With 15% to 25% of workers experiencing workplace bullying, there is no doubt that bullying is an important management issue that simply cannot be ignored.
As psychologist, best-selling author and media commentator, Evelyn Field, discussed at AIM Brisbane recently, bullying is bad for business – productivity goes down, staff retention is impacted, absenteeism increases, and most importantly, victims can be left traumatised.
Unfortunately, while nobody likes being bullied, witnessing bullying or being a bully, it continues to be a regular occurrence in Australian workplaces.
Drawing on some of the research and insights outlined in Evelyn’s presentation and tips in her book Bully Blocking at Work, it’s obvious that there are a range of things managers can do to protect workers and organisations – but sometimes it’s equally useful to know what you’re doing wrong.
So here’s what not to do when it comes to managing workplace bullying:
Don’t simply rely on policies to protect your employees
While your business may be proud of its strict anti-bullying policies, outlined in your employee contracts and workplace rules, this is not enough. Managers need to be proactive and hands-on with the issue of bullying and harassment. Don’t just assume your staff are upholding the policy – bring it to their attention, highlight its importance and make it an issue that is taken seriously.
Don’t just assume that bullying comes down the corporate ladder
There seems to be a misconception that only people in ‘power’ can be bullies. It’s important to realise that anybody in the workplace can be a bully – you could be bullied by your boss, a colleague or even one of your own employees who you manage. Don’t be blinded by somebody’s role or level of authority – bullying is bullying, no matter what their position or job role.
Don’t promote staff to management roles without people management training
Many people are promoted to management roles as a result of expertise in a particular field – but this doesn’t necessarily qualify them for people management. Unfortunately, there are lots of managers who simply do not have the skills or training to deal with social issues. It is your responsibility as a manager to ensure emerging leaders are equipped to combat and deal with bullying.
Don’t embrace ‘tick and flick’ anti-bullying training
If somebody in your workplace is accused of bullying, do you simply have them watch an educational anti-bullying DVD and release them back into the workplace? This is not enough. While they might have ticked the box in your workplace health and safety procedures, proper anti-bullying training and action needs to be treated seriously.
Don’t underestimate the impact of bullying on victims
According to Evelyn Field, 75% of bullying victims experience Post Traumatic Stress Disorder symptoms – this shows that the effects of bullying can be huge and far-reaching. While you may be dealing with the bully, you also need to provide support to the victims. For example, you may need to consider referring them for counselling, giving them time off, or simply validating their experiences.
These are just some of the management practices that may need revising in your workplace to combat bullying. But the important thing to remember is that workplace bullying is a serious issue that needs to be taken seriously – only then can change be implemented to reduce its prevalence at work.
Evelyn Field is a practising psychologist, professional speaker, best-selling author and regular media commentator. She is a Fellow of the Australian Psychological Society, Convener of the Therapeutic Practitioners Special Interest Group of the International Association for Workplace Bullying and Harassment, and on the advisory council of the National Centre Against Bullying.
You can learn more about workplace bullying here.