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Dealing with workplace bullying

image portraying an altercation at work for article about protected characteristics
image portraying an altercation at work

Dealing with workplace bullying – employer’s guide

In today’s workplace where collaboration, productivity, and innovation are paramount, an insidious issue lurks beneath the surface: workplace bullying. This often -overlooked problem poses a significant threat to employee well-being, organisational culture, and overall productivity. In this article, we will look at workplace bullying, its manifestations, impacts, and we’ll consider how to prevent it.

What is workplace bullying?

Workplace bullying can be defined as persistent, harmful behaviour aimed at intimidating, degrading, or humiliating an individual or group of employees. It takes many forms, such as verbal abuse, exclusion, spreading malicious rumours, assigning excessive workloads, withholding information, or physical intimidation. Regardless of its shape, workplace bullying creates a hostile environment that erodes the psychological and emotional wellbeing of those subjected to it.

Obvious bullying includes personal attacks and criticisms, physical intimidation and verbal abuse. There are however more subtle forms of workplace bullying that are equally or even more common:

Social Exclusion

Social exclusion happens when an individual is deliberately excluded from work-related activities, meetings, or social gatherings, effectively isolating them from the team.

Undermining

Undermining an employee’s work, particularly in front of others, can be distressing for the recipient, especially so if the criticism comes from a person with more seniority.

Withholding resources

Intentionally withholding crucial resources, such as information or the correct tools or software, places an employee at an immediate disadvantage, and may result on others criticising the employee’s work when the real reasons for the underperformance are not known. This type of workplace bullying often occurs where team members are competing for higher reward or promotion, or where a new employee is seen as a threat.

Cyberbullying

Harassing or demeaning individuals through electronic communication channels like emails, messages, or social media platforms is a problem that has grown since the pandemic and the rise of remote working. It has however been a problem for much longer than that, and at myHRdept we have been dealing with cyberbullying for more than 20 years, with many cases stemming from bullying emails, e.g. USING CAPITALS excessively, or simply being more brusque than would be the case face to face.

Impact of workplace bullying

The ramifications of workplace bullying can extend far beyond the immediate targets, particularly if a bullying culture manifests, or if a senior or influential person in the organisation bullies others and is allowed to get away with it.

While victims will experience increased stress, anxiety, depression, and decreased self-esteem, at a macro level the organisation may experience high staff turnover (particularly of new employees) and reputational damage, making it harder and more expensive to hire replacement staff. Higher levels of sickness absence and an increase in employee relations issues (like grievances, and disciplinary processes) are also common indicators of a poor workplace culture.

Unchecked workplace bullying can seriously damage organisations, as a culture infected by fear and hostility, rather than collaboration and trust, will hinder teamworking and innovation. Ultimately this will result in a poorer performance relative to competing organisations with a healthier culture and a low tolerance of bullying.

COMBATING WORKPLACE BULLYING

In common with any intention to influence workplace culture, the eradication of workplace bullying is a journey, and no single action will be sufficient. We suggest a two-pronged approach, the first being a focus on the development of an open, trusting and supportive environment, the second being an openly expressed and enforced intolerance of behaviours that are contrary to that including, expressly, workplace bullying.

Creating an open, trusting and supportive workplace culture

Avoiding a bad culture can be as simple as actively promoting a good workplace culture. Examples of indicators of a ‘good’ culture include:

  • Comprehensive training & induction programmes
  • Regarding mistakes as an opportunity for learning rather than punishing staff
  • Develop and share a meaningful set of values based on a positive employee experience
  • Regular engagement to spot variances against values
  • Comprehensive communications encouraging honesty and tolerance
  • Mentors & buddy systems
  • Well supported employee development plans
  • Employee wellbeing programmes
  • Social programmes
  • Encouraging reporting of concerns
  • Discouraging excessive working
  • Investing in tools and technology to enhance performance and solve problems

Take action against contrary behaviours

In addition to fostering a positive culture, employers must be prepared to take action to deal with contrary behaviours at all levels. Crucially leaders must lead by example. Where workplace bullying is alleged, it should be quickly and thoroughly investigated ensuring a fair and impartial process. Appropriate disciplinary action should be taken against the perpetrators, including dismissing repeat or serious offenders.

It is also important to implement training programs to raise awareness about bullying and its impacts, and provide employees with strategies to address it, or report it and ultimately to prevent it happening in the first place.

HR support from myHRdept to combat workplace bullying

myHRdept retained clients can access free training videos and template emails to help employers combat workplace bullying and to strengthen their own liability defence against claims arising from employees bullying one another. These are accessed from the client area (top right of the home page www.myhrdept.co.uk).

Additionally myHRdept offer a range of due diligence defence training options which are redeemable against support hours – see our learning programmes section for the schedule.

myHRdept can also support employers in the development of cultural values – speak to your HR advisor, or contact us (details below) for more.

If you’re thinking of outsourcing your HR, payroll or employment law needs, why not contact myHRdept? Call us on 01628 820515, email us at enquiries@myhrdept.co.uk to discuss your requirements, or contact us via our website and we’ll call you back.

Homepage: www.myhrdept.co.uk

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