Identifying bullying and what to do

Identifying bullying and what to do

Bullying. Harassment. Bad Behaviour. All terms we’ve heard before. This blog focuses on identifying bullying and what to do about it. 

There are many ways to identify if you have a bully at work and there is always something the employer can do to resolve their concerns. Let’s look at what bullying is, then what it is not, followed by some tips to resolve it. 

Bullying is a type of action or inaction that is repeated and directed at one or a group of people. Bullying can be multi-dimensional, meaning one person could be bullying one person, or multiple people could be bullying one or more people. The behaviour is unreasonable and can have a significant impact on a person’s physical and physiological wellbeing. 

Examples of Bullying

Direct examples : 

  • Belittling remarks, 
  • Ignoring
  • ridiculing, insulting, teasing
  • Being shouted or yelled at
  • Threats of violence
  • Insulting comments about private life
  • Physical attacks
  • Humiliation
  • Persistent and/or Public Criticism
  • Unwanted offensive actions – using offensive gestures, materials, sexual approaches, offers, or physical contact, suggestive looks
  • Verbal abuse
  • Witch hunts – ganging up on others
  • Intruding on privacy
  • Inaccurate accusations
  • Tampering with personal effects, theft, destruction of property
  • encouraged to feel guilty

Indirect examples:

  • Unreasonable tasks/ deadlines
  • Unmanageable workloads
  • Meaningless tasks
  • Undermining 
  • Withholding or concealing information
  • Undervaluing contribution
  • Constant criticism of work 
  • Exclusion 
  • No training or support
  • Supplying incorrect or unclear information
  • Making hints about job security
  • Sabotage, scapegoating
  • Lack of role clarity 
  • Lack of trust
  • Unreasonable or constant punitive action

What bullying is not: 

  • Performance management
  • Performance improvement processes
  • Setting expectations
  • Reasonable disciplinary action with a fair process
  • One-off incidents

So you have a Bully, what do you do?

You need to carefully investigate the concerns – gather as much information as you can before making a decision. Often these issues are complicated and involve many people and witnesses, make sure you involve them all. 

If it appears complicated, you may wish to engage an independent investigator who will help you with terms of reference to guide the whole process. 

Once an investigation has occurred you can decide what level of action might be needed. For example, if the actions appear unsubstantiated you might consider a letter of expectation, training, and support to ensure it doesn’t happen again. If it appears quite serious your investigation may head towards disciplinary action, resulting in up to dismissal. 

Whatever you do, make sure the person who the complaints are against receives all information, and an opportunity to comment before the outcome is decided. 

What can I do proactively to avoid this? 

This is where the gold is – being prepared and not reactive. Employers have a duty to provide a safe workplace and bullying at work can be disastrous. If you focus on avoiding this before it happens you’ll be better prepared. Some tips: 

  • Work on the culture and values of the workplace, get buy-in from everyone
  • Instill those values in every aspect of work, from induction through to the tea room
  • provide information, such as this, for people to know what bullying looks like
  • have systems and procedures for complaints to be raised without fear of reprisal
  • Offer EAP 

For a confidential discussion please contact me.

Some information has come from WorkSafe