≡ Menu

What is classed as workplace bullying and how to deal with it?

As an employer, you’ll face many trials and challenges when it comes to managing your staff. One of those challenges may be the issue of workplace bullying. In a survey by the Workplace Bullying Institute, 19% of respondents revealed that they had suffered from being bullied in the workplace. This is an alarming amount given that there should be a zero tolerance on workplace bullying across all businesses. So, what defines workplace bullying? And how can you, as an employer, deal with it?

workplace bullying and how to deal with it

Here Gorvins explains what workplace bullying is and how you can deal with it.

What’s classed as workplace bullying?

Workplace bullying is commonly defined as any conduct that is threatening, intimidating, humiliating, verbal or physical abuse. This can be anything from spreading vicious rumours to shouting at a colleague. In many instances, workplace bullying can be a result of an underlying power struggle between one or more people. The WBI study found that one-third of bullying behaviour was peer-to-peer.

Ethnic minorities and members of the LGBT community are also said to be among the most at risk of being subject to workplace bullying, as they are targeted most frequently.

It’s clear that workplace bullying is still very much rife in some businesses, which is why more action needs to be taken against it. Some employers may not feel as though they’re equipped to tackle the problem, particularly if they are lacking resources and guidance.

Signs it’s happening

There are some indications that workplace bullying may be happening within your business, including:

  • High staff turnover
  • Low productivity and engagement
  • Tense atmosphere
  • Persistent absenteeism
  • Frequent shouting or acts of violence

Dealing with workplace bullying

Talk to both parties

Your employee may come to you with a complaint about another worker. They could have a written diary documenting the actions of the bully, or they may have evidence from other employee witnesses. You should then arrange a meeting with the accused to discuss the issues. The bully may give you excuses such as, “I’m just really passionate”, “I feel a lot of pressure to get results” or “I’m firm but fair”. Though many of these may be true, it doesn’t excuse bullying behaviour. If you feel like the issue can be resolved in a calm and effective manner, then bring them both into a meeting to talk out their differences – only if the victim feels comfortable.

Speak to HR

Should you not be able to resolve the matter, it’s a good idea to bring in the HR team. They’re well trained in workplace bullying instances and will be qualified to take on the issue themselves or work with you to resolve it. There may be an investigation into the complaint if it is of a serious nature. If a formal complaint has been made, then you should apply your company grievance procedure as standard.

Seek professional guidance

The allegations may be of a particularly serious nature that you need to consult dispute resolution lawyers for help. Conducting an investigation externally ensures that the complaint is looked at from a neutral perspective. This may take a matter of weeks or months depending on the severity of the case.

Steps you can take to prevent it

The best way to tackle workplace bullying is to prevent it altogether. Prevention starts with a change in corporate culture, this can only come from plenty of ongoing training for employees. You need to be clear that your business as a zero tolerance policy on bullying by outlining appropriate conduct in your employee guideline handbook.

Training is constantly needed to remind employees of the importance of acceptance. You can have teambuilding sessions to encourage collaboration and build relationships. Additionally, managers and supervisors need to be empowered to find and address any discrimination or bullying behaviour before it escalates. If the respected members of the workplace are consistently reminding employees that bullying is not accepted in the workplace, then the rest of the employees will follow suit.

A popular way of preventing bullying is by creating a solid conflict resolution process. Of course, you should have a grievances policy in place, but as part of this, you could have a section dedicated to bullying resolution. This will allow employees to feel more confident in airing their grievances knowing there is a strong system in place.

More HR and staff management and employee wellbeing.


Top Articles

Do I need an accountant for my limited company?
Find out what a limited company accountant could do for you.

Mortgages for limited company directors and contractors Are you self-employed and looking at getting a mortgage?

How much limited company tax do I have to pay? Find out the latest tax information for limited company owners.

Company Bug Newsletter

Keep up to date with small business news and guides by signing up to the Company Bug newsletter.