How to Address Workplace Bullying

The first thing we need to establish is that workplace bullying creates a toxic environment.

It impacts your employees, your productivity, and your bottom line. More so, it will impact morale, create a hostile working environment, and can be very costly to the organization if not addressed.

Workplace bullying is defined as: “using your power over a period of time to intentionally harm someone else.” These 3 components need to be in the definition in order to fit the definition of workplace bullying. So let’s break it down further.

Power: It might be someone’s title, role, ability to influence others, social status, social-economic class or even physical strength can be powerful tools to harm someone. I have found that often people that bully in the workplace have a perceived amount of power. They might have information that they are holding on to, or they seem to know people in higher position and use that as leverage. Take away their title, manipulative plays, and they are left with just being a regular person.

Power is what fuels the workplace bully, so in order to decrease workplace bullying, we must tackle not only the behaviors but also redistribute the power.

Time: The idea with time is it must happen more than once, but it could be different types of negative social behaviors. It could be a nasty email, a threatening voicemail, put-downs in meetings, public humiliation, gossip, rumors, retaliation, or reprimanded publicly. If it only happens once, it could just be a poorly skilled manager, emotionally volatile conflict, or an aggressive colleague that lost their cool. Time is a critical part of identifying bullying patterns. The one challenge we often face is the internet. If a workplace bully posts a message, an image, or a meme of you and it goes viral, or people are talking about it at the office, then it is considered workplace cyberbullying. The internet has no sense of time. It is always open and available, so time has entered a new dimension. In that dimension, someone might just get attacked once, but it really never goes away. It stays online for what we can think about as a long period of time.

Intentionally: Basically this comes down to someone intent. Was it done on purpose with intent to harm? Often I see conflicts and miscommunications escalate into power struggles or unresolved conflict, which then festers and causes negative social behaviors to arise, such as gossip, exclusion or rumors. Then, in those cases, it is not necessary workplace bullying but more so workplace drama.

The reason we want to deconstruct the definition is to best identify strategies to stop the behavior and create a positive shift. When we don’t address the proper strategies to stop workplace bullying or drama then the behaviors continue to manifest more covertly.

Here are some strategies to help address and even prevent workplace bullying:

Developing a bullying policy and training on the procedures, protocols, and roll out of the policy.
Having constructive strategies to resolve conflict.
Creating role-clarity and eliminating any positions that foster power hungry roles.

Having training on how to address gossip, bribery, favoritism, rumors, exclusion, and any workplace drama.
Consistently having team building opportunities and training.
Developing a positive procedure checklist, so that employees can see how to foster a positive culture.
Share clear examples of workplace bullying and inappropriate behaviors that will not be tolerated in the workplace.

There are many strategies to address and prevent bullying. It is really about matching the best strategies to your organization, by looking at the culture, values, business structure, and core competencies.

Until Next Time,

Kortney Peagram, Ph.D
Founder and Owner
Peagram Consulting & Bulldog Solution

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