Best Practices to Deal with Bullying in the Workplace

A recent blog article from the site’s staff writer addresses the issue of bullying in the workplace. How does management handle complaints of bullying in the workplace? It’s becoming a larger issue than one might assume. It’s known that bullying is common among school children, but how many think that similar circumstances occur within an environment of adults and business? Bullying within the workplace has become a major problem in the U.S.

The legalities of bullying in the workplace were outlined in an earlier article from (read that article here). The focus in this piece is how, as a talent manager, to deal with complaints of bullying or harassment from your employees. Such behavior may not be technically illegal, but it still has negative repercussions on your organization’s productivity.

A recent study from the Workplace Bullying Institute, defined bullying as “repeated, health-harming, abusive conduct committed by bosses and co-workers” and also “repeated mistreatment: sabotage by others that prevents work from getting done, verbal abuse, threatening conduct, intimidation, and humiliation.” Did you know that 62 percent of bullies are men, and 58 percent of targets are women? How can you take the high road to handling bullying in your workplace? Here are a few steps that can help you handle sticky situations in your organization:

1. Pay attention to your team. No matter who you are managing, you need to be in touch with everyone and have their trust.

If your team and your employees can trust you, they will be more comfortable coming to you with any issues.

2. Provide reassurance. Harassment is about power and control.

It’s about someone else trying to have another person fail because they, themselves are insecure. Your role here may be to re-boost your employee’s confidence in themselves. You should also do your best to make them feel safe within the work environment.

3. Assure confidentiality.Make it clear to the employee that you will only involve the parties that are absolutely necessary to complete a full investigation.

Be clear with your employee that eventually higher management may need to be involved. Also, be sure to emphasize that confidentiality will be respected throughout the entire process.

4. Ask questions without taking sides. Try to find out as much information as you can about what has been going on, without taking sides in the matter.

Try using open-ended questions so that the person you are interviewing feels comfortable enough to supply information without you having to dig it out of them. An example question may be, “Can you give me some specific examples?”

5. Outline and action plan. With the person who has logged a complaint, outline the next steps you will take to investigate the situation.

6. Take action quickly.If you receive a complaint and are not in the HR department, let HR know immediately.

Not taking immediate action can result in your being responsible for any further discrepancies.

7. Document everything. Document every conversation in electronic and hard copy. Be specific.

8. Escalate, as needed. Always consult with HR, if you are not in HR. Let the appropriate parties know immediately.

9. Check the laws. Are you dealing with bullying or harassment?

Double check with your legal department to be sure you are handling the situation appropriately.

10. Make some decisions. Your goals is to find out if the employee accused of bullying should still work at the company and if any legal action needs to be taken.

Sometimes, it may be better for all parties involved if the accused takes a suspension with pay. Or maybe consider having the person making the complaint stay at home during the investigation. Keeping the parties separated can keep the situation from escalating to a violent situation.

There are many resources available to help managers be in-the-know about bullying in the workplace. To read more, or find additional links for more information, click here to read the full article.


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