Workplace Bullying Basics

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Take these steps to make your business a bully-free zone, starting from the top.

Bullying in the workplace is a serious issue. It has been linked to workplace violence and other workplace misconduct. It affects as many as 33,000 American workers every week, but many employers aren’t treating it as a major issue.

Workplace bullying, simply defined, is behavior or repeated unreasonable actions of an individual directed towards an employee (or a group of employees), which is intended to intimidate and creates a risk to the health and safety of the employee(s).

Bullying is Under-reported

More than 40 percent of bullying cases are never reported because the employee doesn’t feel that anybody is going to take them seriously. Bullying most often occurs in relationships where the balance of power is believed by both parties to be lopsided.

Examples of bullying behavior include ignoring people, excluding people, yelling, mocking or making fun of people, and especially criticizing people in front of others. Bullying can mask itself in subtle behaviors such as not inviting a co-worker to lunch with other employees.

How to Prevent Bullying

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The solution begins at the top with the CEO or President. The CEO must implement a strict anti-bullying policy, clearly outlining the behaviors and consequences. Then communicate to all employees that they are serious about the anti-bullying policy and that they will be strictly enforcing the policy.

  • Talk openly with all employees and provide them with training programs that explain behaviors that constitute bullying and harassment. Let all employees know that bullying or harassment in any form will not be tolerated. That training can be in the form of formal programs conducted by experts or through more informal group discussions.
  • Post notices, distribute messages that state the company’s position on bullying and talk to employees about how to keep it out of your workplace. Promote an open environment that gives employees a sense that they are not alone in your organization.
  • Make top executives and management accessible and willing to engage employees in conversation, both about work and non-work topics.
  • Train managers and supervisors to recognize bullying and workplace harassment.
  • Create a system for reporting incidents of bullying or harassment by designating a person whom employees feel comfortable approaching to discuss the problem and/or create an anonymous reporting system.

Make Reporting Easy

Even after these steps have been implemented, some employees still may not feel comfortable talking to a supervisor about being bullied, especially if it’s the supervisor who is doing the bullying (which I’ll address in an upcoming blog post). To overcome that you can create alternative reporting mechanisms — such as hiring an outside company that fields complaints — so that employees who feel they are being bullied can report it anonymously.

No matter how you do it, it is imperative that you implement and enforce a strict “no-bullying” policy in your workplace.

 

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President, SACS Consulting & Investigative Services, Speaker, Trainer, Corporate Security Expert

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Article Published May 14, 2012

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