Bullying and Harassment in your Workplace – Get Serious!

There are more and more headlines these days about the fact that many organizations are working hard to ensure that their employees are treated respectfully when they come to work. That seems on the face of it to be an obvious thing to do, doesn’t it?  But there are many employers out there who are not doing anything at all or at best, playing lip service to their responsibility to provide a workplace where employees come and are psychologically safe.

OFFICE BULLIES

Some recent research from the staffing company OfficeTeam, found that approximately one in three (35 percent) workers surveyed admitted that they have experienced an office bully.  
This should be alarming to any of us, since no workplace is free of interpersonal conflict but it is how that interpersonal conflict is handled and dealt with that we should really be concerned about.

In our Respectful Workplace & Bullying/Harassment training , I always suggest to our workshop participants that when they have a question regarding how an issue of interpersonal conflict should be handled, the answer to such a question will be written in their organizational Bullying & Harassment (or Respectful Conduct in the Workplace) Policy.

That policy should guide an employee to consider talking to the person with whom they are having the problem personally or at the very least, discussing the situation with their supervisor. If the supervisor is the source of the problem, then they will be guided to that person’s manager.

Then there is always Human Resources.

This infographic from OfficeTeam suggests that not every employee will follow such sound advice. Their research suggests that a good proportion of employees will not do anything about their situation or will simply just quit.

Employers must do a much better job at ‘living’ their policy within the workplace so that it does not simply represent a page in an employee handbook, but that it is actually experienced by each employee and they can be confident that their employee wants to support them in tackling the situation they are dealing with.

At the very least the policy should provide guidance on the initial steps to consider taking starting with having a ‘difficult conversation’ with the other person.

We know from our work that it’s often best to talk to bullies and provide them with examples of their behaviors that make the employee feel uncomfortable. It is entirely possible the person is unaware of how his or her actions are negatively affecting others and when told to stop, will do so.

The policy should also recommend documenting instances of workplace bullying, detailing what was said or done by the individual.

Also the policy should guide the employee to seek support. This should be done in order for the employee to feel more confident having that difficult conversation or so that they can inform their supervisor or manager about what they’re experiencing.

This conversation will trigger the employer’s obligation to do something now that they are aware of what is going on within the workplace.  Anything less than what you have just read represents purely lip service to the issue.  It’s time to kiss that approach goodbye and do something positive.  There are far too many employees suffering in the workplace at the hands of bullies and we need to help them.