• Managing people

10 Ways to Stop Bullying at Work

Even remote workers experience bullying—now is the time to stamp it out


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Despite the focus on dignity, justice and mental health brought by the Me Too movement, a survey earlier this year found that a quarter of employees (24%) believe that concerns about bullying and harassment are swept under the carpet in their organizations. The report from CIPD (the UK’s professional body for HR) highlights an ongoing issue which has not gone away and may have been be exacerbated by the Covid crisis. 

During this time of remote working, furloughs and lay-off, when uncertainty and fear are rife, boosting morale and helping employees cope is a number one leadership priority. Now, more than ever, with cyber bullying being driven higher by the pandemic, stamping out bullying is imperative.

How teams working from home, or otherwise disrupted by the pandemic, are managed and led is not just about adjusting processes. Rather, it is about real human connection with team members—a connection that in particular must seek to uncover and address all forms of bullying and harassment. 

Thom Dennis

In support of this month’s anti-bullying week Thom Dennis, CEO of Serenity in Leadership, calls for systemic action to tackle the problem. “Whilst bullying can sometimes be down to one individual, it can often be deep rooted right in the core of a business. Commitment and persistence are required to alter a culture of bullying because it will show up at every turn, taking many forms, therefore demanding systemic solutions." 

“The world is forcing us to pay attention to lingering problems more urgently than ever before. Real change on the issues of dignity, justice and mental health are long overdue. Businesses need to keep attending to and identifying bullying and inequality problems to make the changes that will benefit both our people and our businesses. Organizations thrive when people thrive.” 

Ten approaches to stamping out bullying at work

Dennis offers these ten ways organizations we can address bullying in the workplace:

  1. Work at a systemic level for real change rather than just ticking the boxes. Respect must be a key value throughout every part of the workplace. Bullying must be seen as unacceptable. Full stop.
  2. Diversity of race, gender, sexual orientation, disability, and social differences—businesses need to be passionate about inclusion for everyone—the importance of belonging and connection in an unconnected world has never been more vital. Active, genuine inclusion is the single most effective way of eliminating dysfunctional behaviour.
  3. Leaders need to master responsible power to enable workplace resilience. Egoless leaders who are seen by colleagues as impactful and inspirational are never ones who abuse their power. Instead these leaders work with transparency, accountability, and inclusivity.
  4. Clear protocols about what to do if you are being bullied or if you see someone being bullied are key and regular policy meetings should be held. There must be clear consequences for bullying too, with written bullying and harassment policies, and a clear code of conduct or duty of care to employees.
  5. Don’t depend on low statistics to prove that a particular problem doesn’t exist in your organization. However comprehensive and all-encompassing your protocols are, there will be a significant proportion of people who will not make use of them, despite your reassurances. There are other ways to listen to people and you need to have these separate conduits.
  6. Understand disconnection in the way we work can mean emotional disconnection and fragmented communication which creates isolation and anxiety and allows bullying to go even more unnoticed.
  7. Drill down into power and privilege in the workplace and its use and misuse. Are certain staff members being disempowered by others?
  8. Emotional intelligence is key to a well-functioning work environment and should be highly valued as it is key to personal and professional success.
  9. Create real dialogue. We need a safe space to talk about our concerns with leaders. Bring change through facilitated dialogue so that people with the total opposite views can hear each other, and find ways to eliminate biases.
  10. Accept that change in business is difficult for everyone, more so than ever, and actively ensure good communication, that plans are as transparent as possible in order to face uncertainty head on and that employees are treated equally.

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