Bullying doesn’t just happen at school. In fact, workplace bullying is becoming a disturbingly common occurrence. Unfortunately, too many employers are unaware that it happens or don’t know how to put a stop to it. Anyone can be a bully in the workplace—from coworkers to managers to owners. It’s important that you identify bullying and know how to end it—before it costs your business.
Why Stopping Bullying is Important
Although it’s not legally considered harassment, you’re opening the door bullying behaviors if you don’t have a policy in place. Bullying can quickly escalate and lead to claims of a hostile work environment, discrimination, and even retaliation. In addition to putting your small business at risk for lawsuits, it could also be the reason your business has such high employee turnover rates. Can you afford taking on these risks by ignoring workplace bullying?
How Can You Stop Workplace Bullying?
First, you must identify it exists. If you see bullying yourself, you must immediately act, but you also need to create an environment in which employees feel comfortable enough to report bullying. To help minimize your liability, here are a few things you can do if bullying occurs in your small business.
Promote a Positive Workplace
You set the tone for your workplace environment. A positive set of leadership skills shows your employees how they are expected to treat one another while working together. No hazing, teasing, or bullying should ever be accepted—nor practiced by you or other management. Make it clear which behaviors are acceptable and which could lead to immediate termination. Your employee handbook should have strict conduct policies, and also include a process for reporting any inappropriate behavior.
Respond Quickly to Accusations
If you receive a complaint or hear a rumor about bullying, you must respond quickly. Immediate action not only shows employees you don’t tolerate bulling in the workplace, but can also limit your liability if an employee chooses to sue later on. Time never fixes bullies. The longer you allow bullying in your business, the more damage it could do to an employee or group of employees—and the more liabilities you’re likely to rack up.
Train Supervisors and Learn the Indicators for Bullying
Supervisors should know how to spot bullying, but also know how to react if bullying is identified. A few signs bullying is occurring in your workplace:
- Deceit: Repeatedly lying, not telling the truth, concealing the truth, deceiving others to get one’s way, and creating false hopes with no plans to fulfill them
- Intimidation: Overt or veiled threats; fear-inducing communication and behavior
- Seduction: Using excessive flattery and compliments to get people to trust them, lower their defenses, and be more responsive to manipulative behavior
- Shame and guilt: Making an employee constantly feel that they are the problem, shaming them for no real wrongdoing, or making them feel inadequate and unworthy
See the full list of all twenty signs of subtle bullying at www.workplacebullying.org.
Some common indicators of workplace bullying include:
- Low employee morale
- Low productivity from a particular employee
- Unwanted criticism
- Blame without any justification
- Employees being treated differently than the rest of the group
- Any employee isolation or exclusion
- Humiliation in public or shouting
- Micro-managing or excessive monitoring of a specific employee
Workplace bullying can be very costly for a small business. Not handling it appropriately could not only lead to high turnover, but also set your company up for a lawsuit that could potentially put you out of business. By acting quickly, recognizing the signs of bullying, and instilling effective policies, you can limit the chances it will affect your small business.