude peers from meetings. Bullies sometimes even get violent and switch from verbal attacks to physical ones.
Bullies tell derogatory jokes and toss hurtful insults. Bullies spread false rumors and sabotage other workers’ projects.Safetysure Safety Consultants, 2020
Workplace bullying takes many different forms, but it always damages the work climate. Both Safety and Human resources managers need to nip workplace bullying in the bud fast before it escalates.
Bullied workers shouldn’t feel scared or uncomfortable coming to work every day. Don’t let bullies get away with installing themselves as kings or queens of a hostile work environment. Workplace bullying hurts employees’ mental health, self-esteem, and productivity levels.
Poorly treated talent may leave your company to find a safe, welcoming office where they’re appreciated. Therefore, here are eight actionable HR tips to stop workplace bullying and prevent high turnover at your workplace.
1. Create a Zero-Tolerance Policy
Companies should never be blasé about a serious issue like workplace bullying. Silence from the management team is seen as consent. Bullies thrive at organizations that overlook or ignore bad workplace habits. Put bullies in their place by establishing a clear zero-tolerance policy. HR managers must be outspoken anti-bullying advocates who won’t tolerate any harassment. Communicate exactly what employee behaviors are expected or forbidden. Clarify which actions count as workplace bullying. Guarantee that the zero-tolerance policy will be enforced with strict punishments every time.
2. Implement a Workplace Bully Reporting System
Getting bullied is demeaning and distressing. Victims of workplace bullying need an outlet to report their abuse. Human resources departments must build a concrete system for reporting bullies. Never count on an employee telling their boss, because he or she could be the bully. Implement a system where workers can inform the HR team about a bullying perpetrator. Clearly convey that employees won’t experience retaliation for coming forward. Put out the welcome mat for workers to speak about misbehavior. If necessary, let employees file a complaint confidentially. Bullied workers often feel safer staying anonymous.
3. Set a Structured Complaint Review Process
Every bullying complaint shouldn’t be automatically believed. One form of workplace bullying is reporting colleagues to the HR for no valid reason. Thus, human resources departments need step-by-step protocol for examining complaints. Have a fair, just process for reviewing reports of bullying seriously. Complaints must be addressed in the same manner whether the accused bully is an intern or executive. Avoid giving the top rung of the corporate ladder a free pass. A universal method of conducting a thorough complaint evaluation is key. Look over evidence, including text messages, emails, and pictures, with unbiased eyes.
4. Learn the Red Flags of Workplace Bullying
Filing HR complaints is usually the last resort for distraught workers. Most employees won’t report bullying until it’s gone on for months or longer. Human resources managers shouldn’t wait until bullying situations get that bad. Being proactive is much more effective. Monitor the work culture and observe employees in their natural office habitat. Look for early warning signs of bullying behaviors. Respond swiftly when racist, sexist, homophobic, or other derogatory comments are made. Take notice when workers are being shamed, isolated, or undermined. Recognize when staff members look anxious, depressed, or insecure. Knowing the red flags helps you to intervene quicker.
5. Discipline Workplace Bullies Swiftly
Once bullying behaviors are proven true, the response must be immediate. Hesitating on appropriate discipline lets workplace bullies win. Enforce the zero-tolerance policy by punishing bullies for their incivility and disrespect. The consequences of bullying must be uniformly harsh. The HR department’s responses to bullies should be consistent and quick. Long discipline delays will make bullied workers feel the company doesn’t care about them. Act swiftly with an oral or written reprimand. Explain to bullies why their behavior is harmful and how they can correct it. If the bullying continues, increase the punishment severity to suspension then termination.
6. Develop Workplace Training Workshops
Of courses, some workplace bullies are never going to change. They’re repeat offenders who scoff at discipline and need to be removed. Cutting them loose is the only way to revive a positive work culture. However, many workplace bullies can be taught better office behaviors. Some employees might be unaware of how their actions affect others. HR departments can reform these bullies with workplace training. Devise a mandatory training curriculum to teach anti-bullying practices. Arm workers with the conflict meditation skills to deescalate bullying situations. Show employees how to appropriately handle disputes with respect. Sensitivity training is also helpful to prevent prejudices.
7. Give Employees Good Role Models
Just like pupils in preschool, employees learn from their elders. Workers tend to model the behaviors exhibited by their bosses. Managers in every department, including HR, need to become good role models. Put anti-bullying workplace training into action. Demonstrate the proper, ethical behaviors for interacting with colleagues. Managers must take the lead and set a good example. Hire managers who are fair, kind, and compassionate. Teach managers to offer constructive feedback that doesn’t degrade or insult. If managers run around yelling and cussing, bullies get the message that acting out is fine. Practice what the HR policies preach to stop workplace bullying.
8. Minimize Workplace Competition
Healthy amounts of competition are useful to motivate employees to work harder and progress. Nonetheless, cutthroat competition breaks up the workplace and breeds bullies. Too much competition makes the work climate more like The Hunger Games. Rivalries lead to workplace bullying and office drama. Workers will aim for taking out competitors rather than furthering the corporate mission. Building a cohesive, close-knit team is important for any business’s success. The most productive employees get along well and collaborate without issue. Embrace a “team first” mentality with ample teamwork. Use strengths-based rewards to applaud each worker’s contributions. Plan team-building exercises or retreats for workers to bond too.
According to Forbes, 75 percent of workers have been targets or witnesses to bullying. Workplace bullying is a rampant epidemic that’s wreaking havoc on businesses in every sector. Bullying damages workplace morale and workforce performance. Bullied workers will lose confidence and time from agonizing over their stressful situations. Companies that ignore bullying will also lose talented workers and potentially face lawsuits for harassment. Human resources managers must take actionable steps to defeat bullies.
Stopping workplace bullying is essential to promote a civil, respectful work culture where all employees thrive.
Read more Workplace Bullying tips in our blog.
if you need support or more tips for getting control of your workplace bullying program, Safetysure would love to help. Call us on 1300 087 888 for a no obligation chat.