Unfortunately, bullying is not just something that we witness in our younger years, we often witness it in adulthood through the workplace too.

When this happens, it can pose a tremendous challenge for Managers and Employees, not to mention an untold impact on the individual.

Bullying involves any ill treatment from either another individual, or a group of individuals, which causes either physical or emotional harm to one person. While it rarely occurs that physical bullying takes place in the workplace, emotional bullying is still a huge concern in many workplaces.

Emotional Bullying impacts the individual mentally, and can occur through humiliation, misuse of authority, the use of offensive language or gestures, isolation, intimidation, harassment or any type of treatment which causes upset or harm to the individual. This in turn, can result in a broader impact to the overall team and working environment.

How Do We Prevent Bullying at Work?

Prevention of bullying at work is a team effort, which needs to start with the senior management team, creating a culture which allows no room for any actions or attitudes that may be associated with bullying or such behaviors.

Each individual within the workplace has a responsibility for ensuring that they conduct themselves in a manner which is respectful and considerate towards their colleagues and team members.

Organizational culture will be the main determining factor in the prevention of bullying in the workplace – a positive working environment, where team members are trusted, feel empowered and are comfortable with completing their role, and an environment which is free from continuing negative behaviors.

Tackling any behaviors which may be associated with bullying early on will also assist in the prevention of bullying at work. If you as a Manager, or colleague, notice something of concern, or are made aware of any particular instances of concerning behavior, it is best to appropriately address this before the issue escalates.

Policies & Procedures

Prevention of Bullying at work can also be attributed to company policies surrounding such actions. Where employees are made aware of the seriousness of bullying and the potential impacts and consequences of engaging in any bullying behaviors, they will be less likely to engage in, or continue with such behavior.

It is important that such policies are included in the company handbook and give direct reference to the application of the company disciplinary policy when relevant or required. Read more about the guidelines on Workplace Investigations here

Resolution of Bullying at Work

Believe it or not, the most effective way to resolve bullying at work is through informal mediation between team members, whereby the team members involved sit down together with a manager or Supervisor present and discuss the matter.

This is a challenging activity to have to face for all parties involved, however it often provides the best results and allows for fair procedure to both sides.

This conversation should allow for both sides to air their grievance or concern, openly and honestly, in an informal matter whereby the Manager or Supervisor will prompt the conversation but will only intervene if the situation escalates. Usually, these conversations boil down to their having been a misunderstanding, miscommunication or break down in an effective working relationship.

Where personal situations become involved, both parties need to be reminded that personal and professional activities should not mix. While the informal approach usually puts a halt on the actions, the situation will still need to be monitored closely going forward.

What if Informal fails?

On occasion it may occur that informal intervention does not work. This is usually in the instance where the situation has gone unaddressed for too long, and emotions and tensions have reached a peak, or where the informal process has not been effective.

When a situation has reached this point, and informal action is not an option, formal process is the next course of action. This is when the process usually converts to the format of a Grievance Procedure – a formal complaint is received, and formal investigation is conducted into the matter.

This process can be quite tricky, as it can be difficult to prove accused behaviors, but is nonetheless a necessary process.

What next?

When all is calm again, and the issue is resolved through the appropriate process, it is important to remind yourself that the situation will need to be monitored and both parties involved will need to be monitored also, to ensure that the process has been effective and that patterns or behaviors do not re-appear. As an employer your duty of care remains in place which involves ensuring that the process, regardless of the outcome, does not have an undue impact on the individuals involved, and that any necessary supports are offered and provided as required or requested.

Should you find yourself in a situation where bullying has reared it’s head in your workplace, and you feel you may need assistance in dealing with the situation or process, please reach out, we are always happy to help.

About the Author

Aoife Hanlon is an HR Executive at Corporate HR Ireland and can be reached at aoife@corporatehrireland.com


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