Most of us have come across our fair share of bullies throughout our lives. Whether we see it happening in the school yard, in political campaigns on TV, or experienced it in our own personal relationships, bullying is always a form of abuse – a way of intimidating and dominating others, through physical, emotional or psychological control.
Unfortunately, many of us run into bullying behaviour in our place of work, as adults. Have you ever been made to feel uncomfortable while trying to carry out your everyday work tasks? It’s very hard to keep performing well in your job when a manager or colleague sets out to make life difficult for you.
Workplace bullying can be particularly difficult to deal with, as many bullies tend to know how to operate within social boundaries, often using nonverbal tactics or subtle humiliation to make a targeted individual feel continually excluded, uncomfortable and anxious. In this way, they aren’t seen to be crossing any organisational lines, or throwing any actual punches, while still managing to wear down their victim’s sense of self-worth and resilience.
In many cases, the person being bullied will eventually resign from their jobs. Sadly, even at this point, there are managers who are aware of what’s happening in their teams yet choose to ignore it, allowing the bully to simply move onto their next target.
This is why it’s so important for employers to take a strong stance on workplace bullying.
As an employer, it’s important to show your commitment to providing a safe and positive work environment for your employees, through strong anti-bullying and harassment policies.
If you’ve read our previous article on the importance of having a good bullying and harassment policy, you’ll know that when bullying becomes a problem in the workplace, it doesn’t just affect the person or people being harassed and targeted – it can very quickly become a problem for the whole organisation.
Workplace bullying has significant negative impacts for both individuals and the companies they work for.
In an organisation where bullying is not being managed – or worse, is tolerated – you can expect to see:
For employers, this leads to a loss in reputation and brand name for their business, as well as financial losses from lower profits and the cost of hiring and training new staff. Bullying can also result in significant fines for your company, as in the recent case of an Australian employer.
This recent case has seen a NSW worker awarded more than $1 million in damages after suffering intense workplace bullying by her bosses.
Lucinda Gunning, of Carroll & O’Dea Lawyers, said her client’s $1 million payout was the largest amount she had witnessed for workplace bullying. The payout is made up of a payment for total and permanent disablement, as well as worker’s compensation.
The former NSW government employee, a middle-level manager herself, experienced constant bullying from two of her managers, to the point where she was “doubled over sobbing” and would sit in the bathroom for six hours without anyone noticing.
Want to avoid this situation from occurring in your workplace? Make sure your business has a strong policy in place around bullying and harassment.
As an employer, you’re responsible for preventing bullying in the workplace, and a strong policy in this area will ensure your organisation is compliant and reflecting its legal obligations. While bullies will continue to exist in every workplace, school and social circle, you can make a difference by promoting a safe and positive work environment for the people in your own organisation.
For more advice on how to handle bullying, you may like to look at this free online course – Bullying in the Workplace. It covers useful information about the most common forms of bullying in the workplace and the costs this has for both victims and organisations. You’ll also learn practical strategies for dealing with workplace bullies.
If you’re a manager or team leader, remember to review our previous post on Why You Need a Good Bullying and Harassment Policy, with links to e-learning resources such as Bullying: The Manager’s Role and Workplace Harassment for Managers. And please don’t turn a blind eye to any bullying or harassment that’s occurring in your team.