Bullying at the workplace – what you need to be aware of as an employer.

Though not often spoken about, bullying at the workplace is more rampant than one might imagine. As per a survey Careerbuilder.in, it was found that almost 55% of Indian workers are bullied at their workplace. 

As an employer, this bears some serious red flags. The vicious act can cause damaging effects on the individual, hinder company growth and destroy the overall reputation of the organisation. This anti-bullying week, here is what all you need to know as an employer…

What bullying at the workplace means

To be able to tackle bullying, it is first important to understand what it means. Bullying at the workplace can be recognised as a repeated pattern of abuse or mistreatment that leads to emotional or physical harm.

It is when an individual or group of people are acting unreasonably towards another employee. Some of the instances include being aggressive, mocking, excluding from work-related events, creating unnecessary pressure or having unreasonable work demands. 

Signs to watch out for 

The book ‘Beating the Workplace Bully: A Tactical Guide to Taking Charge by Lynne Curry’ lists the below warning signs of being bullied at the workplace:

“You work with an individual who:

  • Cuts you down, then claims she was “just kidding”
  • Makes you feel like you “walk on eggshells” because you never know what might trigger a tirade
  • Holds past employees, employers, or coworkers responsible for his unhappiness.
  • Hates to have her authority questioned 
  • Treats others poorly when he can get away with it
  • Delights in making your life difficult 
  • Intimidates you or others 
  • Puts you in the wrong so he might appear right” 

As an employer/manager, do watch out for any of these traits and behavioural patterns in your team members. 

Do note that certain points do not qualify as bullying:

  • Articulating differences of opinions 
  • Altering work duties and assignments due to valid reasons 
  • Giving constructive feedback 
  • Justified action taken as per the performance of the employee
  • Taking disciplinary measures when things go out of control 
  • Executing company policies 
  • Scheduling workloads and inspecting it
Do note thwhat does not qualify as bullying:

Why it is harmful to your workplace 

Bullying can be extremely harmful at a personal, psychological, physical, professional and social level. As discussed in, ‘The Handbook of Dealing with Workplace Bullying by Anne-Marie Quigg’, “Examples of physical problems include sleep disturbances, loss of appetite, chronic diseases and stress symptoms. Psychological problems include anxiety attacks, depression, suicidal tendencies and symptoms of post-traumatic stress disorder.” 

All of this interferes in the personal and professional life as well, leading to low productivity, absenteeism, failure to perform and eventually quitting the job. Having a bully at the workplace can create an extremely unfavourable atmosphere and make the team members unhappy. 

Another important factor to take into consideration is the overall reputation of the company. As stated in the book, ‘Bullying in the Workplace: Causes, Symptoms, and Remedies edited by John Lipinski, Laura M. Crothers’, “Bullying not only hurts the organization internally but can also damage organizational reputations and public relations.”  

What can be done about it as an employer:

Below are some of the things that can be done to discourage and address bullying at the workplace: 

Have a defined anti-bullying policy:

At the induction, every employee should be educated on the strong anti-bullying policies of the company. Along with an in-person talk, the same should be communicated with a written statement. Every member of the organisation should be aware of the company’s strong stance against bullying and that no such behaviour will be tolerated.

Train managers on how to deal with bullying 

Managers play an important role in tackling bullying at the workplace. They can help instil the right work culture among the team members. 

Training them on how to assess and deal with a potential situation can help nip it in the bud and promote a healthy atmosphere. Awareness of the employee dynamics and promptness is key over here. 

anti-bullying policy

Take strict actions 

If there is sufficient evidence that a person has been bullied, strict action must be taken against the perpetrator. It can start with a warning and an eventual termination of the employment contract in case the individual shows no signs of reform. By doing so, you are setting the right example where employees feel safe and looked after.  

Rope in a third-party counsellor 

As mentioned before, bullying is a very traumatic experience for the victims. It can break their self-esteem and instil a constant fear within them. In such delicate matters, it is advisable to seek the guidance of a counsellor. 

The expert can tend to the matter on a one-on-one level and have group therapy with both the victim and perpetrator to get to the root of the issue and address it. It is not only about healing the victim but also stopping from further acts of abuse. Online counselling can be effective to avoid friction at the workplace.   

Bullying is an offence that should not go unreprimanded. As an employer, you must ensure that your employees are safe and protected by this harmful act. Dissuading the situation in the first place with the right policies and training and taking strict actions when something like this is done will nurture a bully free and healthy work atmosphere.   

Bouncbk is a mobile platform designed to help your employees measure and improve their emotional well-being. Email us at hello@bouncbk.com to know more.

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