For some of us, it’s a long time since we were in the playground, but sometimes when we are in the workplace, it can feel like we are right back there.
Whether you have been a victim of workplace bullying or you have witnessed it, you’ll know that it creates a very negative and toxic working environment that inevitably leads to low morale, poor productivity, and absenteeism.
ACAS contains lots of helpful advice both for the employee and employer and defines examples of bullying.
A culture where bullying is tolerated can be very harmful for a business. Profits will be hit, good people will leave, and you will be left struggling with toxic individuals and troubled teams.
So as a manager, how can you prevent and tackle bullying in your workplace?
Read on to find out more about the 3 steps to banishing bullying and why your workplace culture could be to blame.
Recognising bullying and the role workplace culture can play
There are many things that could count as bullying, from spreading rumours about someone, to belittling them in meetings, or just being openly hostile. Whatever form it takes, it’s usually behaviour that makes the victim feel excluded, anxious, intimidated, and uncomfortable.
If you find yourself feeling stumped about why bullying has occurred or become a problem in your workplace, you might want to consider the culture.
Is it very hierarchical? Are there cliques?
This creates division, disconnection, and subcultures that are likely to be a world away from the harmonious team that you envisaged.
Often cliques aren’t even aware of the impact they are having. Leaving these to continue can do untold damage to the remainder of the team. I can remember having three new team members, who did all the training together. As a result, every time they found some new advice and instructions they would share it amongst themselves but never with the remainder of the team. It was causing a great divide and others feeling overpowered by the three. It took a conversation exploring the impact with the three of them to change the situation.
Therefore the good news is that as a manager, you play a big part in setting the tone and shaping the culture in the workplace. You can steer it away from unhealthy attitudes and behaviours and towards harmony, productivity, and profitability.
What you as a manager can do about bullying
Don’t enable or tolerate bullying
Don’t be tempted to turn a blind eye to bullying behaviour because you don’t enjoy dealing with conflict or confrontation. Failing to deal with the problem negatively affects the team, and gives out the message that bullying behaviour is tolerated.
As a manager, it’s your responsibility to address the issue and make it clear to everyone that the workplace should be a respectful and collaborative environment.
Remember too, that you need to walk the walk and not just talk about it. Be open to feedback about your approach as well as insight on your team. Sometimes others will see things that you then need to investigate. Doing nothing, is not an option.
Make sure you have a good anti-bullying policy in place
This will demonstrate a commitment to creating a safe, inclusive workplace for everyone, give you the chance to set expectations around behaviours, and give employees guidance on what to do if they are a victim of bullying.
Make sure you discuss the policy with new entrants and explore what they perceive bullying is, so there is no misunderstanding. Regular discussions to highlight the policy and procedures to report bullying will help as well.
Creating an open and honest environment, where it is easy to approach and feedback to people will make all the difference. Be under no illusion you need to continually work at this and taking your foot off the pedal can let bad habits and behaviours slip in.
Take all allegations of bullying seriously
Make sure that you act on any complaint about bullying and don’t be tempted to laugh off bad behaviour or make excuses for it. ‘It’s just the way things are around here’ is not a valid excuse for bullying or harassment.
If bullying behaviour becomes apparent, deal with it early on before the situation escalates and becomes more serious and damaging to the team. Often an honest 1-2-1 conversation can make all the difference.
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