Bullying – Is it happening in your workplace?

In the news lately there have been an overwhelming number of stories about children and adolescents being a victim to a bullying. Did you know that reports of workplace bullying are on the rise? It’s been a hot topic in the HR realm – adding anti-bullying policy to your handbook, but is it still happening in your workplace right under your nose? Are you missing some of the signs?

Teasing and banter is common in workplaces, but when does teasing cross the line? I’ve done some digging and found 3 helpful guidelines about when bullying may be happening right under your nose.

David A Davis, the National Director of Client Training at Ogletree Deakins, provides us the following guidance:

  1.  The teasing and banter is not returned. The person on the receiving end does not reciprocate the behavior.
  2. It is directed at one person only. The focus of the jokes is a single individual, not many.
  3. The banter is personal and generally focuses on weakness, deficiency, or inferiority.

These three signals may help us to better identify sensitive situations that could result in complaints of bullying. No one wants to work somewhere that is so uptight that banter is outlawed, but I think this lays the framework for when banter and jokes cross the line.

So now what?

It’s great to have an anti-bullying policy at work, but if that is where the effort stops, then the policy is falling short. Here are a few things you can do to minimize these sensitive situations:

  •  Train managers on the warning signs and encourage them to report sensitive situations or step in. By interrupting the sensitive situation, it puts a stop to situation. Once the situation has been stopped, work with the manager and employees involved to resolve and change behavior.
  • Do not wait and hope the situation will resolve itself, especially if the issue has been reported. Get involved and be armed with what is and is not acceptable behavior in the office.
  • Bring in a trainer and host a training session on workplace bullying. In the training, be sure to examine management styles to ensure managers are aware of behaviors of their own that may be construed as bullying.

Like all sensitive situations, it’s better to address them instead of sweeping them under the rug. Avoiding dealing with the issue could result in bigger issues down the road.

If you haven’t reviewed your anti-bullying policy in a while, it may be time! If you think your policy may need some revamping, Peoplescape can help!