Preventing Workplace Bullying

Dr. Ryan Giffen

Operating a business is difficult when it comes to relationships between workers. Having a harmonious workforce leads to the most production possible. Sour relationships create lower numbers and profits. An even worse level of disharmony can occur when there is workplace bullying going on. This can lead to lowered numbers, dropped morale, and even the loss of good employees. This is why management must do everything they can to prevent workplace bullying.

The Commonality of Workplace Bullying

Workplace bullying is more common than most people think. A study by CareerBuilder found that “Twenty-eight percent of workers reported they have felt bullied at work."  Nearly one in five (19 percent) of these workers left their jobs because of it. This is a significant percentage of workers who are experiencing bullying on the job. Bullying makes it harder for employees to perform. When bullying occurs within a company, they could find themselves losing some of their best employees.

Employees should stand up for themselves against bullying. However, management also needs to have a hand in mitigating this behavior. Make it clear that bullying behavior is not tolerated. Make it known there are consequences for workplace bullying. Employees need to report these incidents to management and management must document them. A clear line of communication between staff and management is important. A culture in which employees can comfortably express concerns is imperative.

Taking Action

Management must rapidly take action regarding any report of bullying. If they do not, employees will feel it is pointless to report them. This leads to continued bullying and the likelihood of pushing employees out. Sometimes management justifies not taking action because the employee doing the bullying is a good worker. This fosters a level of distrust among other employees. The work culture must show you take employee concerns seriously, regardless of who it involves.

Taking appropriate action on the report. In an ideal world, people would not lie or skew their stories. This is often not the reality. The Human Resources department must conduct a proper investigation of the incident(s). They must ensure that all the information is gathered. This includes what exactly happened, statements from any witnesses, accounts from both sides, and other such details. Through meticulous data gathering, management will get a proper account of what happened. The corrective action should depend on the severity of the incident. Something as simple as a meeting to discuss the inappropriate behavior is a mild corrective action. If the bullying continues, more drastic corrective actions are necessary.

Ethics in the Workplace

To oversee and prevent bullying in the workplace, assign an individual or team to oversee ethics within the company. The Department of Human Resources is generally tasked with ethical oversight. However, smaller companies don’t have such luxury. Therefore, the individual or team tasked to oversee ethics must get trained in making effective management decisions. They must understand compassionate resolution handling. Whoever has the mantle of this position needs to make an objective and sometimes difficult decisions. In some cases, a bully continues their behavior over and over regardless of consequences. In such a case, let them go.

About Dr. Ryan Giffen

With over 20 years of experience, Dr. Ryan Giffen is an expert in human relations and business culture. His career began in hospitality, leading operations and human resource departments for Fortune 500 companies and the like. Not long after, Ryan found his passion for teaching and consulting. He earned a Ph.D. in Hospitality Management with a Human Resources focus from Iowa State University and now works as an assistant professor at California State University, Long Beach. For over a decade, he continues to research and speak on organizational culture, relationship intelligence, and leadership effectiveness. Ryan is also the founder of Inospire, a company helping bosses and employees build stronger relationships with one another.  Lastly, Dr. Giffen is producer and host of the Corporate Shadow Podcast. a show helping everyday employees overcome workplace nonsense.