Bullying has become more of a concern in the United States now more than ever. Videos have gone viral on social media, parents are suing schools, and not only is it affecting children and teenagers, but it also affects adults, especially in the workplace. As a matter of fact, a 2017 survey conducted by the Workplace Bullying Institute revealed that 60 million Americans are affected by bullying. So what exactly is workplace bullying? It refers to repeated actions that have the intent of intimidating, humiliating, or degrading, and are directed toward an employee. These actions may put the affected employee’s physical and emotional health at risk. Workplace bullies don’t simply intimidate their victims; their actions can range from spreading rumors around the office in order to harm their target’s reputation, avoid telling them about important meetings, hide their office supplies, or anything that will make their victim feel helpless or useless. Keep in mind that bullying is defined by the effect of the behavior, not just the intent.
Some typical workplace bullying behaviors include:
- Making unreasonable demands
- Taking credit for another’s work
- Blaming others for errors without justification
- Raising false concerns about another person
- Unwarranted or invalid criticism
- Threats, insults, put-downs (in front of colleagues, face to face, or behind the target’s back)
- Social exclusion or isolation
- Belittling opinions
- Assigning meaningless tasks
- Excessive monitoring
- Abusive, insulting or offensive language
- Interfering with a person’s personal things or work equipment
- Harmful or offensive initiation practices
- Physical assaults or threats of assault
It is the responsibility of HR professionals to create a bully-free workplace. If you are not sure where to begin, read on.
1. Create a Written Policy
Every organization should have an employee handbook that is available to all employees at all times. In the handbook, you must include a written anti-harassment policy that addresses bullying and clearly states the consequences if such actions are performed. It is important to understand that bullying and harassment are not the same. If you rely on your harassment policy to deal with bullying issues you may find yourself stuck on loopholes and technicalities. You should be clear about what workplace bullying looks like, and it is not a bad idea to include examples. The policy should be written in a way that is clear and easy to read and understand. In addition to including examples of bullying behavior, note various strategies that encourage a bully-free workplace and a list of possible consequences of said behavior. Don’t forget to include the steps employees should take if they ever need to file a complaint, as well as what steps management will take when handling complaints.
Not sure how to draft an anti-bullying policy? Click here to view an example!
2. Educate and Provide Resources
All employees must be educated on what bullying looks like. This should be communicated in numerous ways- via posters in common areas, verbally from management in staff meetings, the employee handbook, and even through anti-bullying workshops. One of the most commen types of bullying is cyberbullying. You can read more on that and how to deal with it here. It is vital for managers and supervisors to know how to deal with bullying. Make sure to provide leadership training so that they know how to become leaders who treat their employees with respect, rather than intimidating them. To find more workplace bullying resources visit here.
3. Strategic Onboarding
Hiring effectively is one of the most effective methods of preventing workplace bullying. The obvious signs of potential bullying are mood swings, paranoia, quick temper, and a history of violence. This can be hard to detect during the interview process, which is why it is so important to ask the right questions and perform background checks before hiring a candidate. Dominion recently partnered with Verified First, which is a background and drug screening company that offers the option to run background checks within our software. By partnering with them, we are able to help our clients ensure that the people they are interviewing are who they say they are, and ultimately helping them prevent workplace bullying within their organizations. To learn more about how background checks can improve your onboarding experience, click here.