It never ceases to amaze me the way us humans over-complicate our lives because we refuse - or are too lax - to implement some simple strategies in our everyday.
Bullying and bullying prevention is a key cause for concern across our nation; in schools and workplaces alike. There are many reasons why bullying behaviour is rampant - insecure identity being a major cause - but this article is not where I'll share my opinion on those (feel free to check out some of my other blogs into my insights regarding bullying, identity and emotional intelligence). Here I want to give 3 simple strategies that, if implemented consistently, will reduce the risk of bullying in your workplace.
Strategy 1. Communicate clear and concise statements verbally and visually.
It's imperative that you set boundaries - clear expectations, guidelines and consequences - about the type of behaviour that you will not tolerate in your workplace. Yes you need a detailed policy and procedure, but design a one page poster that simplifies your expectations and will act as a daily prompt to your staff.
In this poster, outline what bullying behaviour is; some common impacts it has on individuals and; the process your staff can follow to report bullying in your workplace. Print multiple copies of the poster and post it in prominent places that your staff frequent on a daily basis - staff toilets, staff tea rooms, staff offices, the fridge door etc. Staff should have no reason why they are unaware of how they are expected to behave AND what action they can take to report issues.
Strategy 2. Ensure leadership take responsibility to ACT in accordance with these statements.
If you are a leader, the way you instill a culture of trust in your workplace is by ensuring that your actions reflect what you say you believe in. By doing what you say not only are you leading by example, but you are reinforcing that your employees can trust the statements you have made regarding bullying. When your people trust those statements, and believe that bullying will not be tolerated, they are more likely to ensure that they regulate their own behaviour - they will be motivated! This culture of trust and respect for leadership's authenticity will also be a protective factor in reducing the risk of bullying because standards of integrity have been clearly set and modeled.
With regard to specifically acting in accordance with your bullying policies: Ensure you treat others with respect - listen to them and speak in a respectful tone: Don't unfairly isolate or ostracise anybody, don't have obvious favourites: If you need to address an issue, do it with discretion without hurting anybody's dignity: If you make a mistake, acknowledge it and apologise if required: Make yourself open and available - both physically and emotionally - so that your team feel comfortable to approach you.
Strategy 3. Take bullying reports seriously and follow up in a timely and appropriate manner.
Not every complaint or reported issue will require a formal disciplinary process. But each issue reported to you should be investigated as quickly as possible and dealt with according to its merit.
If an employee comes to you with a problem, and sees that you take no action to deal with it they will feel undervalued. Through your lack of action, you are also giving your people reason to doubt your integrity since you (as a member of leadership) have made statements that bullying behaviour will not be tolerated, but you are showing little interest in whether these expectations have been upheld.
Follow up as quickly as possible by; acknowledging the person with the complaint and expressing your understanding of what they are feeling and how they have been impacted; clarifying with that person what could rectify the situation for them (it could be an apology, or simply that the behaviour stops); don't make any promises about what you can deliver, but ensure them you will take all of this into account as you follow up; speak to the other party/parties involved as soon as practicably possible; determine the most appropriate course of action to rectify the situation; communicate clearly (and at regular intervals if this process takes time) with the parties about your progress, thoughts and your suggested pathway for resolution.
By consistently applying these three strategies, the risk of bullying in your workplace will be sure to decrease. Ofcourse some bullies are going to be a problem despite any amount of intervention. They will be in the minority, and always exist despite all your best efforts. But for the majority - those who are teetering on the edge of unacceptable behaviour - seeing/hearing/feeling these expectations outlined and followed up will be a significant and sufficient deterrent to curb their behaviour and influence their choices.
You can influence change by being authentic and consistent! Below is a vlog in which I expand verbally on these 3 strategies for reducing bullying in your workplace. Whether you are a formal or informal leader, this is relevant for you!
Please contact me at wellbalance to discuss training or coaching needs for your organisation.
Kristy is the founder of Wellbalance. She is inspired to motivate leaders and workplaces toward proactive, effective and productive communication with their people, to achieve positive outcomes for all and resolve conflict. Kristy enjoys long walks on the beach and holding hands at sunset (just joking - actually not really!) Kristy thrives on seeing relationships reach their full potential, and celebrates when people come to understand their true value - to love their flaws, accept their perceived failings and grow beyond these. She believes that the entire human race are healthier and happier when they CONNECT - with their people, GROW - in their self awareness and ability to engage with others, and LIVE - life to their full potential.