If you want to make sure your workplace is bully-free, you've got to create an environment where respect is paramount. Employees need to know that if they harass each other, tattle, blame, or torment, they're going to be called out for it. Establish rules, transparency, relationships, and open communication at work to rid the office of bullies and fill the office with respectful and collegial behavior.
Rules, first and foremost, help employees to understand what's OK and what isn't. For example, sexual harrassment policies are crucial in the workplace because one person's definition of harrassment might be another person's definition of harmless flirtation. To keep everyone on the same page, establish a set of rules and guidelines. That way, your colleague knows she can send an e-mail with a wink in it, but she can't make a verbal comment about how tight your skirt is. Draw the line and employees will stay on the right side of it or face consequences.
Another important step is to insist on transparency, which helps to protect vulnerable employees from bullying. For example, CC'ing the boss on an e-mail is appropriate when the subject matter is relevant to the boss. CC'ing the boss because you want to be sassy or reveal a mistake a co-worker made is inappropriate, perhaps even bullying behavior. As a manager, be transparent about your feelings toward brown-nosers and tattlers. Tell your team upfront that you don't want to be approached or CC'ed unless information is relevant to you or your advice is needed. Be firm about that fact that any unprofessional behavior or undermining of colleagues will be treated as bullying and won't be tolerated. If you stay transparent about the way you interpret actions and behaviors, your employees and colleagues will know not to push the boundaries.
Foster Good Relationships
Next, foster strong relationships in the workplace to keep bullying at bay, because a bully is less likely to mess with a colleague when that colleague has a team of comrades behind her. Encourage employees to team up, work together on tasks, socialize, and compensate for each other, just as a sports team would. Inc.com suggests arranging your workplace so that employees can see one another and talk. Also, encourage out-of-office interaction by getting employees involved in volunteer programs. The more they build a sense of friendship, the less likely it is that they'll be bullied in the office. More importantly, the bully becomes the odd woman out if your workplace has a healthy sense of social relationships.
Finally, establish open lines of communication between you and your employees. Let your team know up-front that it's OK to talk to you when work gets stressful or the environment begins to cause problems. If employees know that you are an open listener who will be open to concerns and grievances, a bully is dis-empowered by the fact that her victims don't feel they have to hide the problem. A bully can only get away with her behavior if others are afraid to challenge her or come forward about it. Foster a space where coming forward is OK. This way, everyone can focus on the real goal, which is to produce, enjoy, and thrive.
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