Dealing With Workplace Bullying

It’s reasonable for a person to expect that the workplace is different from the schoolyard.  It’s a sad fact that workplace bullying still happens. Apart from the obvious emotional impact that this has on an individual, it can also place a company in legal trouble. This is why it is absolutely essential to have guidelines in place that deal effectively with workplace bullying.

What is workplace bullying?

The ideal workplace is one in which everyone is respected and where behavior is informed by a strong code of professional conduct. Workplace bullying, like any form of bullying, is a repeated behavior that is unreasonable and is directed at an individual or a group in the workplace. It can affect mental and emotional health and safety, and can even create a risk to physical safety.

Here are some common examples of the many forms that workplace bullying can take:

  • Intimidating or aggressive behavior,
  • Abusive or offensive language,
  • Performing practical jokes or workplace initiation ceremonies,
  • Constant criticism,
  • Over-regular performance reviews that seem unfair,
  • Humiliating comments.

So, how can your company deal with workplace bullying and put processes in place to prevent it from happening?

Communication at all levels is vital

You may have a strong code of conduct in place, but the truth is that bullying can take many forms and is always a risk. One of the keys to dealing with it is to expose it. One of the best ways to do this is to encourage company-wide consultation and communication at all levels.

In practice, this means that business leaders need to regularly meet with health and safety representatives across all levels to identify any instances of bullying and where there might be variables that might lead to instances of bullying. In short, bullying needs to be on the agenda.

Set the standards

Having a strong code of conduct is also important. This document should outline what behavior is expected of all staff members and business leaders, and that bullying in all of its forms will not be tolerated. The code of conduct should be regularly updated and spoken about in reference to expected professional behavior.

The importance of reporting and consequences

If an instance of bullying has been identified, there have to be consequences, but one of the problems many people face in the workplace is that they don’t feel as though they have a way to report that they are being bullied.

In order to support staff members in matters of workplace bullying, it’s important to implement a strict procedure of reporting cases of bullying. This often takes the form of a hotline and it’s crucial that the process is anonymous and accessible at any time of day or night. This provides support to all staff and also provides a way for bullying to be identified.

Once bullying has been identified, the response should be professional, serious, and swift. There have to be consequences for workplace bullying and every staff member needs to know that this kind of toxic behavior will not be tolerated.

A professional work environment is a productive work environment

Developing a workplace culture of mutual respect and professionalism at all levels takes time; but, getting the foundations right is key. By openly encouraging discussion about workplace bullying, setting standards, and developing reporting and response procedures, every organization can put in place strong foundations that will more than likely result in a thriving professional workplace culture.