Workplace bullying, in its many forms, should never be tolerated in a workplace. If you manage employees who exhibit manipulative behavior, attempt to intimidate colleagues or who otherwise bully co-workers, take immediate action to stop it. If you don't step up and protect your employees, you can inadvertently create a hostile work environment and face possible legal consequences.
Talk About Bullying
Just like schools across the nation implement anti-bullying policies, you can do the same thing in your workplace. Be very specific in describing bullying behavior in seminars and training sessions. Employees who attempt to take credit for others' work, spread malicious, false rumors about co-workers, try to coerce others into doing their work or intentionally miscommunicate with colleagues to keep them out of the loop, are workplace bullies. Conduct role-playing workshops in which you show examples of behavior that constitute bullying so there are no misunderstandings about what is considered appropriate and inappropriate workplace behavior.
Create Anti-Bullying Policies
Encourage a practice of reporting bullying behaviors before they get out of control. Have an open door policy and allow employees to come to you with concerns about being bullied or seeing others being taken advantage of in the workplace. Counsel employees to keep track of questionable instances if they feel they're being bullied so they can establish a record of poor behavior. Let employees know, in writing, the consequences for bullying, by way of an addendum to your employee manual.
If you see someone being a workplace bully, or get reports of such behavior, hold a one-on-one private meeting with the offending employee and a representative from your human resources office. Outline the offensive behavior and allow the employee time to provide feedback or defend herself. In some instances, poor behavior may be just that -- a bad sense of humor, an unprofessional approach to providing feedback or asking for input. If the employee just needs to work on her social skills, put her on notice about her behavioral issues. If repeated offenses occur, take action, whether that’s an official write-up, probation or even termination, if actions want.
Create a Positive Environment
Create an environment of inclusion in your workplace in which colleagues are encouraged to support one another, treat each other with respect and be collaborative, contributing team members. Developing this type of environment leads to enhanced productivity, increases morale and decreases instances of negative behavior. Recognize and reward employees for their teamwork efforts as a way to provide positive reinforcement.
- Graziadio Business Review: Are Workplace Bullies Sabotaging Your Ability to Compete?
- State of Missouri, Center for Management and Professional Development: A Few Simple Rules for Dealing with Difficult People At Work
- University of Oklahoma Human Resources: Resolving Workplace Conflict Using Dispute Resolution
Lisa McQuerrey has been a business writer since 1987. In 1994, she launched a full-service marketing and communications firm. McQuerrey's work has garnered awards from the U.S. Small Business Administration, the International Association of Business Communicators and the Associated Press. She is also the author of several nonfiction trade publications, and, in 2012, had her first young-adult novel published by Glass Page Books.