Tackling workplace bullying – the advice you need to follow

CIPHR’s head of HR shares how you can create a kinder workplace by stamping out workplace bullying

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CIPHR’s head of HR shares how you can create a kinder workplace by stamping out workplace bullying

Have you ever felt ignored at work, been treated unfairly, or undermined by managers or colleagues? These are all examples of workplace bullying – which can occur in the office and when working remotely – but how can HR address and tackle cases of bullying?

“Workplace bullying can have a serious impact on morale,” says CIPHR’s head of HR, Gwenan West. “If HR teams don’t deal with any cases of bullying, this can create a culture of uncertainty and a lack of trust in your organisation. Employees won’t feel safe and this can affect turnover, your environment, and your reputation as a result.”

Today, the need for a safe and healthy work environment is more important than ever. According to a 2019 survey, nearly 94% of surveyed employees said they have been bullied in the workplace, with over half saying they were bullied by a boss or manager. With more people working remotely in the current situation, HR also has to be aware of cyber-bullying, with many cases of bullying potentially being hidden on Zoom, Skype, or even email.

If employees are being bullied by a manager, who may or may not be aware that they are using bullying tactics, West says HR has to put relevant training into place. “It’s up to HR to train or re-train managers and to coach them into working and communicating in different ways.”

If managers are not using bullying tactics, training is still just as important, she adds. “Training helps HR provide managers with the tools they need to pick up on any internal issues and to create an open environment where employees can communicate any experiences of workplace bullying. Managers can also understand how they should be speaking to employees and how they should be handling any performance issues.”

Alongside training, West says that it is crucial for HR to make sure the right policies are put into place in order to “create a culture where employees feel like they can speak up if they are being bullied, or if their colleague is being bullied.

“Organisations should have a bullying, harassment, and discrimination policy in place, but it’s not good enough to just have a policy – HR has to live and breathe these policies. By following the policies, HR can create a safe working environment and a positive and open culture where bullies are actually dealt with, and where employees’ mental health doesn’t suffer as a result.”

West says HR professionals who need to tackle workplace bulling should “get to know your managers and your people. Make sure that all anti-bullying messages come from senior leadership; it’s HR’s responsibility to ensure that senior leadership lead by example in stamping out any unacceptable behaviour.”

For any employees who are experiencing workplace bullying, West adds: “HR is the best place to turn to; they should listen to your complaints in confidence, be empowered to take action where necessary, and be able to provide you with practical support such as details of national bullying helplines or your organisation’s employee assistance programme (EAP).”