How human resources can put steps in place to avoid workplace bullying

This is not the most palatable topic to discuss, but workplace bullying leads to a significant burden of harm. Workplace bullying is rife through many industries.  With the high burden that a lack of productivity brings to the workforce, workplace bullying is one area we can target to reduce this burden.
The impact of workplace bullying is considerable. Demotivated employees will cease to be productive if a bullying culture is not properly handled,  and the smear of an anti-bullying legal case is very damaging to a company’s reputation. In order to address this unfortunate potential behaviour, human resources should act proactively to prevent bullying from occurring. So what can be done to prevent workplace bullying and the negative consequences that come from it?

Appco was the prime example of workplace bullying

The most prime example of a bullying culture is that of Appco. Appco is an Australian company specialising in Field Sales representatives for charities. The workplace culture within Appco has become the subject of a class action lawsuit. Through Appco’s unparrelleled toxicity, we can learn how to stamp out workplace bullying. The main reason Appco found itself in a toxic environment is simple. It didn’t have a functional human resources department, that was able to prevent workplace bullying by creating culture in which it is unlikely to survive.

How to prevent workplace bullying

  • Firstly, generate an anti-bullying policy which makes it clear what behaviours are unacceptable.  Define what bullying constitutes and what employee and employer rights and responsibilities look like.  Maintain this policy and regularly run refresher advertisement campaigns around the office to ensure the message is clear.
  • Have an Open Door policy and develop a good sense of rapport with your employees. Let them know they can talk to you about anything that troubles them at work, and regularly check in. 
  • Train managers to recognise and intervene in early warning signs of bullying behaviour. While one incident of inappropriate behaviour is not seen as bullying,  this can quickly escalate. Have workshops enabling managers to sit down and have difficult conversations around bullying behaviour.
  • Keep an eye out for employees in distress and act early by approaching them and referring them to counseling if necessary, whilst responding to the incident at hand, and those responsible for the bullying. 
  • Humour is a particularly tricky area. Whilst humour in the workplace can improve mood,  foster creativity and productivity and should not be discouraged, certain jokes can be offensive and contribute to a bullying culture. It should be obvious that racist, sexist and otherwise inappropriate  jokes will not be tolerated. 
  • Ensure performance feedback is respectful. Performance feedback with the goal of assisting employees to improve their work is an effective way to help employees be their best, and constructive criticism should come across this way. Ensuring that performance evaluation is unbiased and non-personal can prevent performance management being seen as bullying.

Following the above-described steps can assist in both preventing and dealing with bullying behaviour in the workplace. It is important to follow your own policy and set an example. Any bullying behaviour that does occur should be dealt with swiftly and fairly. Not only will this improve the culture of your workplace, and promote productivity, this will also help to reduce the significant issues that stem from having a toxic culture. 

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3 thoughts on “How human resources can put steps in place to avoid workplace bullying

  1. Elze Prusseit says:

    Sorry to hear your story “Late Night Girl”, no-one should suffer workplace bullying. Certainly, Human Resources should set an example and should never be part of the bullying. I’m glad to hear you survived and continue to speak out. Hopefully, as more and more people talk about the problem that Bullying creates, the less it will become an issue.

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