Workplace bullying is actually more common than you might think and it can happen in any work environment. Bullying can come from a manager who consistently tears down another department’s manager, or it can come from a supervisor who practically refuses to say anything nice about one of his or her employees. Workplace bullying can occur between two employees of equal rank or from one supervisor to an employee.
The last thing you want in your workplace is a bully. So how do you stop a bully in his or her tracks?
What constitutes a bully?
We’ve mentioned that there is a difference between venting frustrations and bullying. Employees who disagree with each other are not necessarily bullies. In fact, you want your employees to discuss their disagreements, but in a respectful and resourceful manner.
If you recognize any of these problems plaguing one employee on an almost daily basis, then you might have a bully on your hands:
- Employee puts other employees down without hearing their full ideas
- He or she talks poorly of an employee behind his or her back
- Employee interrupts the other employee(s) while speaking
- He or she uses non-verbal cues, such as sighs or eye rolling, to indicate displeasure, specifically when a certain person offers an opinion or joins a conversation
- Employee is physically aggressive towards another employee or employees
Enforce company policies and codes of conduct
Now that you know you have a bully in your workplace, it’s time to take action against him or her and nip this problem in the bud. You should be fully aware of company policies towards bullying of any kind. Head over to the human resources department if you’re unsure.
Everyone in the company should be following a code of conduct, whether it’s written in black and white or implied. When in meetings, make sure everyone knows what proper meeting etiquette is. Everyone should take turns speaking, and no one should be interrupting one another. Even if an employee disagrees with one another, they should be respectful in their speech.
Don’t be the enabler
Employees, and sometimes even supervisors, rarely want to stand up to the workplace bully because they don’t want to incur his or her wraith, but all they’re doing is allowing this bullying to continue. The first step in preventing a bully is to speak up and speak out, even when you think you might come under fire.
Prevention comes from recognizing the bystander affect and when you or other employees are participating. This affect simply means that although you see a wrongdoing being committed, you fail to act. Maybe you’re too scared to say anything or you think someone else will intervene, but know that this is how bullies get away with what they do. Chances are that if you don’t act, no one else will so speak up!
When someone comes to you to vent about a bully, don’t let the conversation end there. If you truly want to put a stop to a bully, get a supervisor involved and tell them what has been going on. If you are a supervisor, it’s time to call in a meeting to get to the bottom of the bullying. If another supervisor is the one who is bullying, head over to the human resources department and ask them to moderate a meeting.
Call in reinforcements
If the bullying is truly getting out of hand or the bully happens to be someone higher than you or a supervisor in another department, it might be time for HR to step in. HR employees are neutral towards all departments, and their only concern is for the wellbeing of the rest of the employees. They want to create a happier work environment any way possible.
There’s no shame in asking HR to step in and moderate a discussion. In fact, you could save yourself a lawsuit if you decide to act irrationally and fire an employee. These meetings with HR are meant to not only help make the situation better, but also to make the termination process easier, if it really needs to come to such an extreme.
When the dust has settled and all parties involved have been addressed, it’s time to refocus your team’s energy back into their work. Don’t dwell on this incident. It happened, but it has been rectified. Put the past behind you and instead look towards the goals you and your team wish to achieve.
Rumors tend to spread rapidly around all workplaces so if you start hearing nasty rumors about an employee’s personal life or their job performance, stand up and quash the rumors immediately. Even if they’re true, these rumors have no place in a workplace.
It’s no secret that office bullying does happen, but by enforcing company policies against bullying and harassment, you can lessen your chances of having a bully in your midst. By paying close attention to your employees, you’ll be able to spot a bully and stop them before they even get the chance to roll their eyes.
Author: Helen Sabell is the CEO and Principal of The College for Adult Learning in Australia. She has designed, developed and authored many workplace leadership and training programs, both in Australia and overseas. Helen is involved in the Online Diploma of Management, Online Diploma of Project Management, Online Diploma of Human Resources and many other adult education courses at the College for Adult Learning.