Identifying and preventing bullying

Working Together after BullyingWe’ve established that bullying can have a devastating impact on your business’s bottom line, and as with anything, prevention is better than cure. But what steps can you take to ensure bullying doesn’t become an issue in your organisation?

Creating a positive working environment, where employees feel listened to, valued and respected is crucial. Positive working values come from the top down, so ensure managers in your business lead by example.

Because bullying often takes place, or is perceived to be taking place, in the context of supervision, ensure managers are trained and supported to deal with employee issues effectively, sensitively and appropriately, especially poor performance.

Make sure you have a bullying policy in place setting out clearly what your business’s values are in respect of how employees are treated and expected to treat each other. Ensure there is clarity of expectations around behaviour, and also clarity about what types of actions or words may constitute bullying. Any policy should also set out clearly what paths are available to people who may feel they are being bullied, including a commitment to addressing issues promptly.

Despite putting in place whatever measures you can to prevent bullying, none of these are foolproof and you may still come across a problem. And as with many employee issues, the earlier you address it, the more easily you are likely to be able to resolve it.

However, as most bullying takes place in the context of an abuse of power, usually (although not exclusively) line managerial, it is easy to understand why many victims of bullying are slow or reluctant to complain, if indeed they ever do so. This means it’s vital that you are in a position to spot possible bullying yourself, rather than relying on victims to complain.

You can do this by looking for patterns. Patterns in sickness absence, in productivity within certain teams and in staff turnover can all indicate a possible problem. If you don’t already use them, instigating return to work interviews after sickness absence and exit interviews for leavers may help identify something or give you more information about a potential problem.

Although it’s less scientific, you can also make sure you are aware of those managers or team members who may be more likely to come across as bullying others. In a small business you will know who they are! In the same way, encourage managers to monitor relationships within their teams as far as possible, so that any tensions are noticed and addressed before they escalate

Spotting a problem, or a potential problem early on, can significantly reduce the impact on your business, and can mean the chances of the issue being successfully resolved for both parties are much higher.

If you think you have a problem with workplace bullying and would like some advice, do get in touch.