Workplace Bullying Interventions
Posted on April 11, 2012 by TNS Consulting Team (via Scott Spayd)
So your workplace has a bully or two. How are you going to handle the negative impact of a bully on the relationships within the workplace? Some would say it is best to ignore the bully(s), but ignoring the problem does not solve it. When a bully threatens other employees, something must be done. So, what should an organization do to combat bullying?
Much of the literature on workplace bullying focuses on the healthcare professions. Bullying can make patients in medical offices feel that their safety is compromised because of an employee displaying bullying behaviors. An even bigger concern is that an employee engaging in bullying behaviors will fail to make good decisions in the midst of a bullying episode. In the medical field, a poor decision can lead to severe consequences.
To tackle a bullying problem at your organization, you first have to understand why an employee may be a bully. According to Johnson (2011), bullying behaviors are a product of societal, organizational, departmental, and individual factors. This means that different aspects of the organization, coworkers, and outside life can all influence why an employee engages in bullying at work. A bully’s behavior may have nothing to do with anything work-related. Instead, the bully may be having problems in their home life that carry over to their work life in the form of bullying.
In the handful of organizations I have worked out thus far in my life, I cannot remember any of the organizations having an explicit bullying policy. Sexual harassment, personal safety, and honesty/theft policies are the most common policies I recall being in place in most of the organizations I have worked at. For workplace bullying to be subdued, organizations first have to have a very detailed bullying policy that outlines consequences and holds employees accountable for such behaviors.
One of the most effective intervention models utilizes leadership within the organization. Leaders should be trained to identify bullying behaviors before they get out of hand and stop them. Training can provide leaders with the tools necessary in handling such employees. Also, Johnson indicated that the strong leadership can prevent bullying behaviors from ever starting. When leaders demonstrate that such behavior is not tolerated at the organization, employees are less likely to even try bullying in the workplace.
Another option is to use resources to assist the bullying individual as well as the victims. Many organizations have psychological resources available to employees free of charge. Utilizing these resources as well as targeting physical health problems is an important part of helping both parties involved in workplace bullying. There may be a psychological issue that an employee is facing or life event that they simply need to talk with a professional about.
The bottom line is that workplace bullying is not an easy problem to fix. There can be many different reasons and circumstances behind a bully’s behavior. What organizations can do is equip themselves with the best tools possible to combat these problems and build an organization that does not tolerate such behaviors.
Reference: Johnson, S. (2011). An ecological model of workplace bullying: A guide for intervention and research. Nursing Form, 46,55-63.