Be Proactive: Say no to Workplace Bullying

Say "NO" to Workplace Bullying

Workplace Bullying

Recent research shows that employees feel that there has been no reduction in bullying over the last few years. This is due to a number of factors:

  • Most of the time the victim does not want to speak up for fear of further retribution or the process for addressing the bullying is perceived to be worse than the bullying itself
  • Organizational processes to address bullying are over engineered and designed to protect the organization rather than to prevent bullying
  • Inappropriate behavior is often hard to categorize and debate continues as to the nature of the behavior rather than addressing the concern

10 Signs Your Boss / Manager is a Narcissist

What good leaders do ..... About Workplace Bullying

Good leaders draft good policies that outline the organizations approach to resolving claims of bullying and harassment that includes early intervention strategies, informal approaches to resolving allegations as well as formal approaches to resolving more serious or ongoing allegations.

A good leader also considers that if an employee feels mistreated  by anyone in the work place then there is a problem that needs to be addressed. It does not matter if you cannot fit the complaint into a category in an organizational policy. Even if the problem looks like a simple communication issue a good leader will take action to resolve the complaint.

Examples of good and poor leadership

Leadership is everyone's responsbility

Good leaders State their Personal Policy

Regularly remind staff that any form of mistreatment is not tolerated in the business and that you are open to anyone coming forward and raising a concern about the way they are being treated.

Tell your staff that workplace bullying, harassment and discrimination all have specific meanings, but regardless of the specific meaning the most important thing is that you feel that you are being treated fairly in the workplace.  It is the leaders (your) accountability to stand up for and represent those who are being treated unfairly.

Let your staff know that early intervention is the key to a positive outcome and that the sooner you raise a concern the easier it will be to resolve the issue.

Good Leaders guide to receiving complaints

When an employee  comes to you with an issue about how they are being treated, the first thing you should do is thank the person for coming forward and speaking up, it would have been a hard thing for them to do and you want to positively reinforce that speaking up is the right thing to do.

Then listen to your employees grievance without commenting on the grievance, take a few notes while your employee is talking.

Once you have listened to the grievance and asked a few exploratory questions you need to ask the employee which path they would like to go down to resolve their concern.

  • Formal complaint
  • Informal resolution of the issue

This is your leadership moment, make a judgment call. How serious is this issue? Can it be resolved though a conversation or is an investigation required?

An investigation is likely to be required if the concern raised might be:

    • Direct threats? Physical or threatening ongoing employment
    • Deliberate and calculated
    Or, ongoing acts of
    • inappropriate language or jokes
    • Sexual harassment
    • Harassment based on religion, nationality or lifestyle choices
    • Outspoken controversial views

Once you have formed an opinion on the best way to resolve the issue, you can discuss the plan with the employee raising the concern, ultimately it is their choice. If you have selected a conversation to resolve the issue, you can get the two people together and facilitate the conversation to ensure key points are covered. Normally you can leave the conversation part way through as the two people will be happily discussing their concerns.

Why is informal resolution the best path forward

In my experience, when you actively encourage your people to speak up about how they perceive that they are being treated, most of the concerns your employees raise can be resolved through a facilitated conversation between the person raising the concern and the person who they feel is mistreating them.

From what I have seen, formal investigations don’t tend to strengthen relationships between the two people. However, getting the two people together to discuss how they are feeling and to resolve the issue themselves does tend to result in a stronger relationship between the two people.

There are a few tricks to consider for informal resolution of the issue:

    • Reassure both parties separately that they have your support and that you have not formed a judgment; however you are acting as a counselor helping your team to discuss issues.
    • Ensure all conversations are held in private
    • Be available to facilitate the conversation if required, alternatively allow your employees to talk it out themselves
    • Follow up the person who raised the concern later in the day (after the conversation to resolve the issue) to ensure they feel the issue is resolved, follow them up again a few days later and again a couple of weeks later. (they will now tell others it is safe to speak up)
    • Follow up the alleged bully to ensure they are happy with the discussion and praise them for listening to feedback and taking action to resolve the issue. Their action shows strong communication skills that are valued by the organization
    • Keep diary notes about all of the discussions, your follow ups and  the outcome

Important Note: Only use this technique if you believe the alleged bully’s actions are not deliberate and they are unlikely to be aware that something they have done is causing distress in another person.

Workplace Bullying Tip for Leaders

Early intervention and improved communication is key to slowing down the rate of workplace bullying and to making a difference to the quality of your employees working life.

Every leader is accountable to joining the fight against workplace bullying.

Consulting Australia

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