How to deal with Workplace Bullying

Picture Credit: Aaron Anderer – No Bullying Allowed! – November 16
What is workplace bullying?

Bullying in the workplace is more common than many people realise. It is defined as any form of abusive behaviour where an individual is left to feel intimidated or humiliated in their work environment. Bullying can either be verbal or physical and is done with the intention to harm another’s dignity and well-being. The consequences of workplace bullying are, arguably, underrated – not only does it make workers feel anxious and/or depressed, but it can also have an effect on their family life; whilst some workers have reported instances of post-traumatic stress disorder.

Any negative behaviours towards an individual’s personal characteristics, including age, gender, sex, sexuality, marital status, pregnancy, disability, race, religion and beliefs all constitute bullying, according to the Equality Act 2010. Bullying is not always obvious to others, however. For example, deliberate exclusion from workplace activities/conversations and avoidance are also causes for concern. Bullying not only lowers the self-esteem of the victim, but also negatively effects their productivity and performance at work, and very often impacts the most valued workers in the office since bullying often stems from feelings of jealousy.

Steps employers should take

Statistics show that 40% of people who are targeted by a bully experience stress-related health issues, including anxiety and depression. It’s therefore essential that any suspicions or known cases of bullying in the workplace are dealt with efficiently, and as soon as possible.

Although there is no law against workplace bullying, employers do have the responsibility to ensure that the health, safety and welfare of their employees is maintained. If any employer knowingly ignores bullying cases, they can be at risk of a fine in court and will likely experience high staff turnover.

As soon as a member of management is informed of a bullying case, it should be dealt with immediately. It is important to bear in mind that the victim will be feeling intimidated, so they should not be put in a situation, i.e. a meeting with the bully, in which they will feel threatened. Likewise, the alleged bully should also receive fair treatment until proven guilty, as no disciplinary action should be taken until evidence is obtained.

In response to a complaint, employers should adhere to the relevant policies; whether this be the anti-bullying or grievance policy. Claims should also be treated confidentially, and all individuals involved should receive the relevant support. It’s also important to clarify your approach to all involved – establishing that you will handle matters sensitively will encourage workers to speak out. A low-level complaint may be categorised as a workplace conflict and thus addressed locally; whilst serious allegations may require an investigation. All claims, despite their severity, should be fully addressed and dealt with in a timely manner.

It may be necessary to offer counselling to employees who are struggling. Meanwhile, it’s a good idea to encourage positivity in the workplace and ask people to work together and support each other.

Prevention

Taking steps to prevent workplace bullying is equally as important. Training is essential, whether this be face-to-face or through e-learning to ensure a shared understanding of what behaviours constitute bullying, and to teach victims and witnesses the steps they should take. It’s a good idea to establish a strong ethos and morale in the workplace to ensure that the inclination to bully is eradicated. Training should also be provided to management on how to deal with complaints appropriately, as well as how to manage staff whilst keeping compassion in mind.

If you have concerns regarding workplace bullying, please do get in touch with us via email at [email protected] or call 01386 751740.

Here at Cluer HR, we offer a ‘Getting the Balance Right’ course, which focuses on anti-bullying, harassment and equal opportunities. If you’re interested or would like more information, please contact us.