If you have experienced or witnessed bullying in the workplace you are probably aware of the devastating impact that verbal and psychological abuse can have
All too often I meet people whose health, wellbeing, engagement or job performance have been affected by the behaviour of bullies. It is equally common to encounter people who are able to share stories of family or friends being subjected to extraordinarily unfair and inappropriate treatment at work. Driving bullying from our workplaces will happen when we all make it a priority. Employers have a legal obligation to provide a healthy and safe work environment, but creating a bullying-free workplace involves everyone doing their part. Leaders play an especially important role, however, in setting the standard and holding people accountable.
Here are six things every manager needs to know about dealing with bullying:
- A respectful culture is the key to prevention. Demonstrate and inspire respect, kindness and sensitivity. Expect every member of your team to act with compassion and give reasonable consideration to how others feel. Reward and recognise people who demonstrate sincere regard for their colleagues and the desire to support everyone to succeed.
- Culture starts from the top. A leader’s behaviour sets the tone for the conduct of others. Lead by example: behave respectfully and demonstrate that bullying is never tolerated. Set a high standard to hold yourself and others accountable. Exhibit the behaviours you want from others through your decisions and actions.
- Action is necessary. Meeting your obligation to provide a healthy and safe work environment requires that you take proactive steps to protect not only your team’s physical safety but also its psychological wellbeing. Complaints of bullying must be investigated thoroughly and impartially. Appropriate outcomes need to be applied.
- Consequences are essential. Regardless of the position anyone holds in terms of power or influence, no one should be allowed to bully anyone else. It takes discipline and a consistent approach to applying a zero-tolerance policy to drive bullying from an organisation’s culture. If an investigation concludes that a member of your team is guilty of bullying, appropriate consequences must follow through disciplinary action.
- Acting early matters. It can be tempting to sit back and hope the issue will take care of itself. However, unless the bully leaves your business, that is unlikely. Take steps to address the issue as soon as you become aware of it; at times you’ll be able to nip brewing issues in the bud. Be responsive and quick to investigate complaints. Avoid the tendency some managers have to dismiss those perceived as coming from overly sensitive people.
Tough love can work. Honesty delivered with respect is critical to building awareness and influencing the behaviour of a bully. Expect bullies to demonstrate greater regard for others and the ability to regulate their conduct to stay with your business. Ensure they clearly understand what behaviours are required of them and the consequences of inappropriate conduct. Balance this firm approach with compassion and sensitivity. Express confidence in their ability to change and ensure the support will be provided to them.