It is easy to assume that bullying does not happen within your business. Workplace bullies usually aren’t overt with their behaviour, which is why it can be more difficult to stamp out poor practices or abuses of managerial powers.
Bullying also doesn’t happen during a one-off altercation. It can take place over weeks, months or even years and often takes the form of psychological manipulation that can be both hard to detect and even more difficult to prove.
As an employer, it can be tricky to pick up on bullying in the workplace, however, there are some common signs that bullying may be occurring and here is what to look out for.
- Exclusionary behaviours such as ignoring someone, purposefully excluding team members from meetings or team bonding events, leaving team members out of group projects, conversations or decisions and not affording them the same benefits as their colleagues, are all considered to be bullying if found to be repetitious. This should not be confused with genuine forgetfulness or carelessness on a one-off occasion.
- Creating conflict between colleagues, particularly when a manager’s role is to defuse discordance, is also bullying. This may occur in the form of encouraging competition within a team, leaving team members to make decisions about their work that should be made by a manager and publicly ranking the performance of team members.
- Withholding information that a team member is entitled to know, such as information that would enable them to perform their job properly, is considered bullying. Similarly, withholding access to documents or files that a person requires to complete their job effectively could also be deemed as bullying if found to be intentional.
- Spreading rumours, perpetuating gossip, lying or otherwise creating a ‘smear campaign’ against a team member is bullying and, depending on the nature of the false information, could also constitute harassment.
- Moving the goalposts, inconsistency and the constant changing of objectives, expectations and guidelines cannot only be frustrating it can actually be considered bullying.
- In a similar vein, removing or changing an employee’s role or responsibility without a legitimate reason may also be bullying. An unwarranted demotion or replacing a team member’s usual tasks with those that are beneath their skill set without cause can also be deemed bullying. Setting an employee up to fail by placing unrealistic expectations on them may also be bullying.
Sometimes bullies try to pass off their behaviour as a personality trait. Unwarranted criticism, belittling and embarrassing an employee, yelling and name-calling is never acceptable. The employer owes their employees a duty of care and a safe working environment, with which aggressive behaviour is not conducive.
Bullies may also try to shift blame and will never take responsibility for problems that arise, even if they are the team leader. Conversely, bullies will tend to take undue credit whether or not they contributed to the win.
If executed as a one-off event, some negative workplace behaviours may not constitute bullying, however, it is important to remember that bullies tend to work covertly and repeated occasions of any or a combination of the above may be a sign bullying is occurring in your workplace.
Bullying has the ability to affect employees psychologically, emotionally and sometimes physically. Not only is this unsafe for the victim, but it can also be bad for business. Bullying promotes high turnover, increased time off, poor performance and can lead to the organisation gaining a bad reputation if the bullying is not dealt with promptly and in accordance with the law.
An easily accessible grievance policy should be in place to deal with bullying, and the course of action victims can take should be robust and protect them against retaliation. Often bullies will make threats or try to seek revenge on their victims which can be re-traumatising or deter people from speaking up.
If you think that bullying may be occurring in your workplace and you need assistance to stop the behaviour from occurring or to take disciplinary action against the perpetrator, please contact our experienced HR Consultant on 4052 0762.