How to Prevent Bullying at Work

February 15, 2017
bullying at work

How Does Bullying At Work Get Its Start?

Bullying.  We hear this word often, whether related to the schoolyard or the workplace.  It is an age-old problem that can surface in any type of setting. We hear a lot about bullying.  That it is due to low self-esteem in the bully, that victims often become bullies, etc. There has been plenty of research on the topic and we could spend many blogs discussing the economic, social,  and mental health issues related to bullies and victims, (visit this site) but for today I want to focus on how bullying can impact the workplace.

It often starts as disrespect, which may be subtle at times. The danger is that we get comfortable with the seemingly insignificant disrespectful behaviors that gradually grow into major issues. A workplace with a culture of disrespect is likely to become a place for bullying. How does bullying manifest itself at work? Verbal attacks, threats to others, embarrassing others intentionally, aggressive behavior, physical attacks, etc.

But, what are some of the subtler signs of disrespect that could be precursors to this bullying?

  • Ignoring and avoiding others
  • Excluding, belittling, ridiculing
  • Insensitivity to differences
  • Excessive criticism among co-workers
  • Comfortable environment for rumors and gossip
  • Reluctance or refusal to answer questions or reply to emails or phone calls
  • Condescending language or voice intonation
  • Withholding information
  • Refusing to assist a co-worker

The culture of respecting one another is the best prevention against bullying.

But what does this look like? How do you know if your workplace has a culture of respect among co-workers?  Here are a few questions to ask yourself?

  • Do I see common courtesies among co-workers?
  • Are employees allowed to respectfully state their view without the fear of criticism?
  • Is there a feeling of appreciating the contributions of others?
  • Is the common practice to respond to phone calls and e-mails promptly, even if it is a simple “thank you” or “I will get back to you”?
  • Do managers and seasoned employees take the time to get to know new hires?
  • Are apologies made after an offense?
  • Is there a culture of fairness?
  • Is communication typically direct and forthright?

You can demonstrate respect with simple, yet powerful actions. “The Balance” lists some suggestions on how to demonstrate respect at work.

These ideas will help you avoid needless, insensitive, and unintended disrespect:

  • Listen to what others have to say before expressing your viewpoint. Never speak over, butt in, or cut off another person.
  • Use people’s ideas to change or improve work. Let employees know you used their idea, or, better yet, encourage the person with the idea to implement the idea.
  • Never insult people, name-calling, disparage or put down people or their ideas.
  • Do not nit-pick, constantly criticize over little things, belittle, judge, demean or patronize. A series of seemingly trivial actions added up over time, constitutes bullying.
  • Be aware of your body language, the tone of voice, and your demeanor and expression in all of your interactions at work. People, who are radar machines, are hearing what you’re really saying in addition to listening to your words.
  • Treat people the same no matter their race, religion, gender, size, age, or country of origin. Implement policies and procedures consistently so people feel that they are treated fairly and equally. Treating people differently can constitute harassment or a hostile work environment.
  • Praise much more frequently than you criticize. Encourage praise and recognition from employee to employee as well as from the supervisor.

The benefits of respect in the workplace are immeasurable.  When respect is the norm, there is a greater sense of teamwork and collaboration which results in higher productivity.  This improves morale across the board! There is less downtime devoted to gripe sessions when there is a common feeling of respect among staff and leadership.

Your Employee Assistance Program is a great place to start if you are looking for help in changing your culture or environment from one of disrespect to one of respect.  The EAP can consult with you on putting a plan in place so that your employees have the sense of respect and safety when they come to work and, at the same time, your workplace becomes more productive.