Effective strategies to stop workplace bullying
Thursday, September 13, 2018
Many managers aren't aware of how pervasive the problem of workplace bullying is today. According to a study published in the British Medical Journal, one in every 20 employees faces disrespectful behavior, most often from co-workers or direct supervisors, on the job.
What's more, one-half of employee subjects in the study report that they've personally witnessed bullying on at least one occasion, and one in 10 employee subjects say they see it happen frequently. Employees who are targeted report high levels of anxiety, depression and insomnia as well.
Bullying can take many forms, from humiliation, to offensive remarks, shouting, scapegoating, excluding an employee from group activities, and gossiping about that employee.
What can you do to prevent bullying from happening in your organization — or stop the behavior in its tracks if you find it occurring? These strategies will help you take control:
Set clear guidelines.
Research from the National Communication Association found that offering advice to a targeted employee such as, "Just ignore it," or "Stand up to them" isn't practical or proactive enough to stop ongoing harassment.
Instead, as a manager, inform all of your employees explicitly that bullying in any form will not be tolerated. Stress the fact that when an employee complains he or she is being targeted, your company will take this complaint seriously, investigate it thoroughly, and will follow human resources protocol as mandated by federal law regarding consequences for the abuser.
Monitor your team leaders.
A study by the University of California, Berkeley reported that supervisors who routinely sabotage or belittle the workers who report to them are very likely to be compensating for their own feelings of professional inadequacy.
Regular (but unexpected) drop-ins on your team leaders as they delegate will often reveal one of two things: instances of bullying happening in real-time, or work errors made by these team leaders that they blame their subordinates for. If you catch these incidences, you can immediately address them with the team leader to stop the problem.
If you suspect a team leader of abuse that's more covert, watch his/her work for one week, looking for mistakes he/she have already pinned on a subordinate. Document what you find and address the issue with the team leader firmly and swiftly.
Don't underestimate cyberbullying.
U.K. researchers report that eight out of 10 workers surveyed have experienced abuse on the job via email, text, or web posting.
Remind your employees that their work email accounts belong to your company, and are never to be used to harass or hurt a co-worker. Inform your workers to save any derogatory online communication as evidence, and ask them to bring it to you as a crucial part of making a complaint.
Institute effective education.
Training programs to illustrate exactly what kind of behavior constitutes bullying, and ways to respond to it, are an incredibly helpful tool for helping your workers protect themselves. Consider bringing in an outside firm that specializes in this type of workplace education through role-playing and interactive workshops.
Validate the vulnerable.
Let any employee who is targeted know that your door is open for confidential discussion at any time, and that you'll offer your full support.
Express to these workers how invaluable they are to your organization, and how committed your company is to keeping them emotionally and physically safe. When you do this, and back up your words with strong policy, you validate your workers as professionals, and more importantly, as people.
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