Written by CATHY MCCOSKER
It’s easy to say that bullying and harassment should not be tolerated on any level, in any setting. But taking a stand against it in the workplace can be more difficult than it sounds. If it goes unchecked or badly handled, bullying can lead to poor morale, loss of productivity, absence and damage to your company’s reputation.
Bullying and harassment isn’t always face to face – it may occur through email, telephone or on social media, making it harder to spot.
This week is Anti-Bullying Week, a campaign typically recognised in schools, but it’s just as important to be vigilant in the workplace. The team at Reality HR have taken this opportunity to reinforce how line managers can recognise and deal with bullying. Here are some top tips:
Know what to look for
The first step is to identify the behaviour. What is considered as bullying by one line manager may be seen as strict management by another – this grey area can cause problems, so it’s good practice to list unacceptable behaviour in the employee handbook. This makes it clear to everyone what is acceptable and empowers managers to deal with the behaviour confidently. Examples of unacceptable behaviour may include unfair treatment, demeaning or ridiculing someone, making threats about job security, exclusion, sabotaging work or promotional opportunities and unwanted sexual advances.
Encourage a positive culture
Once bullying finds its way into an organisation, the more widespread it becomes and the more difficult it is to stop it. Start by setting the right tone in the workplace to encourage a safe, healthy and fair environment. In some cases, bullying occurs if one or several employees feel another is receiving more positive attention – they may then try to sabotage their performance and success. If you create a healthy work culture where values are clear, everyone is treated with respect and works as a team, then employees are likely to treat each other this way.
Educate and train
Educate and train employees on the nature of workplace bullying and harassment and how to recognise it – whether as the victim, bully or witness. Get the team together for a bullying awareness day, to allow staff the opportunity to become more aware of how their own behaviour may be affecting others. At the same time, ensure that you as a line manager can identify certain behaviours or the signs of an employee being bullied, and know how to approach the difficult conversation.
Dignity at work
If you don’t already, you should think about creating a policy to clearly define what bullying behaviour is, employee and manager responsibilities and how bullying will be dealt with. A Dignity at Work policy is a great way for line managers to ensure staff are aware of the behaviour expected of them and provide a framework for good conduct.
Another element of the policy is to provide a method for how complaints are addressed. Consider how employees at any level report bullying – i.e. where they can go if the bully in question is their superior. Don’t forget to follow this policy and process when dealing with a complaint – this will ensure your grievance process is fair as well as compliant with regulations.
Have an open door policy
Some employees may be reluctant to come to you if they’re being harassed in fear of humiliation or retaliation, so let them know that you’re there to help – be approachable so that they feel they can speak to you in confidence without judgement. Remember to document negative behaviour or complaints about an employee – if the same name keeps coming up, it might be time to take action.
Provide regular positive feedback
Managers should regularly provide work and performance feedback – whether that’s through a formal event such as an appraisal or informal chat. Feedback with the intent to improve performance – but make sure to be respectful and constructive to prevent performance management being seen as bullying.
It is the responsibility of the employer to protect their employees, and they should deliver regular training with an overview of employment law and the Equality Act, including instruction on the responsibilities of line managers with regards to bullying and harassment.