Times are a-changing. And rather than being a mere hindrance to running a successful business, unaddressed workplace bullying can be a real detriment to the entire team, pulling down morale and generally leaching negativity into the mix, not to mention the possibility of being a cause of litigation.
Workplace bullying refers to any repeated, intentional behaviour directed at an employee that is intended to degrade, humiliate, embarrass, or otherwise undermine their performance. It can come from colleagues, supervisors, or management, and is a real problem for workers at all levels.
Often, the hardest part is recognising a workplace bully. Disguised as sarcastic humour or dry cynicism, bullies can often come across as simply disgruntled yet humorous employees. Learning how to spot the problem is the best way to come up with a solution.
Bullies use intimidation and manipulation to gain from others. Learn to differentiate this trait from those who are simply driven and ambitious. Does the act of disrespecting others become part of the business culture? This may be an early warning sign of a bully in your midst.
Some other signs that may speak of a more serious issue:
- Yelling, raising the voice or shouting, in front of others or in private.
- Disrespectful comments, inappropriate comments.
- Excessive criticism of colleagues work.
- Undermining a colleague's work, encouraging failure on a subliminal level or purposefully overloading someone with work, setting them up to be overwhelmed.
- Withholding information or actively working to keep someone out of the loop, making people feel uncomfortable or unwelcome.
Any of these traits can signify that a conversation between you, the employee, and even an HR expert, might be necessary. Nipping things in the bud before they escalate is the only way to prevent a workplace crisis.
Encourage employees to stand up for themselves and create an open-door policy that invites them to speak with you about any kind of concern they may have, including feeling bullied. Creating a space where employees feel safe and respected is tantamount to overall business success.
Document everything. Involve your local trade association or HR consultant to find out the best way to get things down on paper.
Make sure employees know that bullying is not tolerated. Add a respect clause into your employment contracts so that it is clear from day one, what is and is not appropriate in the workplace.
As the boss, you may be viewed as the bully. Make sure to keep your ear to the ground and truly listen to employees reflections of you as their leader. More often than not you may find you have much to improve on!