Career Control: How to Tackle Workplace Bullying
Workplace bullying is on the rise and as a leader, you are responsible for the welfare of your team. It’s not only board reports, stakeholder management, strategy and succession planning that may be on your to do list but throw in a few sour apples and adulthood may not actually be the end of playground politics and demeaning gossip as you first thought.
With fierce and ever growing representation of key areas including diversity, gender equality, and employee rights, the notion that a self appointed queen/king bee being present within your team should be in steep decline. So what’s the reality?
Unfortunately, the research isn’t looking great with ACAS reporting that over half of the UK workers have experienced bullying. The UK staff bullying survey, by solicitors Slater & Gordon, revealed that more than 60% of those who witnessed bullying behaviour observed this take place over a sustained period of time. More alarmingly, less than 50% of those who took part in the study felt that they could do anything about the bullying they suffered or witnessed with a quarter thinking that it was just part of the culture of the business.
Detrimental to every business with high costs relating to absenteeism, productivity and turnover, workplace bullying is noted as one of the greatest disruptors within businesses across the world. So as a leader, how do you not only address but prevent offensive behaviour within your team? What should the procedures be and what support do you have to tackle the office sour apple?
No matter the size of the business, there will be guidance on how to address and deal with grievances and disciplinary matters including the support already in place for employees when dealing with work-related issues.
As a leader you should be setting a good example and being clear and transparent with your team on what is acceptable and unacceptable is a great starting point. Your approach to all employee matters is just as important as any formal policy so keep consistent in your behaviour to send a strong and positive message to all involved. It's surprising how quickly bad behaviour can permeate through a team!
Establish a strong relationship with your team and encourage an open approach to communication within the department. Bullying is not always easy to spot especially if you have back to back meetings on a regular basis so making it known you can be available if there is an issue is extremely important.
It's important to understand different ways to lead different personalities, how to influence, set and manage expectations, as well as how to deal with conflict. This doesn’t come naturally to everyone so if you feel that you need additional training to work with your team effectively then do not hesitate to raise this with your HR team.
The important thing to remember is that not everyone understands what constitutes bullying or the effect it can have on those around them. As a leader it is your responsibility to raise awareness and educate your team on how to create and maintain a safe environment for everyone. This includes transparency on how behaviour can be misinterpreted or cause offense, especially when people come under pressure or stress and project those feelings onto their colleagues.
Focus on creating an environment where employee well being is a priority. This will foster a positive environment which should result in a committed team who are dedicated to yourself, each other and be motivated to excel in their roles.
This is when your HR team steps in, managing the issues reported in confidence and ensuring that all parties are clear on what the course of action will be to resolve any outstanding conflict.
Approach with caution though. Getting HR involved can trigger uncomfortable emotions amongst employees and many feel that involving the HR department means that a formal process will be enacted with immediate effect. This is not always the case and the decision about what to do next is normally made by the person who raised the initial concern.
HR supporting everyone (this includes you!) throughout the process is vital to not only conflict resolution but ensuring that there is a foundation of trust to address any future issues with confidence.
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