Managing Director TCii Strategic and Management Consultants
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Bullying at work: How to maintain a positive climate in a company

6th Feb 2012
Managing Director TCii Strategic and Management Consultants
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Bullying at work is undesirable not only on ethical grounds, but also on the grounds of its unacceptable costs to the company. Employers should understand that, when bullying is prevalent in the culture of the organisation, the level of competiveness suffers. Indeed, when a bullied employee departs an organisation, they leave with bitter memories and take these negative feelings to their next employer. As a result, the previous employer gains a bad reputation as a hostile workplace and could find recruitment significantly more difficult, which may lead to a skills shortage within the workforce.

So what is bullying and how does it take place?

Essentially, bullying occurs when an employee is exposed to abusive actions repeatedly over time. Workplace bullying can, of course, take many forms, and may include instances of racial and/or sexual harassment. On the whole, however, bullying in workplaces can be viewed as the abuse of power. Bullying at work is, therefore, the repeated health or career endangering mistreatment of one employee by one or more employees.

Direct bullying in the workplace can include:

•    engaging in racial slurs and insults
•    physical touching
•    making threats
•    name calling.

Indirect bullying in the workplace can include:

•    humiliating in front of colleagues
•    rejecting
•    excluding
•    manipulating friends and relationships
•    despatching hurtful or threatening email
•    producing notes
•    blackmailing.

What can companies do to help solve bullying in the workplace?

Bullying is not confined to any one particular type of business. However, the thing that companies with a bullying problem have in common is a culture of loose management control. Indeed, particularly at risk are those companies that have no qualified people in human resources or those that do not operate an open-door management policy.

Companies should have anti-harassment policies in place and aim to engender a culture in which any employee feels secure in blowing the whistle on the bully.

Employers should try not to bring bullies into their company in the first place. They should be aware that they have legal responsibilities for providing a safe working environment. A proactive employer seeking to reduce the incidence of bullying should, therefore, evaluate personality types at the recruitment stage and assess the ability of candidates to communicate in a positive manner.

Companies should ensure that all employees attend an induction seminar with a qualified external trainer. The topics covered in this kind of induction should include training in relation to equal opportunities and anti-harassment policies. Bullying should be specifically mentioned as being considered a matter of gross misconduct within these policies.

Employers should consider introducing external Employee Assistance Programmes (EAPs). These can offer counselling services to employees who are victims of harassment, including workplace bullying.

If a complaint of bullying is upheld, the person concerned should be disciplined and then monitored effectively.

 

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