Roughly 40% of workers in the U.S. report that they have been bullied in the workplace. Even more, upwards of 60%, have seen instances of abuse. The net result is that bullying is an issue in workplaces throughout the country. Bullying can cause stress, negatively impact teamwork and productivity, and even cause good employees to leave your company.
Despite the widespread numbers of people who have been bullied, it is often ignored in the workplace.
Part of the reason could be a lack of consensus on how to deal with it or not understanding what is bullying. But because of its potential effects on employees, teamwork, and productivity, human resources departments and supervisors should take active steps to stop it, such as the steps below.
Know what bullying is.
Be clear on the actions and activities that constitute bullying. The Society for Human Resources Management (SHRM) defines it as “intentional behavior that a reasonable person would find hostile, intimidating, offensive or intended to create an abusive work environment.” It can include threats, humiliating remarks, sabotage, ostracism, rumors, practical jokes, and more.
Develop a “no bullying” policy.
Second, develop a company policy that explicitly states that bullying will not be tolerated. A policy is necessary so that, if instances do occur, that can be corrected with reference to the policy.
A policy should include definitions of bullying and examples. Your goal is to make clear to people who are being bullied and other employees what is and isn’t tolerated. The SHRM website contains templates for policies.
Develop a procedure for reporting bullying.
Part of your policy should include a procedure for reporting bullying. This needs to be viewed as a “safe” procedure – one that does not expose the person reporting it or the person being bullied to retaliatory measures.
Follow through if bullying is reported.
If bullying is reported, you will need to conduct interviews with the bullied, the accused bully, and witnesses, if possible. Keep an open mind, and do not be accusatory toward any of the parties involved.
Each case will require you to review potential next steps. You might want to reassign the bullied person or the accused bully. You may also want to step up corrective measures for individual employees. In extreme cases, make it clear that bullying is against company policy and can be grounds for termination.
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