Everyone at some point in their lives has experienced bullying either directly or indirectly. Good and evil is an unfortunate part of the world we live in. Unfortunately, workplace bullying is evil, and whilst we can not remove it entirely, we can show zero tolerance to those who conduct themselves in a way that is bullying behaviour.
As an employer, you must take all reasonable steps to provide a workplace that is free from bullying, conflict and discrimination. This is both a moral and legal requirement. In this article, we present eight things that can help you take reasonable steps to ensure a workplace that is free from bullying.
1. Have a strong anti-bullying radar
Workplace bullying is not always right in your face. Quite often it is subtle and difficult to identify. It is important that your people are able to identify bullying behaviour, have the confidence to call it out and then take steps to deal with the situation. If senior management ignores incidents of bullying behaviour it becomes the ‘kryptonite’ of your workplace culture and creates pains such as:
- Loss of productivity
- Increased employee turnover
- Decreased staff engagement
- Plummeting stakeholder value
- No unity on the floor, and most of all
- Irreversible brand damage and bad PR
2. Calling a spade a spade
Bullying is repeated behaviour which means that if we do not identify, report and resolve bullying behaviour early, it will continue and become a much bigger issue than when it first came up. Not calling bullying “bullying,” to avoid any conflict by offending those who were responsible for the bullying, only makes you an accomplice, it adds to the injury done to the bullied employees whose jobs, careers, along with mental and physical health have been threatened.
3. Identifying the spectrum of bullying behaviour
Bullying or workplace bullying has a spectrum of passive bullying through to assault. To easily understand the spectrum of bullying here are the workplace bullying behaviours that you should have an eye for.
4. Identifying the bullies and the victims
When an incident of bullying behaviour is brought to your attention it is important that you are able to identify those who have partaken in the bullying as well as those who are affected. It is an exercise that is undertaken based on fact. If somebody is a star performer or a senior manager that does not mean that we turn a blind eye. That is where the skilful attention by HR is so important. A report of bullying behaviour can often uncover other inappropriate behaviours and be a much bigger issue than first appeared.
5. Invest in further training for managers and supervisors
Everyone in your business must be provided with appropriate training on matters such as bullying, harassment and discrimination. However, reasonable steps mean providing additional training and support to those who need it most. That means for managers and supervisors, we need to ensure they are most well equipped to identify, report and resolve issues that come up regarding bullying. How to identify bullying when it is happening in your team, how to fairly investigate claims, maintain privacy and not shame and retaliate against staff, as well as how to appropriately discipline the offenders. A big part of this process is knowing when to ask for help from HR and other senior managers in the business.
6. Investigate complaints promptly
Do not overlook or sweep complaints under the carpet. Immediate action should be taken because the longer the bullying is allowed to occur, the greater the damage to the victim and potential liability to your company.
7. Make your policies loud and clear
None of the above points would be fully effective if you do not have clear policies in place and communicate these loud and clear to everyone in your organisation. Having clear policies that are legally compliant and provide clear definitions and instructions on how to identify, report and resolve incidents of bullying is the first actionable step to creating a bully free workplace. It is recommended that you enrol people in your policies on an online system where they are easily accessible to all employees, suppliers, volunteers and contractors and that also show when people have completed them. This also helps you to refresh policies and roll them out, typically on an annual basis or at least every other year.
Here are some of the benefits of having clear policies in place:
- Knowing the legal definition of workplace bullying
- Identifying behaviours that are considered as bullying
- Consequences of workplace bullying on the victim and the perpetrator
- Internal and external avenues to make complaints when subjected to workplace bullying
- Knowing one’s rights
8. Educate managers, employees, volunteers, suppliers, etc…(basically everyone!)
To accompany your policies, the most effective measure is to train your employees on workplace bullying prevention through adult learning. Online course on workplace bullying such as those provided by Sentrient for Australian businesses is a good example of an efficient and effective way to train staff.