Articles & Insights

Bullying In The Workplace

When it comes to bullying many people think it only takes place in the school playground or classroom, when in actuality it is a common occurrence in the workplace. This aggressive or unwanted behaviour has become a scourge on an individual work day, and often makes them feel as though they have no escape, and no one they can talk to.

Introduction – what is bullying?
It is up to the organisation to create a safe environment for employees, and ensure that their welfare is your first priority, if you are not significantly showing that your company is taking steps to ensure there is no bullying in the workplace, it not only could be detrimental to the reputation of the company, the individual is protected with the Equality Act 2010 against bullying and has grounds to sue the bully and the company.
"The difference between a bully and a mistake is with the intent: the bully wants to wound, to have power over, to humiliate, and destroy." – Sherry Benson Podolchuk
What to do if you see bullying in the workplace
As a line manager or leader, it is your responsibility to oversee to the welfare of your employees and support them through their responsibilities and duties. However, you must also be the first to spot the signs of bullying in the workplace if the victim does not feel safe to notify you themselves. Whether it is because of who the bully is or if they trust you to fight their corner and take notice of this behaviour.
The main signs to look out for: is if the employee is confused, frustrated, discomfort, fear, emotional displays, avoiding working with the bully or if they have become completely withdrawn from the team and their personality has done a complete 360.
There is a grey line between bullying and banter, but it is important to distinguished between the two as some individuals can take it too far when it starts to become a personal attack against the victim. There is may hear many different opinions about bullying in the workplace, as many employers fail to see legitimacy of the claims or see the real affect the bullying is having upon the victim. It is crucial you do not brush off these claims simply because the victim says it bullying, whereas the bully claims it is banter, and investigate the situation.
It is not simply a clash of personalities, character building or the type of leadership style the bully is trying to pass off as their “style”. You will need to establish a pattern that is occurring and discover the reason of why this behaviour is now apparent.
Not only do you need to show you support to the victim, while remaining biased until the investigation has ceased. You need to have measures put into place where the victim has someone who they trust to confide in and that you are actively fighting in their corner.
The effect of bullying
For the victim each week when Monday rolls around they will feel an endless pit of anxiety in their stomach, wondering what torture will commence this week. Will the bully berate their work, will the bully steal the credit of their work or will they just exclude them from the team and isolate them? All this anxiety can cause a range of physical and psychological health problems, not just the anxiety but the stress, the panic attacks, sleeping troubles that all leads down to high blood pressure and ulcers.
In the end all these symptoms will affect not only their personal lives, but their job performance will suffer. With the inability to focus on anything but the bulling, the victim will have trouble concentrating and making decisions, loss of self-esteem and confidence in themselves and their work and their productivity will suffer. Meaning deadlines will be missed, clients will leave as they do not believe the company is dependable enough, thus leading to the organisation losing money.
However it is not just the psychosocial and physical problems that is causing the employee to lose their motivation, it is also the endless energy they need to defend themselves and their work against the bully, the ways in which they can avoid the bully altogether, finding others they can trust and confide the situation that they have been thrust into and planning of how to deal with situation. Whether they should trust the line manager or leader will take their side or bullies’ or if they should leave their job role altogether and go to another company with a safer environment and rebuild their confidence and self-esteem in themselves.
Is ignoring the signs of bulling worth all this?
Your Next Steps
Please see below the steps for you take in order to protect your employees, and ensure that bullying in the workplace does not become a problem, and severely limit the chances of it happening again:

  • Create a policy that protects employees that prevents bullying behaviour in the workplace
  • Establish a code of conduct in the employee handbook that sets the tone for the employees to follow in a professional work environment
  • Train managers to make sure they recognise the right and wrong ways to treat employees on the job and constructive ways to drive the behaviour and results in the company’s interest
  • Monitor behaviour throughout the workplace and when you notice signs of aggression, bullying or manipulation, you address the situation directly with the person immediately to nip the behaviour in the bud.
  • Be sure to document any behavioural incidents you hear about from employees or witnesses to the event
  • Create a confidential way for employees to report the bullying incidents without fear, retaliation or consequences
  • Educate all your employees on respect, how respect has to be earned in order for it to be received. Without respect the company would significantly itself loose the drive for success.

Working Transitions will create a bespoke action plan and provide an experienced career coach to show you how to support and communicate with your employees. As well as providing support such as individual and group coaching sessions to confess the situation in a safe space and understand that they are not alone in their situation.
In addition, the career coach will also provide support to your line managers and leaders of how to approach this situation, what is the best way to handle it and the next steps they need to take in order to resolve the situation, and not simply “sweeping it under the rug”.

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