Workplace Bullying: How to Spot the Signs and Tackle it in your Organisation

The 12th of November marks the beginning of anti-bullying week, which is organised by Anti-Bullying Alliance. The word bullying is most often associated with children particularly in school, however the sad truth is that bullying doesn’t stop at the school gates.

Workplace bullying is scarily common and can have an enormous impact on your business and severe effects for your employees. Here we help you spot the signs of workplace bullying in your organisation and give you advice on how to prevent this happening in the future.

What exactly is workplace bullying?
Workplace Bullying is repeated, health-harming mistreatment of one or more persons (the targets) by one or more perpetrators. It is abusive conduct that is: threatening, humiliating, or intimidating, or work-interference, i.e. sabotage, which prevents work from getting done. (Source: Workplace Bullying Institute)

Unlike bullying that happens amongst children in Schools, workplace bullying is often less physical in nature and more psychologically harming and verbal. It’s not as easy to spot, and unfortunately those being targeted aren’t always confident enough to speak up about it either.

Bullying is characterised by:

According to the Workplace Bullying Institute (WBI), bullying is four times more common than either sexual harassment or racial discrimination on the job.

How to spot workplace bullying in your organisation:

Workplace bullying can be identified in the following ways:

  • Stifling individuals from development and promotion opportunities
  • Unwanted sexual advances and harassment
  • Rudeness, insults and embarrassment
  • Rumours and negative gossiping about an individual
  • Excluding or ignoring someone in the company
  • Threatening behaviour and aggression
  • Overworking your employees
  • Forcing employees to perform demeaning tasks
  • Unwanted criticism

Anyone can spot the signs of workplace bullying, however not everyone feels comfortable reporting when they do so the important thing here is that you can create an open and transparent environment where your employees understand they are safe to speak up if this is happening to them or one of their colleagues – speak to your HR team or Director if you are unsure if you have this.

How to tackle workplace bullying in your organisation

Create a zero-tolerance policy
Don’t let workplace bullying become a taboo subject in your organisation. You should be completely transparent about your stance on the matter and give your key managers or employees some training around how to deal with this. Making it clear to all employees that you have set standards to prevent workplace bullying can make it easier to speak up about it if they are affected.

Approach the accused
Accusations of workplace bullying are serious, and you should always speak to the accused in a professional and calm manner to discover what is happening. In some instances the “bully” may not realise the effect their behaviour has had, meaning some training to help prevent this behaviour in the future with a heart-felt apology can solve the matter. If the accusations are more serious however then you may need to start more formal warnings and take extra measures to prevent the individual from hurting or harassing other employees in the future.

Give employees a safe outlet to speak up
Your zero-tolerance policy might suggest that employees shout up when they feel threatened but speaking up to a Manager can be pretty daunting. If you want to make sure your employees speak up about their experiences, then you need to provide a safe space for them to do so. It could be a neutral employee or a HR professional, or even an anonymous feedback platform where they can voice their concerns.

To follow the discussion of anti-bullying week check out the #AntiBullyingWeek posts on Twitter.

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