Bullying is an activity commonly associated with children in the schoolyard. Unfortunately, bullying is an issue that also carries over to the workplace. When bullying happens in an office, it can lead to a serious decrease in morale and productivity. In the worst case scenarios, bullying can even cause legal action to be taken against your organisation. For these reasons, it is important that you do everything that you can to understand how bullying affects your workplace and how to deal with it.
What is Bullying?
Before you can take steps towards identifying and correcting the problem of bullying at your office, you need to learn exactly what bullying is.
According to the Australian government’s Fair Work Ombudsman, bullying is when a person or group of people act unreasonably towards another person or group of people in a way that causes a risk to health or safety. Some common examples of workplace bullying include:
- Making snide or sarcastic comments towards someone based on the way they look or act
- Unreasonably threatening someone with violence or another kind of negative action, such as harming their property or spreading rumours about them
- Pressuring someone to behave in a certain way, even if it goes against their beliefs
- Excluding someone from work events or meetings
The problem with bullying is that it often starts out in a seemingly-harmless way; a simple joke or a sarcastic comment made by someone who was just trying to be funny could actually be a hurtful barb that damages the feelings and morale of a colleague.
In Australia, the Fair Work Act protects employees from bullying in the workplace. Contractors, labour hire personnel, students and others who have a commitment to their workplace are also covered under the Fair Work Act. Violating the terms of the act can lead to a fine of up to $10,200 for individuals or $51,000 for corporations. To protect your organisation as well as the safety and well being of your employees, it is imperative that you learn all you can about how bullying affects your workplace and how to deal with it.
Identifying Bullying at Your Office
One of the first steps to identifying instances of bullying or harassment at your office is looking for the signs of this activity. Someone who is suffering from bullying will often be quieter than usual at work. They also may attempt to avoid interactions that they commonly engage in. You should also pay attention to the social dynamic between two particular employees or groups of employees. Are certain people in your office avoiding each other? Does it seem like they are having negative interactions when they do talk? This is a sign that bullying might be going on in your workplace.
Another critical element of identifying bullying is making sure that you have an open door policy. Your team members should always feel 100% comfortable talking to you or any of the other managers at your office about bullying. Make sure that your employees know that they are free to report bullying without any fear of consequences.
Putting an End to Bullying
As with many policies that are implemented in a workplace, it is important to also have a specific code of conduct regarding employee relations and how bullying will be dealt with. This code of conduct should outline the expectations of employee behaviour. In order to keep your employees in line and avoid any occurrences of bullying, each employee needs to be aware of the consequences as well as the procedures for filing complaints. Keeping employees informed will ensure that instances of bullying are greatly reduced.
From here, you need to have a step-by-step procedure for dealing with the bullying. This may involve mediating the parties involved and disciplinary actions. At times it is not appropriate for you to interfere or make accusations. As such, it is crucial that you first make an effort to explore and investigate any claims or any unusual behaviour that you may notice. Remember to be fair and open throughout all of your dealings with employees.
Bullying at work is a very bad situation, even for those who are not directly involved in the bullying. Be certain that you take every possible measure to learn how bullying affects your workplace and how to deal with it so that none of your employees have to worry about working in a place that causes them to suffer emotional or physical harm.