What Can Managers Do to Address Workplace Bullying?

According to a 2011 survey by the Society for Human Resource Management, 51 percent of organizations surveyed reported that there had been incidents of bullying in their workplace. In addition to creating a hostile work environment, bullying affects both victims and witnesses, contributing to continued absences, poor health, self-esteem issues, stress, trauma, and depression – which makes it harder for people to do their best work. Here’s how you, as a manager, can prevent bullying and make your office a healthier, happier environment.


(Photo Credit: Joel Kramer/Flickr)

  1. Set an example: Treat your employees with professional courtesy and respect. The tone you set in interactions with your team can very well be replicated by them. If you are unsure of your own management style, seek feedback. You could check with people you interact with on a daily basis – friends, family, and peers. How is your temperament? If you can, arrange for a team or trust building activities through external vendors. Feedback should be anonymous, so that employees are comfortable sharing their views and acting on any feedback.
  2. Have regular check-ins with your team: Provide an opportunity for your team to be able to connect with you in an otherwise hectic schedule. They need to be able to feel comfortable and confident in speaking with you to discuss issues they are struggling with on the job.
  3. Chart out team tenets: Involve your team in coming up with tenets or rules of conduct for your team and define operating principles. This way, your team has helped set expectations and is accountable to following them.
  4. Have an open door policy: That way, employees will not hesitate to connect with you and you are able to know what’s happening outside your office.
  5. Respect employee privacy: Often victims may not want their names shared and alleged bullies may not even be aware of their actions. Be considerate and tactful in the way you handle complaints.
  6. Act promptly and investigate all complaints against bullying impartially: Have HR or your local grievance cell help you through the investigation. Even if your organization does not have an official anti-bullying policy, providing a safe working environment is the priority of every organization.
  7. Take action and close the loop: Consult HR and come up with suitable options for a person who has bullied. You don’t have to disclose the details of the action to the victim, but you could close the loop by saying appropriate action has been taken. In case the complaint was just a plain misunderstanding between the two parties, clarify the situation before you act.

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