Bullying doesn’t stop when kids leave the school playground. In fact, it happens in workplaces across the country, and it often falls on the employer to protect workers’ safety. To end workplace bullying, scrutinize your company culture and make changes where needed.
Workplace qualities that enable bullies
Some companies and occupations can attract bullies because they make it acceptable or easy to intimidate, harass or mistreat others. They may be drawn to work at places with toxic cultures that allow or even promote:
- “Hazing” new employees
- Excluding certain parties
- Unethical decision making
- Aggressive treatment of others
- Demeaning others
In these environments, bullies can get away with misconduct that puts others in danger and violates employees’ rights.
Thus, addressing bullying in your business can involve much more than punishing an individual for an isolated incident. It could involve making substantial changes to a culture that allows bullying to persist.
How to change workplace culture
Overhauling a toxic environment is complicated. However, a good place to start is to update—or create—workplace policies regarding bullying. These policies should explain clearly and directly that employers will not tolerate bullying and that anyone engaging in bullying behaviors will face consequences.
Training workers at all levels to identify bullying is also an important step, as is setting up proper channels for reporting bullying and harassment.
You can also get an idea of how pervasive bullying may be by conducting anonymous surveys, asking for feedback, or welcoming outside parties to come in and provide an assessment of the workplace climate.
If bullying is not widespread
In situations where bullying occurs in just one group, department or team, you still must take any reports or complaints seriously. Failure to do so could ultimately lead to legal claims against you for failing to protect employees and their rights to work in a safe, healthy environment.
Bullying behaviors should not happen in workplaces, but they often do. Left unchecked, they can disrupt workplaces and cause significant damage to victims. As an employer, you have a crucial role in confronting and stopping bullying in the workplace.