Keep Your Employees off the Playground: Preventing and Dealing with Workplace Bullying

October 4th, 2011 by

Today’s news headlines are filled with stories of childhood and teenage bullying with dire consequences, but name calling, intimidation and similar behaviors do not always end in high school.   CAI’s CEO Bruce Clarke recently addressed the topic of workplace bullying in his News & Observer column, The View from HR. In his October 2 edition, he informed readers that 50 to 75 percent of employees have witnessed or experienced workplace bullying.

A company bully can be an associate, a manager or even the chief executive of the entire organization. Workplace bullies can utilize tactics that can be detrimental to a coworker’s health and career. Giving the silent treatment, humiliating others in public and attacking a person’s character or beliefs are shenanigans from a typical bully. Terrors in the office can hold even more power over their victims’ heads by refusing to give coworkers information, implementing impossible deadlines, ignoring achievements and repetitively mentioning mistakes.

Victims of bullies can suffer physically and mentally. Many studies have shown that workers who are frequently bullied report to be more stressed, prone to stomach aches and ulcers, and unhappy and unsatisfied at their jobs. Not only does the victim suffer, but the employee’s organization will also experience negative residual effects. Workplaces that ignore company bullies can lose respect and credibility from their employees. Company morale could lower and absenteeism could rise. Employees who are bullied may struggle to focus on their work, which can decrease productivity. Some staff members might look for new jobs to escape from their bullies, causing turn over to increase.

 As an HR professional, you must do your part to create a bully-free work environment. Here are some tips to help you form a peaceful and productive workplace:bully

  • Never ignore a complaint about bullying. Respect your employees and let them know that you trust and believe the information that they give you. Many times victims are embarrassed or scared to report incidents of bullying. Let your employees know that you care about them and will listen to their grievances. Assure them that you will help them resolve their problems as soon as possible.
  • Create an environment of open communication. Make it okay for employees to feel comfortable talking to their managers about how they are feeling at work. Encourage team members to share factors that make them feel stressed and help them devise a plan to work through tough times.
  • Educate employees on workplace bullies and the effects they can have on their coworkers and their organization.  Providing training on bullying to all staff members, including senior leadership, can help reduce the chances for a company bully to thrive. Advocate that employees report any occurrences of malevolent workplace behavior.
  • Draft a policy that prevents bullying and make it available to all staff members. This policy should include language on how to make a proper complaint, how managers should react and how issues will be handled. Enforce a strategy for dealing with bullies and assign appropriate punishment for misconduct. Counseling for bullies is also suggested, so they understand the errors in their behavior and can work to improve their work performance and keep their jobs.

Additionally, if a bully threatens his victim with violence, waste no time to get to the bottom of the issue. Depending on the severity of the threat, calling the police to report outrageous behavior can be effective. For more information on how to handle bullies, please contact a member of CAI’s Advice & Counsel at 919-878-9222 or 336-668-7746.

Photo Source: Eddie~S

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