Bullying and Harassment: The Importance of Policy in the Workplace

Although many people relate bullying to the school yard, the behavior extends far beyond a juvenile domain.

Not only are bullying and harassment common in the workplace, but they occur throughout entire organizations. Indeed, the idea that only colleagues harass one another, or that only bosses bully their employees, is wrong.

The reality is that all kinds of people employ these behaviors for a wide range of reasons. Sometimes, they may simply not care about the way they treat others, and they simply bring an aggressive personality with along with them to work. Alternatively, an individual may feel their own job security is threatened by a star performer, and try to take them down a notch.

Whatever the reason, these behaviors are toxic for any work environment. Thus, bullying should be dealt with immediately in the workplace.

Create a Dialogue

Some offices don’t openly tackle the issue of bullying until it is necessary to do so; however, discussing the topic prior a negative occurrence is crucial. While adults realize that bullying is frowned upon, many don’t take it all that seriously. What’s more, some people actually feel they relate to their peers in ways that are actually quite sinister.

For example, some will form extremely exclusionary cliques that make others feel quite small. It may be one thing to simply prefer specific company, but it is another to make someone feel singled out. Discussing these issues will reduce employee turnover down the line and keep staff content.

Raise Comfortability

 Even if bullying is strongly discouraged in the workplace, it may still occur. In fact, bad behavior may be completely undetected by staff and managers. As a result, employees need to feel as comfortable as possible raising concerns about negative conduct. There needs to be an accessible place for employees to seek counsel regarding harassment. Further, they need to feel that doing so won’t threaten their reputation or job status. This may require that an HR department handles bullying cases separate from managers, as superiors may be the ones at fault.

Setting Policy

Raising awareness about the effects of bullying, as well as creating open communication about the behavior, are vital to preventing and handling the issue. With this in mind, companies may actually get into a great deal of legal turmoil if they don’t have guidelines in place for dealing with these occurrences. In order to prevent ambiguity regarding what to do in these instances, workplaces should have complete policies on how to deal with them.

Many companies discourage bullying, but they don’t have any formal policies on what procedures take place if a party is found guilty of problematic behavior. They need to determine exactly what constitutes bullying, and what the punishment involves. Evidently, there will be varying degrees of misconduct in the workplace. Deciding the appropriate course of action should depend on the severity of the act, but that should depend on formal policies.