In our previous article, how to deal with workplace bullies, we shared some tips for preventing bullying at work by employees. Incidents of bullies at work seem to be on the rise, many going undetected for months until a worker goes postal and harms another person. The good news is that human resources leaders and managers are improving at spotting trouble before it starts.
If your workplace is experiencing alleged bullying by an employee, here are some ways to respond legally and ethically. After all, it’s your responsibility as an employer to protect your employees under current workplace laws, and it’s even more important to weed out bullies before they ruin your company in other ways.
1. Be educated on how to recognize workplace bullying.
There are many forms of bullying that can take place in a work environment, from seemingly harmless “teasing” to ostracizing to harassment to outright mental and physical abuse perpetrated on others. It’s important that you understand the signs of bullying at work, so you can address them properly. HR Morning has a good guide for understanding the personality of workplace bullies and their behaviors.
2. Take any complaints or reports seriously.
The best course of action when dealing with workplace bullying is a swift one. Don’t dismiss claims of bullying as minor as any tension or abuse by an employee can quickly spiral out of control. Take claims seriously and use due diligence to get to the bottom of the matter now.
3. Develop a clear written policy on workplace bullying.
If you are concerned there may be workplace bullying going on, now is the time to make sure your employee manual includes a clear policy on bullying, including any disciplinary steps that will be taken with offenders. This should be distributed and a training session should take place so that all employees understand bullying is not to be tolerated in any form.
4. Conduct a confidential workplace investigation.
Within 48 hours of any complaints, be sure to work with the management team to investigate alleged bullying. Talk with the person who has been offended to understand the nature of the abuse. Talk with the person who is being accused of bullying. Offer to mediate a mutually agreement between the parties, because it could be a misunderstanding or there could be a more serious issue at hand.
5. Take disciplinary action with any repeat offenders or employees who endanger others.
If there is a true case of workplace bullying, defined as: Repeated, health-harming mistreatment of one or more persons (the targets) by one or more perpetrators. It is abusive conduct that is threatening, humiliating, or intimidating, or causing work interference (sabotage) which prevents work from getting done, or verbal abuse. (Source: Workplace Bullying Institute) Use the disciplinary steps as outlined in your policy manual, from requiring the employee to take an anti-bullying class to suspension or termination.
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