How to deal with bullying in the workplace…

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Unfortunately bullying isn’t just confined to the school playground. For many bullying in the workplace is a reality and something they have to endure on a daily basis.  As the recent expose of Harvey Weinstein has shown someone in a position of power has the ability to use that power to their advantage, to bully and abuse those perceived as being below them.

The Weinstein case is thankfully an extreme example, but bullying in the workplace can take many forms and in today’s technology laden world it doesn’t even have to happen face to face.

So what do you do if you’re being bullied or how do you handle a bully within your team?

What constitutes bullying in the workplace

Bullying can come in various shapes and sizes and doesn’t necessarily always come from those above you. A few examples are, being insulted or intentionally embarrassed, having rumours spread about you, being ignored or excluded, being overworked as well as threatening behaviour, unwanted advances, harassment and having any promotions or development blocked or hindered.

However it is important to understand the difference between bullying and performance management.  Being criticised for poor performance, as long as it’s done in a professional manner, isn’t bullying.  Bullying happens over a period of time rather than being an isolated incident.

I’m being bullied what can I do?

  1. Talk to them… They may perceive it as harmless banter or innocent teasing and not realise the affect their actions are having on you.  If you don’t feel comfortable approaching them on your own, ask a colleague to come with you. While this might not always solve the issue, a large number of workplace conflicts can be resolved without taking formal action.
  2. Speak to your manager – If talking to them isn’t an option or it doesn’t help then you need to take it further. Speak to your line manager or HR department. Explain how their actions are affecting you and if you have it, take evidence such as emails or perhaps a colleague with you who can back up your claims.
  3. Keep your cool – It may be hard but try to remain professional and not stoop to their level. Whatever you do, don’t suffer in silence and wait too long to speak up.

A member of my team is being bullied what should I do?

  1. Follow procedures – all organisations should have a bullying policy and procedures in place. Check your organisations definition of acceptable behaviour and the steps that need to be taken should bullying be reported
  2. Be sensitive, seek additional information and remain objective – speak to those involved to gather more information as to what has been happening, it maybe a case of the aggressor underestimating the effect of their actions or it might be something more serious. Speak to each party separately and whatever you personal feelings towards each, keep these out of it and remain impartial and objective.
  3. Action plan – create a plan for the future with steps to help resolve the issue. This could be a simple code of conduct and agreement of acceptable behaviour by both parties, or something more formal such reassigning one or both members of staff.  Make it clear to all involved the consequences should the bullying continue.

To reduce any bullying in the workplace, as an employer try to foster a culture of inclusion, of open and honest communication.  While there is bound to be a certain level of teasing and joking within an organisation make it clear what acceptable behaviour looks like and don’t make any exceptions.

‘How to deal with bullying in the work place…’ was written by Ian Gooden, CEO Chiumento Consulting. If you like what you’ve read why not follow us on LinkedIn and Twitter and read all our future advice and musings on the world of work.

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