It’s Time to Tackle Bullying in the Workplace: How You Can Prevent Your Employees from Being Bullied.
It’s no secret that the modern workplace is fraught with competition, stress, and varying degrees of tension. In fact, it may even feel like things are getting worse. In some workplaces, this competitive energy manifests in a phenomenon known as workplace bullying—intentionally hurtful actions or words used to target an individual repeatedly over time with the intention of damaging their reputation or social standing.
Unfortunately, workplace bullying has become more commonplace. It is estimated that up to 70% of employees have been targets of this type of abuse at work at some point in their career. It can be tempting to ignore or downplay the effects of workplace bullying on your team; after all, we’re not talking about physical violence here. But while words may not leave scars like knife wounds do, they can still be incredibly damaging over time and lead to negative long-term effects on both those who are bullied and those who witness it happen.
What Constitutes Bullying in the Workplace?
For our purposes, workplace bullying often refers to a pattern of verbal or emotional abuse that is repetitive and happens over a period of time. This can include anything from making ongoing comments that are meant to belittle an employee, to excluding them from meeting participation or training opportunities, or creating an overall toxic environment at the office.
This type of bullying is not only harmful to the victim, but it can also have a negative impact on the rest of the team, who may feel added pressure to conform and avoid being bullied themselves.
Why Is Tackling Bullying So Important?
There are many reasons why tackling workplace bullying is so important. At the most basic level, a workplace environment in which people are feeling bullied is not likely to be a productive one. In fact, in many cases, workplace bullying can cause talented employees to flee their jobs, resulting in costly turnover.
Beyond that, there are also very real and serious psychological effects associated with workplace bullying, including increased risk of depression, anxiety, and even suicide among bullying targets.
Not only are these employees more likely to end up needing time off due to mental health issues, they may also be less productive while they are at work and less likely to be creative and productive overall.
Strategies for Combating Workplace Bullying
The best way to combat workplace bullying is to address it head on. The more you allow bullying to fester in your work environment, the more serious and widespread it is likely to become.
For your company culture to be one in which bullying is actively discouraged, it is important to have a clear understanding of what constitutes bullying, to make sure that your company policies and practices reflect this, and to have a clear plan of action for when bullying incidents arise.
Establish Clear Boundaries and Be Firm When Enforcing Them
No one likes to be told what to do—especially in the workplace. But sometimes, especially when dealing with creative fields, it can be important to establish rules and expectations early on so that everyone is on the same page and knows what the boundaries are within the company.
While some workers thrive in an environment where they are given a lot of autonomy, others prefer a more tightly controlled environment, or at least one where they know what the rules are and what’s expected of them. Communicating these boundaries in a clear and consistent way can help to prevent bullying and create a culture where everyone feels safe and included.
Provide Anti-Bullying Training and Education
This is one of the most important ways to combat bullying in your workplace, make sure all of your employees are educated about the dangers of bullying and know how to report it.
Depending on the nature of your business, this might also apply to your clients and other job holders you work with. Providing training on bullying is the best way to make sure that everyone understands what bullying looks like and knows what to do about it when they see it happening. This can be as simple as providing your employees with information about what bullying is, examples of what it looks like, and what steps they should take when they witness it in the office.
Provide a Safe Environment for Employees to Report Incidents of Bullying
One of the most important ways to fight workplace bullying is to make sure that employees know they can report incidents of bullying and feel safe doing so.
One of the most common ways that bullying manifests is through gossip and backstabbing. It may sound silly, but gossip and office rumours can be incredibly damaging and toxic, not just to the people who are the subject of these rumours, but to the whole office environment.
When an employee feels like they can’t report incidents, or feel like they won’t be taken seriously when they do, it can seriously hinder your efforts to combat bullying in the office.
Have Clear Internal Communication Protocols
While some industries and companies are notoriously secretive about what’s going on behind closed doors, others are much more open about sharing information with their employees. Regardless of the industry you work in, it is likely that you will have information that must remain strictly confidential.
Offices often have rules about what can and cannot be shared over email or other forms of digital communication. This is important not just because it can protect your clients’ privacy, but also because it can prevent bullying from happening through careless communication.
While some forms of bullying are obvious, others are much less so. Gossip and backstabbing can be a form of bullying, especially if it is repeated and done with the intention of damaging someone’s reputation. Whether you’re an employer or an employee, you need to be aware of how and when these types of bullying occur so you can take steps to stop them.
No one likes to think about workplace bullying and many employers like to downplay the risk of it happening in their office. But the unfortunate truth is that bullying is a very real problem in many offices and can have serious negative effects on employee satisfaction, creativity, and productivity.
Fortunately, many of these problems can be avoided by actively addressing the issue of bullying, providing anti-bullying training and education, and creating a safe environment for employees to report these incidents. With these strategies in place, you can protect your employees from the harmful effects of workplace bullying and create a culture that values compassion and collaboration