HR Management & Compliance

Implementing a Workplace Bullying Policy

It may be surprising to many to hear that workplace bullying is a real phenomenon. It seems almost unthinkable in a professional setting to think of bullying behavior. And yet, according to HR Morning, “some researchers claim one in every three employees will experience bullying at work. And the experts say bullying costs businesses more than $200 billion a year due to decreased productivity, increased absenteeism, and high turnover.”

Putting a precise number on the costs of workplace bullying is a tricky matter, but some of the additional factors that can lead to financial impacts include decreased morale, potential legal liability, and time spent dealing with employees involved in alleged bullying situations, among others.
Because of the costs, and in particular the potential legal liability, HR Morning recommends having a clear policy in place to address workplace bullying and provides five keys that any policy should have.

1. A clear definition of what is considered bullying

Employees need to know what types of behaviors cross the line in the organization. Many employees may be unaware that the way they address conflict or routinely interact with other employees could be considered bullying.

2. An outline of how employees can report bullying

Some victims of workplace bullying might just think they have a jerk for a boss. But managers do not get a pass when it comes to bullying. It can be awkward, to say the least, to address a bully manager situation, so the anti-bullying policy needs to have clear guidelines on what employees need to do when the manager is a bully.

3. A complaint and investigation process

When bullying is alleged, employees should be very clear on the process for reporting and investigating allegations of bullying. This will help mitigate allegations of selective enforcement but only if the process is consistently and objectively followed.

4. A “no retaliation” clause

Employees need to be confident that reporting bullying won’t simply lead to more bullying in retaliation. This is especially true when reporting a manager for bullying. Every anti-bullying policy should have a clear “no retaliation clause.”

5. A list of consequences

Consequences for bullying could be anything from a verbal warning to termination. The policy should make clear what the potential consequences are as well as an escalation. For example, a first offense might involve a verbal or written warning and a second, third, or fourth could be grounds for immediate termination. Depending on the severity of the bullying, some discretion needs to be built into the potential consequences.
Workplace bullying is an unfortunate reality in many companies. And the costs due to legal liability,  reduced productivity, and increased turnover can be substantial. A good defense for any company is to have a clear policy that deals with employee bullying and to make sure everyone in the organization is aware of the policy.

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