Bullying at work

Bullying at work - Centric HR

The theme for Anti-Bullying Week 2020 is: United Against Bullying which takes place this year from Monday 16th – Friday 20th November. This year, more than ever, we’ve witnessed the positive power that society can have when we come together to tackle a common challenge, and Anti-Bullying Week is no different. Bullying has a long lasting effect on those who experience and witness but by channelling our collective power, through shared efforts and shared ambitions, we can reduce bullying together.

Anti-Bullying week is predominately highlighting the issues of bullying in schools, but this problem is sadly applicable across all aspects of our lives, with work being no exception. Bullying at work can be life destroying and should never be accepted as normal behaviour.

Most people understand bullying as behaviour by an individual or group, repeated over time, that is intended to hurt another individual or group either physically or emotionally. All bullying, whatever the motivation or method is unacceptable and should not be tolerated. It can affect anyone and we are all potential targets – whether we are adult, child or the bullying is at school, in the community, at work, on line or at home.

When we think of bullies, we tend to remember the ones we knew at school. Unfortunately, bullying doesn’t stop there for everyone. For some, the bullying continues into adult life. The bullies we knew at school have continued to bully or intimidate the people around them and may have used these techniques to climb the employment ladder to a position of authority. Although there can be a fine line between a tough boss and an abusive one, bullying generally refers to being subjected to repeated emotional or even physical abuse.

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The workplace bully deliberately manipulates, belittles, intimidates and tries to control or undermine their victim using any means available to them. In this digital age, the workplace bully’s playground has now extended to cyberbullying with the use of email, mobile phones and social media sites like Twitter or Facebook. Bullying at work and anti social behaviour resulting in stress, is a fact of life for too many workers in the UK but an employer has a ‘Duty of Care’ to provide a safe and stress-free place of work for all staff.

Not everyone plays fair and nice at work, so unfortunately, you need to make sure you protect your employees from disrespectful and unfair treatment in the workplace. No employee deserves to feel uncomfortable at work.

Here are some steps to take.

1) Create a policy. Devise a policy that protects employees from bullying behaviour in the workplace. While the law doesn’t instantaneously protect employees, you can.

2) Establish a code of conduct. Your organisation should have a code of conduct in its employee handbook, which includes respectful behaviour from all employees and sets the tone for a professional work environment.

3) Train managers. Train everyone (particularly managers) on soft skills and specifically workplace bullying. Make sure they recognize the right and wrong ways to treat each other on the job. Likewise, teach managers constructive ways to drive behaviour and results they want.

4) Monitor behaviour. Monitor behaviour throughout the workplace. When you notice signs of bullying or manipulation, address the situation directly with the person.

5) Watch controlling people. Some people who constantly talk about control and exert it should be watched closely. Most are harmless, just perfectionists trying to control results and work, but some people take control to a whole different (and harmful) level.

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6) Have a confidential way for employees to report a bullying problem. Create a mechanism for employees to confidentially report bullying issues in the workplace without fear or retaliation.

7) Educate everyone on respect. Everyone in your workplace should be trained on and held accountable for respect. While it sounds like common sense, respect is unfortunately lacking in many workplaces.

8) Recognise employees’ distress. Look for confusion, frustration, discomfort, fear, overt emotional displays, and avoiding one’s boss, which are all signs that an employee is in distress at work and uncomfortable in their situation.

9) Don’t sweep complaints under the rug. Treat every complaint about bullying behaviour seriously and fairly and investigate it. Your employees need someone to trust.

10) Document. Be sure to document any behaviour incidents you hear about from employees or witness.

For further advice on bullying at work, please contact us here or call us on 03333 660567 where our team of professionals can assist and help you.

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Sandra Berns

Sandra Berns

Centric HR was founded by Sandra Berns, a confident and versatile Human Resources and Organisational Development Practitioner with 25 years demonstrable experience and a Fellow of the CIPD. Sandra has both Operational and Strategic HR expertise across Public and Private sectors and has assisted senior teams in meeting challenging workforce objectives in many corporate environments.