3 tips to help prevent workplace bullying

By Team Work

Workplace violence definitely grabs headlines.   A recent piece at Forbes.com detailed the signs of workplace violence – and how to deescalate the situation when someone becomes threatening or irrational.  Most of us try to put such possibilities out of our minds.  And although *bad stuff* does happen at work – more often, it’s workplace bullying that affects workers day to day.  This may not make the news, but the consequences are huge.

Workplace bullying devastates individuals. Bullying incidents also negatively impact the organizations in which these incidents take place.

Here’s just a few of the damaging effects of workplace bullying:

  • absenteeism
  • loss of work productivity
  • staff turnover
  • negative publicity
  • legal problems
  • workers’ compensation and disability claims.

Shockingly – according to the United States Department of Labor – one quarter to one third of workers (women and men) reported that they’ve been bullied at work.

The most common workplace bully? You’re right – the boss.

While nothing can totally prevent workplace bullying, creating an organizational culture which supports positive regard is a key step that must start at the top. When employees feel valued – productivity rises. And the likelihood of workplace bullying decreases.

Here are some tips to help curtail workplace bullying in your organization: 

Tip #1 – Demonstrate – by example –  treating others with regard.  Steve Jobs was enormously successful – and a creative genius. This does not mean, however, that his management style made him successful. In fact, he was a poor role model – if your goal is to create a safe environment where employees can thrive and develop.

Tip #2 – Develop explicit organizational polices about workplace bullying. When policy breaches occur, prompt action is essential. This does not mean “zero tolerance.”  Zero tolerance implies that no employee can make even a single mistake – or given any opportunity to improve.  Frankly, many studies on workplace bullying have found “zero tolerance policies” counterproductive to the goal of decreasing bullying.

Tip #3 – Encourage conversations within groups and committees. Every employee – on all levels –  should feel that his or her voice is heard and respected. Too often, employees are afraid to truly speak their minds – especially with the boss present. This silence can contribute to a squelching of the very creativity essential to the success of any organization. It also frequently leads to a drain of talent as targeted individuals often leave the company.

Of course, these tips are just the beginning of the conversation. We’d appreciate hearing your perspective on how to minimize workplace bullying. If you have specific questions on this topic, we’ll immediately respond.