If you have ever experienced bullying in the workplace before, then you know that it can be difficult to endure. Bullying is one of those beasts in the workplace, but not limited to it. It has the habit of rearing its ugly head over, and over again.
Bullying can make a person feel depressed, anxious and can impact on their ability to perform their tasks effectively.
To begin to manage bullying in the workplace, you will need to employ the following strategic methods:
- Employ a policy and/or guidelines for the workplace, to prevent it in your office culture.
- Understand the bully and why, how, and when they are targeting the individual. WorkCover NSW provides an Anti Bully Kit to provide the framework for defending against workplace bullying. Click Here
Every situation encountered with bullying can be different as the individual may be seen as an agreeable, quiet achiever who delivers their work consistently. The bully may see this as a threat, as it is like a primal instinct for “survival of the fittest”, potentially due to their own lacking experience which they don’t want known.
The person being bullied may feel like they are worthless, as the associated shame in being bullied undermines the individual’s confidence. Being bullied will slowly erode the individual’s focus and become an added distraction. It has the ability to impact the duties and tasks they are performing.
There are two forms of workplace bullying: direct or indirect bullying. Some examples of both forms are listed below:
- Verbal abuse, yelling, swearing and words that degrade and belittle an individual
- Damage or interference with a workspace or an individual’s personal property
- Defamation through the spread of malicious rumors
- Continually focusing on an individual as the target of practical jokes or obscene behavior
- Deliberately changing work assignments without notice
- Defining timelines that are unreasonable or difficult to achieve by constantly changing them and not communicating them openly
- Denying access to information, consultation or resources required to an individual’s undertaking of their duties.
- Not communicating by withholding information that is vital to the person’s undertaking of their work duties
- Avoidance of face to face communication. The bully is always too busy and deliberately avoids engaging in open and candid conversations with their target
If the above descriptions of bullying are not dealt with swiftly or ignored, they can lead to:
- Loss of Productivity
- Litigation/ Investigation for employers
A parliamentary inquiry was launched on the 4th July 2012, by Bill Shorten MP; to commission a report into Workplace Bullying “We just want it to stop” has been tabled (as of 26 Nov 2012). It has identified that workplace bullying has increased, and there has been an increase in cases reported.
The annual cost impact to Australian businesses ranges between the figures of $6 billion and $36 billion dollars; that’s more than the population of Australia!
The report highlights the associated financial burdens to the business being from 17,000 to 22,000 dollars as a financial fine for not preventing or having the adequate measures to prevent it.
The benefits outlined in the report from the inquiry held found that a national support strategy would be needed to effectively manage bullying in the workplace. An example of how this can be achieved in the workplace is to effectively develop and retain champions, such as Mentors and Coaches:
Mentors and Coaches can provide this support structure in watching for the warning signs. They can apply their own experience to the situation and provide an objective view to aid in resolving problems such as workplace bullying.
Mentors provide the following approaches to help guide their mentees around the obstacles placed in front of them:
- An ear to listen and understand the situation to provide a path/s to help provide the keys to create doors to unlock. This allows the mentee to make a decision, and create a choice around the obstacles in the mentee’s path as to the approach they are applying to deal with the bully.
- To employ some of their own tactics to empower the mentee in guidance of their own experiences and how they may have dealt with a similar situation.
- They can provide an objective point of view to isolate the emotion out of the situation where as there may be some anger or resentment of the bullied individual towards the bully.
- Build a toolbox of working knowledge. This comes as a part of the first two approaches that the mentee has been shown. Then to apply experience to recollect and aid them in making decisions based on a situation before them. Finally, the keys to aid future mentees which they may mentor.
Coaches provide the following approach to navigating around the obstacles in the path of the bullied individual:
- A protective barrier to disseminate the bullies’ target. Taking aim at the individual, they shut down the impact of the bully once they are made aware of what is happening in the workplace.
- Further feedback to the bullied individual to help aid them in the future and build their tool box of knowledge.
- A direct report of the situation to management and the appropriate workplace regulatory governing body.
- Aid the organisation to stamp out the behaviour to prevent loss of productivity and income. Staff as champions to prevent it from occurring again.
Bullying is a beast which needs to be vanquished. Lurking in the dark recesses of the office environment, it can become a part of a workplace culture and remain there for a long time to come. Remember it affects everyone; the employer, friends and family of the individual involved. So, become a champion today to slay it before it starts lurking in your workplace.
Senior Test Consultant – Scott Dickie