Sadly, the experience of being bullied is something many people remember from their childhood. Arguably, the pervasiveness and omnipresence of the online social media culture have made that experience even worse for today’s children. But, despite the common connotations of “bullying” invoking playgrounds and school hallways, bullying isn’t restricted to children. In fact, Robby Brumberg, writing for Ragan.com, cites research from Radius Global Market Research that finds bullying affects nearly half of all U.S. employees.
Your organization is likely not immune.
Define What Your Company Considers Bullying
An important first step in addressing the negative impacts of bullying in the workplace is clearly defining what bullying “looks like” and what behaviors the organization will not tolerate.
That’s not, necessarily, easy to do. As Brumberg writes, “Companies might quibble over what, exactly, constitutes ‘bullying,’ though the Workplace Bullying Institute describes it as ‘repeated mistreatment of an employee by one or more employees; abusive conduct that is threatening, humiliating, or intimidating; work sabotage, or verbal abuse.’”
The institute’s definition provides a good starting point; the specific definition you choose may be different depending on the culture of your workplace. The important thing is to have a clear definition in place.
Educate All Levels on Bullying and Your Policy Toward It
Many employees don’t think of bullying as something that occurs in the workplace, and they may not see their behavior or the behavior of others as bullying without understanding what it is. Once you have a clear definition, take the time to educate all levels of your organization on your definition of bullying and your policies related to workplace behaviors. And, don’t just do it once. Employees should be reminded frequently of your policies, of the importance of treating colleagues respectfully, and of the sanctions that will occur if they don’t.
Encourage People to Come Forward
A policy is only as good as its enforcement. Make sure that employees are encouraged to report incidences of workplace bullying; take immediate and appropriate action when they do. Follow your policies consistently in all instances, regardless of how senior or how “important” a potential offender may be.
While we may think of bullying as something that occurs in childhood, the sad reality is that it remains a factor throughout our lives, including in the workplace. Committing to maintaining a bully-free environment is critical in all organizations.