Dealing with Bullying in the Workplace

Bullying in the workplace can be very difficult to deal with and is surprisingly common. According to recent research from staffing firm OfficeTeam, about one in three workers surveyed admitted they have worked with an office bully and more than one-quarter of human resources managers interviewed said they thought workplace bullying happens often at their company. Bullying can be subtle, and can come from above. Generally speaking, organisations are not good at dealing with bullying, however, they try and ‘brush it under the carpet’, pretend it isn’t happening, and hope it will go away, but usually it doesn’t.

Bullying can be extremely stressful, it leads to a breakdown of trust and communication and common sense go out the window. It can be very devastating for the person on the receiving end, leading to a sense of powerlessness and loss of control. As humans we are hard wired to fight or flight in stressful situations, yet neither of these responses is helpful when confronted with an office bully. In this situation there are no easy solutions, only some that are better than others. So what should an organisational response to bullying in the workplace be?

Building a culture of respect is a very important step towards creating a bullying free workplace, and such a culture needs to be created and modelled by management so that workers will follow suit. Management needs to be pro-active about working towards this. Ultimately, organisations get the culture they deserve.

Part of creating a culture of respect is having a ‘Bullying and Harassment’ policy so that everyone knows the definition of bullying and can recognise that it is taking place. It needs to be a standard part of every employee’s induction that they read the policy. Managers should thoroughly familiarise themselves with it and ideally training would be provided for them on how to recognise bullying. Coaching is a great way in which bullying tactics can be ‘picked up’ and addressed in a constructive way.

If bullying does occur there should be a ‘zero tolerance’ approach and it needs to be dealt with quickly and effectively by the appropriate manager, giving a clear message to all employees that this behaviour is not acceptable.

By using these methods the problem of bullying is addressed ‘head on’ and there is a greater chance that it can be reduced and eliminated effectively and as soon as possible.

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