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Preventing Bullying In the Workplace

Published: Thursday 13th June 2019

Harassment and bullying in the workplace can seriously affect the psychological health of workers, impacting staff morale, causing loss of productivity and rising absenteeism. To prevent this, every organisation, no matter the sector, or how small the firm is, should adopt an anti-bullying policy.

Worker holding up a piece of paper which says "bully free zone"

Don’t let a minor conflict become a company crisis

Even minor issues, such as a personality clash, can escalate into a major crisis that affects the entire organisation, if there aren’t the policies in place to nip conflicts in the bud and prevent bullying and harassment. Workplace bullying takes many forms, but typically is identified as verbal comments, or physical contact, that hurts, demeans or isolates individuals at work. More than often, these are repeated incidents that are intended to humiliate, degrade, offend and intimidate.

Employers have a duty to keep staff safe in the workplace, both physically and mentally, and harassment is potentially illegal under the Equality Act of 2010, so it makes sense that every company creates the right environment and policies to deal with these issues. Furthermore, any employee who feels they have been bullied or harassed at work can resign and claim constructive dismissal at an employment tribunal, which could lead to serious financial implications for the firm.

Abusive boss holding the arm of a woman with violence while she looks upset

Bullying happens – don’t let it occur in your workplace

Bullying at work is more common than most people think as, typically, workers are reluctant to talk about their experiences. As a result, it often goes unreported, but surveys have found that, on average, six in ten people have seen, or experienced, bullying in the workplace, and 37% have been bullied themselves. Less than half of those who have witnessed bullying reported it.

The first step to tackling bullying and harassment in the workplace is to clarify what constitutes bullying and to train managers to identify the signs. These can be subtle, such as rumours being circulated about individuals, workers being ignored, or set up to fail.

Alternatively, they can be more obvious, such as name-calling or belittling someone in front of others. As part of the organisation’s anti-bullying policy, staff should be encouraged to notify a manager or a designated HR individual if they witness bullying, or have any concerns whatsoever regarding harassment or the company policy.

Businesswoman Being Gossiped About By Colleagues In Office

How to create a good anti-bullying policy

While every company should promote a respectful working environment, a good anti-bullying policy should include a statement of commitment towards preventing harassment in the workplace, as well as guidelines for workers to inform them about what is not acceptable. It should list the responsibilities of supervisors/managers, offer confidentiality for those who report harassment and outline how to report incidences, as well as the disciplinary process afterward.

It’s important that there is an open-door policy that encourages workers to speak up, including details of how to make a complaint if the bully is a manager or supervisor. It’s vital that all allegations are taken seriously and investigated, no matter how trivial the matter may seem.

Acknowledging and dealing with workplace bullying quickly and effectively is essential to stop incidents escalating. If companies can do that, they will create a respectful environment where people will want to work and perform at their best.

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