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Management Matters

Workplace Bullying

Date Posted: 08/10/2016

Workplace Bullying

Bullying is a highly stressful event for all involved. The targets of the bullying feel attacked, insulted, belittled, if not physically hurt. The bullies have the fear of being reported and action taken against them. Finally, Human Resources must investigate the event, talk with everyone involved, and decide what to do. Even after an investigation there will still be personal grudges and this will impact on the workplace and productivity can be stressful and demotivating with fear spreading throughout the workplace.

There are many methods to deal with workplace bullying from seminars, training, to direct punishments. To treat any problem, however, we must first know what is causing the problem.

Why it happens
The main reason why workplace bullying happens is often straight forward to understand. The motivation for workplace bullying is often jealousy or frustration with oneself that is turned toward a target. Some of the known reasons that someone is targeted are: being popular at work, being praised professionally, being helpful or sensitive to others (someone people can talk to), being unwilling to gossip. Other reasons could be for being the new employee or for being different, much like a hazing period.

Do people trust management?
If bullying is known to happen why it isn’t dealt with immediately? In 2012 a study was done and previously bullied employees indicated that the main reasons bullying continues is because bullies are not punished, nor are there any laws against bullying or they are too weak to be useful. Most often it is difficult to punish a bully because it is difficult to catch them in the act or the target doesn’t want to come forward. Getting over this is the first hurdle to stopping bullying.

Spot a Bully
To spot a bully one needs to look for the signs. Now it would be nice if bullies were so obvious as to pick fights and physically hurt their target so that everyone could see it. Bullies often rely on different tactics. Bullying can be in the form of deliberate exclusion from social gatherings, spreading rumors, assigning unrealistic workloads, unwarranted public criticism, or sly comments that feel threatening. Once you’ve spotted these actions or are the target of them report this to your manager or supervisor.

Workplace bullying often exists because the leader is either actively encouraging and participating in this behavior or they are ignoring it.  Here are some practical ways to tackle workplace bullying:

  • Remember that bullying won’t end unless you do something about it.
  • Talk to all parties concerned and get the facts. Don’t jump to conclusions and don’t accept the first thing you hear as the truth.
  • It is essential that conflict at work is kept professional and courteous and not personal. When listening to both sides the best way is to keep a calm head and an open mind during conflict and to utilize effective listening.
  • Arrange a meeting and explain why there is a meeting and the outcome you would expect after the meeting.
  • Describe the specific behaviors that must change and give examples so that the bully avoids such behavior in future.
  • Describe the impact and the damage that these behaviors are doing to others / the company / the bullies themselves.
  • If they agree that there is a problem make sure that they agree that this problem and behaviour must end.
  • Agree a time-frame between 30 to 60 days when you meet weekly for a few minutes to discuss the progress on the challenging behaviors identified at your meeting. Make a specific plan in terms of what you need to see to get the outcome you wanted. If the turnaround doesn’t happen, state clearly what the consequences will be (loose job etc.)

The other main reason that bullying still happens is that people do not report it because they either don’t know how or feel embarrassed to do so. To get around this, the reporting of bullying should be able to be anonymous and not seen publicly. For example, an e-mail account can be set up to take bullying reports to enable employees to report bullying from anywhere and the recipient knows of the report.

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It is the responsibility of all to stop bullying in the workplace. If you see the signs of bullying, either first hand or to a co-worker, report it to management. If your supervisor is doing the bullying report it their superiors. Management will lose a lot if bullying occurs and persists. From truancy, to loss of time and money due to poor performance of employees, needing time to handle the incidents and possible loss of employees and retraining new ones, bullying is a systemic problem. It is often thought that bullying is the problem of the victim. However, when workplace bullying takes place, not only does it hurt the morale of one person but the trust of all employees in their supervisors, as well as the function of the workplace.

Workplace bullying is all too common throughout the world and can disrupt business on any level. By clearly defining it for all staff and ensuring that punishments are given for it, as well as making it easy and anonymous to report, workplace morale and teamwork will be improved.

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