Workplace bullying – how to prevent it and what to do

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Since workplace bullying is more prevalent than most would expect it is highly likely that you, or someone you know, has been the target of a hostile workmate. When this happens, it can be difficult to decide what to do and almost impossible to act for fear of retaliation. Most employees who are bullied by a co-worker or even worse, a manager, often do not know how to proceed effectively.

Prevention: Make It A Priority

The most important action any work place can take is prevention. If company moral and the various personalities that make up your work force are taken into consideration, it is very likely that incidents of workplace bullying can be drastically reduced, if not eliminated entirely. Some ways in which to prevent friction and/or hostility amongst and between employees include;

  • Providing a fair and consistent means of assessing and rewarding good work habits
  • Encouraging friendships with appropriate boundaries between employees
  • Creating an inclusive environment that makes all employees contributions welcome
  • Monitoring that each employee is producing the work they are responsible for
  • Sponsor occasional workplace activities that foster a relaxed atmosphere to help reduce stress and tension amongst employees

Training: A Necessary Experience

While many employees will roll their eyes at training that includes a segment on workplace bullying, it is imperative that all businesses, large and small alike, provide their employees with some basic information about workplace bullying. The topics that should be covered include;

  1. What is workplace bullying
  2. What type of language can be considered inappropriate
  3. What type of comments and/or remarks can be taken as offensive or frightening
  4. What attitudes when focused on an individual person can be intimidating
  5. What forms can workplace bullying take? Including; gossiping, emails, exclusion etc.

Responses and Policies

For employees to step forward and alert a manager or supervisor to workplace bullying two very important things must be clear; a response will be forthcoming and policies are in place for the situation to be handled fairly and consistently.

Response Options: All employees, supervisors and managers must have a menu of available options when responding to knowledge of workplace bullying.

  • Employees must know to whom workplace bullying should be reported
  • Employees must know what form a workplace bullying allegation should be made in; email, verbally, confidentially etc.
  • Supervisors and managers must have a checklist of what to do for any and every report of workplace bullying.

Policies: Particular policies need to be in place for handling instances of workplace bullying. Some of these policies can include;

  1. Taking the statement of the person being bullied
  2. A confidential meeting with the person accused of workplace bullying with human resources and their immediate supervisor
  3. Allow for an impartial investigation into the circumstances surrounding the incident(s)
  4. Providing an opportunity for the employees to meet and speak in a safe environment
  5. The use of an impartial mediator to help settle the differences
  6. Exploring better ways for the persons involved to communicate with one another
  7. A sequence of initial warning, formal warning and eventual termination based upon ongoing behavior

In conclusion it is important to remember the following; employers have an obligation to provide a safe working environment for all employees, employers will always be responsible for taking reasonable steps and actions to keep their work environment physically, mentally and emotionally safe for all employees, and an employer who is cognizant of workplace behavior is more able to immediately and effectively intervene in an uncomfortable workplace incident.

If you find yourself in need of assistance with this, or any other legal issue, please contact the law offices of Owen Hodge Lawyers. At Owen Hodge, we are always happy to assist clients in understanding the full ramifications of any and all of your legal needs. Please feel free to call us at your earliest convenience to schedule a consultation at 1800 770 780.

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