A missed invitation to the annual staff celebration. A group of colleagues snickering as you walk past. A snide remark about what you’re wearing as you sit down at your desk. By themselves, it would be easy to dismiss each of these incidents as the usual obstacles of navigating your workplace’s social hierarchy. But together they paint a different picture, illustrating that bullying at work is rarely obvious at first glance and so requires strategies to combat it which alter the culture and behaviour of employees at their core. Its impact on productivity and employees’ psychological wellbeing can’t be ignored, with the Productivity Commission reporting that workplace bullying costs the economy up to $36 billion annually. Below are a couple of common misconceptions you may have heard about the topic:
“No one looks upset at work, so everyone must be getting along”
While you may be able to recognise someone being bullied if they’re being repeatedly shouted at by another colleague in the middle of the office, most bullying happens behind closed doors. Employees who are the targets of continuous anti-social and intimidation tactics both at work and/or online, could be too afraid to speak up. ‘Not wanting to cause a fuss’ or feeling as if their complaint will be ignored are some key reasons behind bullying being left unreported, which perpetuates a culture of silence and validates bad behaviour.
- As a manager, be proactive in ensuring that communications between employees are respectful and be aware of toxic ‘office politics’ which may indicate some employees don’t feel safe at work. Emotionally intelligent bosses make themselves approachable and knowledgeable about not only the tasks allocated to each team member, but also how they interact with each other and they will step in to resolve conflict where required.
“I was just providing necessary criticism”
At some stage in your career, you’re bound to face some critique of your work. This should be with the aim of helping you improve and not directed as a personal attack. Bullies can mask their overly degrading commentary as ‘constructive criticism’, when its real impact was to damage the victim’s self-esteem and embarrass them in front of other colleagues. While a one-off comment from a manager about your output needing to be of a higher standard may not constitute bullying, assigning meaningless tasks unrelated to the job or unnecessarily overloading someone with work and berating them for not completing it on time could be.
- If you have constructive feedback about someone’s work, have an open dialogue with thoughtful advice on how they can improve. Never make aggressive or unsubstantiated statements which criticize a team member personally.
Encouraging inclusive workplace practices and taking a zero-tolerance approach to bullying will keep employees happy and deliver positive results overall. As a study by PricewaterhouseCoopers shows, each dollar spent on training programs and wellbeing checks provides $2.30 in benefits such as a reduction in absenteeism and compensation payouts.
GRC Solutions is an award-winning provider of compliance training. To find out more about our Diversity & Equality course which details how your workplace should manage and prevent bullying, contact us today.