According to the report presented by the University of Louisville, workplace bullying is a repeated action of one employee or a group of employees towards another individual or group. These actions are focused on intimidation, and they put the safety and health of an employee at risk (n.d., p. 1).
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Bullying in the workplace is predominantly connected with the abuse of power by an individual or a group. Behavior that is considered bullying is intimidating, degrading, and offending as well as humiliating for an employee, which is often observed by all workers in a facility. Furthermore, bullying differs from aggression, which is a one-time act, in that it is a repeated pattern of behavioral attacks towards an individual.
In the majority of instances, workplace bullying occurs between employees of a similar rank rather than a supervisor and employees. Statistics on workplace bullying do not show favorable results—approximately one in four American employees have reported bullying in the workplace, which would be thirty million people (University of Louisville, n.d., p. 3).
Bullying in the workplace can occur in a number of different ways, for instance, in a routine situation, via e-mail or corporate chat rooms, or through social media; however, in some cases, workplace bullying can exceed the limits of the workplace and transfer to the private life of a bullied individual (Safe Work Australia, 2013, p. 4). Furthermore, bullying is predominantly targeted at a person a bully is supposedly threatened by; thus, the target of bullying may not even understand the reason for being bullied. Lastly, compared to harassment, which is illegal, workplace bullying is unfortunately not.
Dealing with Workplace Bullying
Potential Workplace Bullying Identification
Dealing with bullying in the workplace is an issue that should be a top priority for a responsible leader. It is anticipated that appropriate mitigating procedures, policies, and a fair process of investigation for both parties of a conflict will, subsequently, resolve the issue (Quigg, 2016, p. 116). Thus, the issue of solving workplace bullying conflicts requires a strong leader that is able to identify primary aspects of the conflict, resolve it, and prevent it from occurring in the future.
The following process may aid in identifying primary characteristics of bullying as well as assessing the risks for it to appear:
- Getting feedback through interviews from employees that have left or are leaving the company;
- Getting feedback from the company’s supervisors and managers as well as other parties that have direct contact with employees on both external and internal levels;
- Monitoring the reports of incidents that occur in business, including claims for compensation, absence from the workplace, employee turnover, and any other instances that are linked to unexplained behavior or sudden changes in employees’ attitudes;
- Making sure to recognize the changes in relationships among staff, managers, business partners, and clients (Safe Work Australia, 2013, p. 8).
Management, Review, and Risk Control
Risks connected with workplace bullying can be mitigated by means of creating a supportive and peaceful environment for work and cooperation, where every member of the staff is being treated with respect and tolerance.
Successful measures of control involve both the level of the organization and the individual patterns of behavior of every employee. Workplace bullying risk control involves setting the standards for behavior in the workplace, designing safe frameworks of performance and operation, developing respectful and productive relationships between all staff members, implementing procedures of responses and reporting, and provision of further training.
Through the creation of specific measures of control, business supervisors should continue with the review of the measures to make sure that the risk management is unified and effective. In a majority of cases, a successful review is a consultation with all members of the staff as well as the representatives of safety and health in the workplace, if there are any (Cava, 2013, p. 31). Such a review is recommended to be conducted when bullying in the workplace has already been identified, when the safety and health committee has requested a representative, and when new information about workplace bullying has become available.
Information that is required for an effective review of workplace bullying instances can be collected through a variety of channels, such as employees’ sick leaves or confidential surveys. The acquired evidence will be beneficial for reviewing the morale changes in employees, whether they are open to talking about unreasonable behavior, whether there is raised awareness about issues of workplace bullying, and whether the anti-bullying policies are being enforced in a proper manner. The results of the interviews and surveys should be presented to the company’s management and health and safety representatives in cases when it is applicable (Tehrani, 2012).
Furthermore, some companies offer their employees counseling services. Such services can be instrumental in acquiring all necessary information for workplace bullying management. Apart from this, counseling services can help the bullied employee to develop a set of skills and methods of dealing with being a target of a bully while at the same time mitigating the negative effects caused by bullying.
Thus, a human resource manager should be responsible for all information on a counseling program for every employee, if there is such a program. In addition, employee unions can also be parties in offering necessary information on what to do and where to go for additional information and assistance in issues connected to bullying in the workplace (Dealing With Workplace Bullying: A Practical Guide for Employees, 2007, p. 3).
How to Respond to Reports of Workplace Bullying
An effective response to bullying in the workplace can be beneficial in mitigating the situation as well as reinforcing the idea that workplace bullying should not be treated irresponsibly or inconsistently.
Received workplace bullying reports are to be responded to within the limits of appropriate timelines. Both parties of a conflict should be informed as to the timeframe in which the report will be reviewed and assessed to make sure that the employees are not ignored or dismissed. Apart from responding to reports promptly, all reports should be taken seriously; only after the review and assessment should decisions about whether the reported behavior was bullying be made.
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Within the timeframe of an ongoing workplace bullying investigation, the management should maintain the confidentiality of all parties until a final decision is made. To ensure the fairness of the investigation, the alleged bully should be considered innocent until proven otherwise. Furthermore, the response to workplace bullying allegations should be impartial and critical; this also includes the way in which all parties of the conflict are treated (Rayner, Hoel, & Cooper, 2003, p. 27).
Workplace Bullying Investigations
The company’s employers should create a number of procedures that give information about the ways in which complaints and incidents of bullying will be treated. The procedure of investigating the reports about bullying should be reasonable, with an objective to address the issue in the fullest scope possible.
The main objective of a bullying investigation in the workplace is to determine when the alleged bullying has occurred. Some investigations show that the reported behavior is harassment rather than bullying. An employer should be clear that all complaints will be regarded seriously and addressed as soon as possible (Work Safe BC, 2013, p. 12).
An investigation on workplace bullying should be implemented by an unbiased individual, who is experienced in investigating and dealing with similar matters. If an investigation is carried out internally in the company, it is crucial to make sure that all entities involved maintain neutrality and are qualified enough to conduct an analysis of the case. If an investigator from the company is not available, then it is advised to involve an external investigator, who should also be objective and unbiased, making sure to focus on whether the bullying allegations hold any substantive ground.
When an investigation is implemented, an investigator has to provide an extensive report to the employer that will then make decisions about what further actions are to take place. The findings of an unbiased investigation are to be communicated to both parties that were involved in the conflict. If the alleged bullying holds ground, authoritative bodies in the company are to undertake further actions to ensure that the previous conflict will not emerge again. It is important to note that actions may vary from one instance to another as actions of conflict mitigation directly depend on the extent of the bullying, the size of the organization, and its structure.
However, in general terms, actions can include the following:
- Review of policies connected to workplace bullying;
- Provision of a warning;
- Request for a formal apology;
- Providing further information to raise awareness;
- Transfer to another department;
- In the most severe cases, dismissal and involvement of authorities (Safe Work Australia, 2013, p. 19).
Conclusion and Further Advice
Every individual, as a part of society, has a right to work in a respectful and safe environment; thus, bullying can be considered an issue of health and safety (People’s Law School, 2014, p. 3).
When an issue of bullying in the workplace arises, parties should not resort to confrontation but should make a formal allegation and look for further advice from fellow employees, employers, and representatives of unions (Mind, 2004, p. 11). However, the main responsibility remains in the hand of an employer, who has to create a policy of no tolerance towards bullying as well as involve representatives of a Human Resource department that will monitor the cases of bullying in the workplace.
When reported or even witnessed, incidents of behavior should be dealt with immediately. Complaints should be addressed promptly with the application of the principle of “innocent until proven guilty.” On the basis of the extent of bullying, further actions may vary, from asking the bully or the individual that filed a false allegation to provide a formal apology. In cases when the accused is guilty of his or her alleged behavior, further actions may vary from warnings to transfers or sometimes dismissal.
Further advice for dealing with bullying in the workplace involves the establishment of anti-bullying policies and transparency in order to ensure that every employee is working in a safe and supportive corporate environment.
Cava, R. (2013). Dealing with Workplace Bullying: Society’s Corporate Disgrace. Queensland, Australia: Cava Consulting.
Mind. (2004). How to Deal with Bullying at Work. Web.
People’s Law School. (2014). Workplace Bullying & Harassment. Web.
Quigg, A. (2016). The Handbook of Dealing with Workplace Bullying. New York, NY: Routeledge.
Rayner, C., Hoel, H., & Cooper, C. (2003). Workplace Bullying: What we know, who is to blame and what can we do? New York, NY: Taylor & Francis Inc.
Safe Work Australia. (2013). Dealing with Workplace Bullying – A Worker’s Guide. Web.
Tehrani, N. (2012). Workplace Bullying: Symptoms and Solutions. New York, NY: Routeledge.
University of Louisville. (n.d.). Workplace Bullying. Web.
Work Safe BC. (2013). Toward a Respectful workplace: A Handbook on Preventing and Addressing Workplace Bullying and Harassment. Web.