How to minimise and manage workplace bullying
In 2015 Acas warned that bullying in the workplace was growing and said businesses need to take the issue much more seriously and improve their anti-bullying policies.
Unfortunately it seems workplace bullying is still an issue, and indeed our research found that nearly one in ten employees cited workplace bullying as their number one cause of workplace stress, with other reports estimating the amount of employees who have been affected by bullying as high as 75%.
Bullying can have a terrible impact on individuals, not to mention the culture and atmosphere of the workplace. The Workplace Bullying Institute states that victims can suffer from mental health issues such as anxiety, panic attacks, depression and Post Traumatic Stress Disorder (PTSD).
And more broadly speaking Acas states that workplace bullying can result in poor morale, lack of respect, poor performance, lower levels of productivity, greater absence, high turnover rates and damage to company reputation.
It’s also estimated to cost businesses around £18 billion a year in associated absence, turnover and productivity so it’s important for the company, as well as the employee, that bullying is effectively managed and stopped where possible.
Find out how our business health and wellbeing services could support both your business and employees here
What is bullying?
Whilst we know that bullying can be a problem, it’s not always clear exactly what bullying is. It can be hard to pin it down precisely, but some examples include spreading cruel rumours, purposefully denying someone training opportunities when they should be included and regularly undermining them. Remember that whilst bullying isn’t against the law, harassment is. You can distinguish between the two by remembering that harassment is when the unwanted behaviour is related to factors such as age, sex, disability, race or sexual orientation.
Here are seven ways you can help to identify and reduce bullying in your workplace:
Considering the devastating impact bullying can have on both individuals and your business, it’s well worth spending some time devising a strategy to help minimise and manage it in your workplace.
• Create an anti-bullying policy
If you don’t have a formal policy yet, create one now. This is critical, as employers are responsible for preventing harassment and will be liable for any harassment suffered by employees. Use this policy as an opportunity to make the company’s anti-bullying stance 100% clear.
It’s important that employees understand what acceptable behaviour is and that they will be taken seriously if they do report it. Many employees may be worried that they will be accused of ‘overreacting’ or that others will consider them weak, or not up to the job, if they find the actions of others intimidating. Your bullying policy must therefore make clear expected standards, relevant procedures and the consequences that bullies can expect to face.
If you are starting from scratch, Acas has produced a very useful document to help employers set up a policy.
• Train line managers
For effective change to take place, you need to get line managers on-side and prepared to commit to a zero-tolerance approach to bullying. To get this underway relevant training will need to be supplied, because, while 80% of managers know that bullying occurs in their workplace, 37% say they have had no proper training, according to figures from The National Bullying Helpline. It can sometimes be hard to recognise symptoms of bullying therefore the training should help identify how to recognise bullying tactics and spot signs of stress, as well as provide managers with tips on how to deal with colleagues who are being bullied, or are doing the bullying.
• Ensure there is someone to talk to
Part of the issue with addressing bullying is that the victim often feels isolated and confused. They might not feel comfortable reporting it to their line manager, especially if the bullying is being done to them, or someone else in their team, or they may simply be unaware of the process for doing so. You can solve this problem by outlining the exact procedure in the anti-bullying policy, including detailing who is available for them to talk to – such as their line manager or HR officer. It might also help to reiterate this point – and thus help remove the shame and stigma surrounding bullying – through a separate email or perhaps a mandatory companywide meeting.
• Provide access to helplines
External helplines can provide employees with access to trained counsellors who support them if they are being bullied. With Benenden Healthcare for Business , from day one of joining your employees will have access to a 24/7 mental health helpline as part of their membership.
• Update surveys and interviews
Update your employee satisfaction surveys and exit interviews to include a section on bullying behaviour in the workplace. You can use this data to gain an understanding if there is a problem with bullying at your workplace as well as to measure the success and efficacy of a new policy.
• Lead by example
Once your position has been made clear and the policy is in place, it needs to be acted upon. The senior management team should enforce the zero-tolerance approach to bullying which will help set standards and create a culture of anti-bullying. This means bullying shouldn’t be accepted at any level of the company.
Keep the conversation going
To stay on top of this issue and continually demonstrate your commitment to creating an anti-bullying workplace, you need to keep the conversation with your employees going. This could mean regular training days or a mention in the workplace newsletter.
Workplace bullying has terrible consequences for individuals and businesses alike and it simply shouldn’t be tolerated. By following the above steps, you can help stamp out this unacceptable behaviour and establish a bully-free workplace. Let us know how you get on through LinkedIn or Twitter!