Preventing bullying in the workplace

over 1 year ago by Jessica Brown

Preventing bullying in the workplace


This week once again sees the promotion of anti-bullying week, and although we might hope that bullies are resigned to the playgrounds of our childhoods, they could unfortunately be lurking around at the office. From Mean Girl-esque cliques to Lannister-like Oligarchy's, these tormenters have the ability to make your employees lives a living hell.

Of course anybody with blatant bullying tactics has no place within a civilized workplace, however adults tend to be more cunning than children, replacing public humiliation with covert backstabbing, meaning most of an employer's power comes in prevention and not resorting to cleaning up the mess once the damage has been done.

Safe Work describes workplace bullying as "repeated and unreasonable behavior directed towards a worker or group of workers that creates a risk to health and safety". Something that 28% of us have reportedly dealt with. Julie Moriarty, General Manager of Corporate Training at anti-bullying organization, The Network, says we can boil this unreasonable behavior down to three general categories:

  • Sabotage of a coworkers performance, including rumour spreading
  • Hurtful teasing, name-calling and pranks
  • Intimidation, causing self-imposed exclusion or forcing the victim to do something against his or her will

Whilst ideally any report of such behaviours would stamp it out immediately, the facts and figures paint a starkly different story, meaning a Career Builder survey found 19% of workers have left a position due to feeling bullied at work. Moriarty puts this down to the level at which bullying is taking place, with 56% of reported bullies holding a higher position than their victim. She writes of this, "An organization has to have a zero-tolerance attitude around bullying, no matter who the bully is or how high up they are in the organisations hierarchy."

Counteracting this, Margaret Jacoby, Founder and President of MJ Management Solutions, says could be as simple as "enforcing a statement of commitment from Senior Management. Highlighting a zero-tolerance policy and following through on promises could push bullies back into the woodwork, whilst weeding out those whose bad behavior is unwavering."

Jacoby further emphasizes that the issue must not be brushed under the carpet, stating that using other lighter terminology, such as 'personality conflicts' or 'difficult people' can trivialize a victims experience, adding further insult to injury.

Ensuring that bullying isn't taking place within your organization, isnít just the morally right thing to do but the financially right thing to do, with bullying costing UK businesses up to £18bn every year. From absenteeism to tribunals under the 1997 Protection from Harassment Act, ignoring bullying has a steep price.

The past decade has seen drastic changes in work-life balance policies, bringing with it the means to socialize with our colleagues. The implementation of pool tables and after work drinks however is useless if those we should be interacting with are the ones we want to avoid. The cure could lay within a stringent hiring policy, however with some bad eggs clearly finding their way through, the responsibility lies with all of us to ensure a safe place.

For further help and advice regarding bullying, please contact the ACAS helpine at 03001231100