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Bullying doesn’t stop in the playground

23 Nov 2015 - Blog

Bullying doesn’t stop in the playground


According to this article from the BBC bullying in the workplace is rife. The article states that the most common forms of bullying, highlighted from research conducted for a UK law firm of 2000 people, are “rudeness, bitchy or gossiping behaviour, and humiliation in front of colleagues.” It didn’t end there. Some people also mentioned, “shouting, finger-pointing and swearing.”


The effects

Workplace bullying can increase employee stress and impact their wellbeing both inside and outside of work. It can also contribute to increased sick leave, absenteeism, and lateness and reduce workplace productivity. Not only do these factors impact the person being bullied, but they can also impact those around them and create an unhappy, and a potentially toxic working environment.

So what makes people become workplace bullies and how can we stop bullying when it starts, or, better still, prevent it altogether?


What makes people become workplace bullies?

Some of the reasons people resort to workplace bullying are:

  • Envy of high achievers
  • Perceived or actual unfairness in rewards, recognition and performance management processes
  • The perpetrator is also being bullied and does not know how to handle the situation
  • Difficulties inside or outside of the workplace leading to transference behaviour
  • Those being targeted are vulnerable.


Unfortunately, the reasons for workplace bullying are not so different from those that happen in the playground. Fortunately, they don’t have to be tolerated in your workplace. Here are some effective ways to stop bullying when it starts, and further ways to prevent it from happening altogether.


How to stop workplace bullying when it starts

Create or reiterate a workplace code of conduct. This would include how people speak to one another, how meetings should be conducted, and the consequences of inappropriate behaviour.

Understand the reasons behind the bullying. Understand what is causing the bully to act and bring the perpetrator and the sufferer together to discuss their issues. If one-on-one discussions do not resolve the conflict, HR can act as a mediator until there are no longer issues.  Christine Comerford for Forbes describes some effective neuroscientific methods for dealing with workplace bullies.

Don’t let the issue fester. It is a leader or manager’s duty to act as a role model for the team and to nip the inappropriate behaviour in the bud. By allowing bullying to continue, team members will lose faith and trust in the leader and it is likely to create toxicity within the team and the organisation.


How to prevent workplace bullying

Create awareness. Help employees to develop awareness of each other’s personality traits and working styles, and of their own. Offer coaching to help people to nurture their best leadership styles and to support them to make changes where they could approach things differently.

Have an open door. Make it known that bullying behaviour is not tolerated and if anyone experiences any such behaviour that the door (either a leader or manager’s door and the door of HR, is always open to discuss such matters confidentially.)

Know your people. You may already have suspicions about those that may be bullying others. Take the time to get to know the approach of each of your team members and address issues before they escalate.


If you are suffering from bullying at work, you can find more resources at Remember,

“It may not be easy to talk about the harassment you are suffering at work, but we do know that sharing how you are feeling and confiding in someone that you trust can help to avoid emotions bubbling over into your personal life.”


Final thoughts 

Workplace bullying is a real issue but it can be prevented and stopped if it’s occurring in your workplace. Keep your eyes and ears open and you can prevent your employees, and your organisation, from suffering unnecessarily.


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