Many individuals hear the word bullying and immediately think of schoolyard children picking on
each other. Whether it be verbally or physically, our minds tend to think of bullying in relation to
children or teens. The problem is that bullying can happen anywhere with any age group. That means workplace bullying can and does happen in the workplace.
Dictionary.com defines bullying as a way to “seek to harm, intimidate, or coerce someone
perceived as vulnerable.” This is a fairly broad definition but shows that there is no age limit or
A more precise definition within a workplace setting comes from the Manufacturing Science and
“Persistent, offensive, abusive, intimidating, malicious or insulting behaviour, abuse of power or
unfair penal sanctions, which makes the recipient feel upset, threatened, humiliated or
vulnerable, which undermines their self-confidence and which may cause them to suffer stress.”
So how do we go about making the workplace a safe and productive environment for everyone?
Create Policies and Procedures
Every good workplace has a set of policies and procedures for how to do the job, how to ask for
time off, when lunch breaks are, etc. This is the first line of defense to prevent workplace
bullying. By establishing clear boundaries and expectations, every employee will understand
what is and is not acceptable within the workplace.
It is not enough to simply make a policy. You need to be specific in what classifies as bullying.
Be clear about the ramifications of being a bully. Outline the progressive discipline actions that
will be used if someone is found to be bullying another staff member.
There are different clues you can watch out for that may indicate workplace bullying is happening:
- A decline in a staff’s performance without explanation.
- A rise in stress-related absences.
- Change in a staff member’s behaviour or attitude.
Be aware that bullying is often done covertly. Never dismiss a bullying complaint; always take it
seriously and do your due diligence in investigating the complaint.
Here are a few examples of bullying:
- Continually questioning a staff member’s abilities.
- Belittling a staff member’s opinion.
- Insults; even if they are ‘joking.’
- The expectation of impossible deadlines.
- Constantly bringing up previous mistakes.
Communication is Key
All staff members, from the part-time worker to the managers and everyone in between, need to
understand the bullying policy. Explain how to make a complaint, who to speak with, and what
the process will be once the complaint has been made. Include what the progressive discipline
steps will be if an employee is found to be bullying.
Provide training for all staff members on an ongoing basis. Including new employees and future
staff meetings. Training doesn’t need to be solely focused on bullying. It can include topics that
will help staff members work together.
Types of training could include:
- Interpersonal skills
- Communication skills
- Confidence builders
- Team Building
Policies and training only work if you follow through. Be open to hearing what a staff member
has to say, give them time to talk. Investigate the potential incident. Any incidents that are
found to be against the bullying policies need to be addressed. Use the progressive
discipline outlined in the policy to make informed decisions.
If you need help in creating a bullying policy for your workplace, please reach out to us at
SH Consulting. We are here to help.