The definition of workplace bullying is the repetition of unfavourable and inappropriate treatment of a person by another/others in the workplace. This includes behaviours that humiliate, degrade, intimidate or offend the person. Workplace bullying is damaging in many ways. Especially for victims. As they often suffer from higher stress levels, anxiety and even PTSD. These are genuine and very serious effects. However, the negative implications don’t just end with the victims. It can spill over into the business. Workplaces with bullies tend to have lower morale, loss of productivity, high absentee rates and reputational damage. All of which can result in significant financial costs. However, managers can mitigate these losses by following the below advice if they notice bullying in their business.
1. Interrupt workplace bullying as it happens
It is vital that you intervene immediately if you witness one person displaying bullying behaviour towards another. However, it is essential to remember that intervening is not interjecting. Do not insert yourself in the middle of this exchange. Simply, interrupt and ask to speak to the instigator alone. Once it is just you and the employee, calmly explain why you will not tolerate this behaviour. And be sure to check in with that employee. Are they under any stress themselves? Did anything instigate their behaviour? Checking in, and hopefully resolving an issue at this point potentially saves time, money and heartache in the long run.
After speaking to the instigator, check in with the person on the receiving end of their behaviour. Again, try to do this under the radar. Discretion is critical in these situations. Ask if this was a solitary incident, or if this is becoming a recurring problem. If it is the latter, then it is time to escalate the issue.
2. Hold the bully accountable
Calling out a bully and holding them accountable for their actions is imperative. Without accountability, they will continue with their behaviours. However, as a manager, a situation like this is delicate. Approaching a bully, all guns blazing will not rectify the situation. Nor will a shake and make-up approach. If the Company has an anti-bullying policy, follow it to the letter. However, if no such policy exists, it is up to you to look into the events, and decide what action (if any) may be appropriate.
Conducting an investigation is the first step. Speak to both the victim and the alleged bully. Multiple times if necessary. Although it is important to remember, never at the same time or in the same room. Speak to other members of staff, check CCTV if applicable, check HR records for attendance reports etc. Gather any and all information you can, before deciding if/how to proceed with a punishment. If the facts confirm the bullying, then act according to the Company’s disciplinary procedure.
3. Take a look at your management style
Our final tip is to review your management style. Now that may not be easy to hear. However, it is worth considering if there is bullying within the workplace. Managers set the tone in a work environment. And if your management style leans more authoritative, then this could be contributing to the problem. Employees under authoritarian managers, tend to mirror their behaviour. Therefore employees may find it acceptable to treat their co-workers in the same manner you treat the staff. Changing your management style is not something that can happen overnight. However, it is worth doing. Fostering a supportive working environment can result in a happier, more connected workforce. Consequently, reducing bullying. Start slowly, making small mindful changes. Eventually, these changes will compound. And ripple out through the staff.
Need additional support to deal with workplace bullying?
Kaizen Workforce Academy educates, empowers and supports the personal and professional development of managers. We provide training and programmes to our clients so they can address and resolve key workplace issues such as bullying in the workplace. For more information, why not contact our Workforce Academy Team today?