Bullying comes in all shapes and sizes. Usually, when people think of bullying, they envision a kid getting picked on by older peers on the playground or someone spreading rumors online. In reality, 82% of bullying occurs in peer-to-peer situations, which can continue into adulthood and even into the workplace.
The workplace should be a professional and supportive environment where all employees are encouraged to work toward a common goal, but this is unfortunately not always the case. In fact, 28% of employees claim to have experienced bullying at work. This alarming trend has caused numerous recruitment and retention issues for executives. No one wants to wake up in the morning only to commute to a toxic work environment. Keeping this in mind, executives need to build a plan and take charge of ending workplace bullying. Here’s how to make it happen.
Learn How to Identify Incidents
Workplace bullying isn’t always an obvious situation to spot. It’s easy to take notice of outright verbal or physical abuse, but executives, HR, and security professionals need to learn how to identify other forms of workplace bullying. First, it’s important to understand that workplace bullies target certain demographics more than others. A 2017 survey of 1,000 employees states that more than two-thirds of workplace bullies are men, and more often than not, both men and women bullies target other women at work. Sixty-one percent of respondents also report bullying from employees in senior-level positions. By first recognizing that specific groups of employees are more likely to be victims, you can keep a closer watch on those most susceptible.
The second key to early identification of these incidents is to know exactly what behavior to look for. While bullying can be obvious in the forms of threats and verbal abuse, it can also hide in other forms like isolation, intimidation, sabotage, unwarranted negative evaluations, rumors, or purposely withholding information.
Be Prepared to Take Action
Executives should recognize situations on their own, but they should also carefully listen to any employee complaints that come across their desk. It is much easier to brush someone off than it is to investigate his or her claim, but by taking complaints seriously, you can put a stop to negative interactions early. Once you examine the complaint, take extra notice of the suspected bully, and carefully analyze his or her interactions with other employees. If you witness any particular incidents that raise a red flag, document them immediately, and keep the documentation organized and accessible. If the complaints and documentation are not properly cited throughout the process, the claim could seem unsupported and empty.
Confront the Bully
While listening to employees and documenting incidents are vital steps in the process, it’s also important to show your employees that you do not tolerate this behavior. Bullies don’t like to be called out, so it’s important to not put any power back into their hands and to establish the proper body language and tone of voice when communicating with them. Speak to them firmly, and stand strong to show that you are serious and will not have toxic behavior in your workplace. Also, meet with them in a private setting. Public scrutiny could lead them to feel cornered and wronged, making a private conversation more effective. Following this private meeting, it’s important to report the interaction to any necessary senior-level executives or HR professionals.
Implement Antibullying Policies
Because workplace bullying can have such a negative effect on recruiting and retention efforts, it’s important to build initiatives that show your business does not tolerate such behavior. Creating antibullying policies is a great place to start and integrates well with other company culture initiatives. These policies often come with training sessions and topics ranging from diversity and inclusion, proper communication, and early recognition. If every employee and executive undergoes these trainings and takes the policies seriously, workplace bullying can be stopped before it starts.
Bullying is an unfortunate reality that many have to face throughout their lives, but it doesn’t have to be a reality in the workplace. By learning how to identify situations, prepare proper documentation, take a stand, and implement long-term policies to end workplace bullying, your business will find itself with a healthy and happy workplace culture.
| Jason Carney, HR Director of WorkSmart Systems, joined in 2007. He has extensive knowledge in all aspects of HR, through his nearly 20 years of experience in industries such as finance, staffing, and technology. Carney holds a B.S. in Business Management/Human Resource Management from the Indiana University Kelley School of Business, and is a Senior Professional in Human Resources (SPHR).
Carney has often been described as a “business-friendly HR person” who understands how employment decisions affect the bottom line. In his free time, Carney enjoys golf, coaching baseball, softball, football, and basketball, and spending time with his family.