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How to Handle Bullying and Harassment at the Workplace

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In order for any company to develop its business, its employees must be on the same page about work-related, as well as interpersonal matters. This does not mean, as some HR departments wrongly assume, that all workers must be friends with each other but they should get along and communicate as much as possible.

However, this communication is often marred by poor relationships that occasionally escalate into bullying, harassment, and as the final stage, physical violence. Such cases of maltreatment of a single person of an entire group of workers not only diminish their mental health but they affect the morale of the entire company. Therefore, successfully handling bullying and harassment at work should at the top of every employer’s agenda.

How to recognize harassment patterns

In order to thwart bullying at the workplace, you first must learn to identify it correctly. A one-off case of a vehement argument at work does not constitute bullying but if the problems continue, then you need to act. In this sense, the regularity of office fights that more or less involve the same individuals is a clear indicator that someone is being targeted, i.e. bullied. Once you identify who is to blame, it is time to implement tactics to mitigate the situation and do away with harassment at work for good!

Establish a policy against harassment at work

You’d be surprised by the number of companies that fail to integrate anti-harassment policies into their itinerary. People just assume that this detrimental pattern of behavior won’t occur so they fail to indicate to their employees that there is a zero-tolerance policy on harassment.

Don’t rely on common sense and be sure to clearly state in your company policy that harassing other people is a big no-no. Also, don’t forget to make workplace sexual harassment training mandatory for every employee. Ideally, prospective employees should be informed before the job interview about this and current employees should be given a memo.

Also, establish a procedure in case harassment does occur: who is responsible for handling the situation, whom the person being targeted can contact, what are the measures, etc.

Ask the parties involved to stop

Before any sanctions are implemented, you should first try to hold a meeting with the parties involved and kindly ask them to stop the bullying. Start by explaining to them that their behavior directed at a colleague is not only having a profoundly negative impact on their mental health but the well-being of the entire company.

Once the “bully” (try not to use this term when conversing with them) realizes that they are hurting the employer that provides them with a salary each month, they might be persuaded to stop. If you deem it necessary, another employee whom you trust can attend the meeting and try to influence the problematic member of staff.

Taking the legal course of action

If the person doing the harassment is reluctant to drop their pattern of behavior or they promise they will but they don’t, it’s good to acquaint them with the legal options at your disposal. If you’re uncertain what these measures are, consult workplace harassment lawyers who will tell you what legal actions you are allowed to take. Furthermore, they can help the person being bullied to get to know their right in accordance with the national employment law.

Who is to blame?

Sitting down and talking the matters over with the workers who are causing the problems is not always easy because sometimes the bullying is mutual. It is hard in these instances to put the blame on one person so you should with all parties involved. They should work out any issues they might have through conversation, with you acting as a mediator. Think of this strategy as of an intervention of sorts because it is wiser for them to “battle” it out using words in a controlled environment than to have them disrupting the atmosphere at work day after day.

Keep a confidential record of workplace harassment cases

One of the biggest challenges of dealing with workplace harassment is the fact that it’s recursive in nature. Workers might come to an agreement and cease behaving in a disruptive matter for weeks and months, only to lose their temper subsequently.

Because there is no way of knowing when the situation might explode once again so it is useful to keep track of all cases of harassment at the workplace. The record you keep should be private, meaning that none of the other employees, except the HR department, should have insight into it.

The record should contain all the relevant data provided by the person who reported abusive behavior including times and dates, the location where the bullying took place, the exact words uttered, how it made the abuser feel, possible threats, other people present, etc. In addition, your confidential record should include a transcript of the reaction and the statements made by the “bully.”

Punishment as the last resort

We’ve mentioned earlier that getting to know the legal aspect of the issues is quite useful. However, sometimes the abuser cannot be persuaded to stop after you inform them of the legal actions and disciplinary measures that might be taken against them.

As the employer, you should restrain from punishing anyone but sometimes these measures are necessary. Firstly, you can help the employees being targeted report their case to the local fair work commission.

If this doesn’t work, feel free to take matters into your own hands and take away some money from the person’s check at the end of the month. The final and the least popular measure is a suspension or even laying off the problematic individual. 

Once you are able to identify these patterns of behaviour, react instantly because the person suffering bullying at work will underperform because their mental health had been compromised and this is not something they agreed to when they came to work for you. 

 

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