We all thought bullying ended in high school but, unfortunately, bullies are everywhere and manifest in different ways in the workplace. The definition of workplace bullying refers to ‘situations where an employee repeatedly and over a prolonged period of time is exposed to harassing behavior from one or more colleagues (including subordinates and leaders) and where the targeted person is unable to defend against this systematic mistreatment.’ Have you experienced this to some degree? Let’s examine ways to tackle different situations.
What is Workplace Bullying?
Ongoing harassment and conflict at your place of employment constitutes workplace bullying. Workplace bullies target exposed employees, leaving them feeling hopeless and defenseless. While research has shown that workplace bullying is prevalent among unskilled workers, even managers or supervisors could be subjected to bullying. Nearly 75 percent of employees surveyed stated that they have been affected by workplace bullying, both by their superiors and by other co-workers.
Why Does Workplace Bullying Occur?
Workplace bullies usually seek power within a company or environment. The employee who is subject to bullying may not realize what’s happening and might be worried that he or she will cause more trouble by talking to a manager or superior about the issue. In addition, if an employee is bullied by a superior, he or she could fear being fired by bringing it up, or simply have no one to talk to. This type of workplace bullying and repression can lead to adverse performance at work, and it can even have a negative impact on the mental health of the employee. Consequently, workplace bullying not only negatively affects the employee, but all the other employees around who witness the bullying. It can lead to a general feeling of helplessness, low morale, and a drop in productivity in the workplace.
So, How Can Bullying at Work Be Prevented?
If the correct actions are not taken to create a safe work environment, workplace bullying can run rampant. Certain, necessary, proactive steps need to be put in place to ensure that it doesn’t begin in the first place.
- Clearly outline workplace bullying laws and policies in addition to implementing them. Often, employees will not report being bullied as they are unsure if what they have been subjected to is actually considered bullying, and what the office policy guards against. Once employees know what the policies are, they will feel more comfortable reporting and knowing that they will be taken seriously.
- Establishing a strong definition of workplace civility and teaching performance expectations is a huge role for a manager. Constantly emphasizing a positive corporate culture and even writing a workplace code of conduct will create a more positive work environment that does not tolerate workplace bullies.
- Providing training on workplace bullying to employees will teach employees how to spot inappropriate behavior, and how to stop it via assertive action. The line between a bully and a hostile co-worker can be hard to draw and corporate training will teach employees what to look out for and how to be empowered in a situation of intimidation or bullying.
- As important as it is for employees to recognize what workplace bullying looks like, a manager needs to be hyper aware of workplace bullies and know exactly how to spot them before they become a pressing problem. Being prepared to confront bullying as it happens is pivotal, as well as knowing what to say so that the bully cannot charm or intimidate his or her way out of it. In addition, repercussions for bullies who are not receptive to initial conversations is important. If a hostile co-worker is unwilling to change, they have to be let go. When employees see that the manager is taking charge and stomping out workplace bullying, they too will stand up to bullies and create a harmonious, productive work environment.
A Safe Workplace is a Productive Workplace
As long as these steps are taken, employees will feel safe enough in the workspace to acknowledge and accept what has happened to them and then be able to come forward and report incidents. This creates a productive and safe workspace with happy and healthy employees who are able to give their all at work.