While many people associate ‘bullying’ with the school playground, some studies suggest that bullying happens in the workplace too. In fact a recent study found that almost 75% of employees have either witnessed or experienced bullying in the workplace.Whether it’s excluding colleagues from social groups or playing pranks at someone else's expense, office environments can stir up harmful behaviour and leave victims feeling isolated.
Of course it doesn’t need to be this way, and in most cases it isn’t! Join us as we explore top tips to encourage a positive office culture to prevent bullying and promote healthy relationships between colleagues.
Covert vs. Overt Bullying: What’s the Difference?
When we think of bullying, we typically think of overt actions like shouting, name-calling, and public humiliation. This behaviour is easy to spot and thankfully tends to be relatively rare in mature adults.
However, some forms of bullying in the workplace aren’t always as apparent as you might think.
Covert bullying involves tormenting employees in a much more discreet and psychological manner. This behaviour is almost impossible for outsiders to spot and even the individuals themselves might not be aware of their actions.
Negativity from High-Performers
This behaviour can be especially damaging if the individual in question is a high-performer at work. Senior leaders can sometimes get caught up in performance figures and might struggle to recognise how certain actions impact the productivity or happiness of others.
For the TV buffs out there, think of the relationship between Tim and Gareth in the UK sitcom the Office. Tim is the company’s golden boy and his boss turns a blind eye to the endless pranks he plays on poor Gareth.
So, How Can You Prevent This Situation?
The best way to stop this kind of behaviour is by rethinking the way we measure performance.
Instead of viewing performance metrics and company culture as two different things, businesses should consider an employee’s cultural value as a vital indicator of performance.
Individuals who promote a happy and healthy workplace will boost overall productivity and avoid conflicts between colleagues. A recent study by The Alternative Board found that 86% of employees believe company culture directly impacts productivity.
Establish a Clear Code of Behaviour
One of the easiest ways to avoid workplace bullying is by establishing clear expectations of how employees should behave.
If employers live by a strong set of company values, these same values will filter down into the way employees treat their colleagues.
Managers should lead by example by promoting healthy professional relationships and keeping close to employee behaviour. Importantly, managers must avoid ambiguity when they set expectations and company values should never be left open to interpretation.
All employee complaints must be taken seriously and dealt with neutrally to avoid sweeping reports under the carpet or disregarding potentially harmful behaviour as “just a joke.”
Address the Root of the Problem.
When trying to stop workplace bullying, try to dig beneath the surface to get to the bottom of why an employee is tormenting others.
Understanding the instigators point of view can not only protect others, but it can also help the instigator face their internal demons and enjoy positive relationships in the workplace.
Clinical psychologist Dr. Mary Lamia explains how bullies have low self-esteem and their behaviour is a reaction to internalised shame. These individuals attack employees to take away this shame and hide their true feelings.
Talking to individuals and encouraging them to express their vulnerabilities can be a powerful way to reform behaviour and make sense of their actions.
The best way to nip bullying in the bud is to address it as it’s happening. Don’t wait until things have blown over, only to dig them back up again.
If an employer witnesses first-hand signs of bullying, this is hard evidence that can be used to confront the situation head-on.
Shutting down bullying before it has time to develop can save employee relationships and protect potential victims. If an employer spots even a glimpse of bad behaviour, they should deal with it immediately before it has the chance to spiral out of control.
Promote a Positive Workplace Culture
The ultimate way to stop bullying in the office is to foster a positive work culture where there is mutual respect between all employees.
If a business integrates a solid set of values into its recruitment process, it’ll attract talented individuals whose personalities align with their colleagues.
Be clear about what your business represents and set clear expectations to keep employees on a level playing field. The workplace should be a place for individuals to express their true selves and grow alongside their colleagues, not against them.
Recruit or Work with Change
If you’d like to work at a company that puts company culture and employee happiness first, take a look at our current job openings and learn more about what we do here.
Alternatively, if you’re looking to add some exciting and reliable new talent to your business, speak to one of our dedicated recruitment consultants to find out how we can help.
Although there are lots of simple steps a company can do to proactively address bullying, certain workplace conflicts require more serious attention.
If any of your employees are a victim to illegal behaviour, threats of violence, or sexual harassment in the workplace, this should be referred directly to the appropriate person in line with your companys appropriate policy.
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