A study by ACAS has revealed that workplace bullying is on the rise across the UK, and many employees are too afraid to speak up about it. The research suggests that it’s more likely to be found in organisations with poor workplace climates, where this type of behaviour can become institutionalised.
Bullying behaviour at work can range from spreading rumours or gossip about a person, to - at the other end of the scale - carrying out a physical assault. Bullies may give staff unmanageable workloads, meaningless tasks or unachievable work goals. It is usually verbal and often includes unwarranted criticism, humiliation and ostracism - or might even involve physical violence.
Clearly, if you’re being bullied yourself it can make working life - and even home life – absolutely miserable. But bullying can also spell big problems for a company, too. Not only are staff more likely to resign or seek out the employment tribunal route, but you also risk long-term damage to your reputation as an employer. Once the bullying rot sets in it can create an unhappy, unproductive workplace with poor morale and loss of respect for management, among other things.
So if you want to banish bullying from your workplace and prevent it happening again, here are four steps to follow:
Talk about what constitutes bullying, telling employees where and how to get help. Make sure everyone knows that a complaint of bullying will be investigated and taken seriously, and all allegations are dealt with confidentially and effectively.
Think about holding regular bullying awareness days when staff can find out how to protect themselves and take a complaint forward. Potential bullies will also take note that there is no place for their behaviour at your company.
If you don’t have a formal anti-bullying policy, set about developing and implementing one. But who should write it? If you involve staff in the process, it can be a way to help them engage with the topic, think about behaviour that’s unacceptable and also feel safer at work knowing that it’s an issue that will be taken seriously.
The reasons bullies often get away with their behaviour is that bullying can be hidden. Look out for signs that staff are being victimised, like sudden unexplained changes in rates of absenteeism, sick leave, staff turnover, grievances, work-related injuries or customer complaints.
It might seem tempting to pretend that bullying could never happen at your workplace, but this approach won’t work for your business, or your team, in the long run. People who get bullied choose to leave or could even take you to an employment tribunal, especially if they are being discriminated against in a way that contravenes equal opportunities law.
In a competitive climate when businesses are fighting for the top talent, you can’t afford for word to get out about a negative company culture. That’s why it’s vital to not only prevent workplace bullying but also tackle it if you find it. Ultimately, for the sake of your business, this can only be a positive move.