The Payroll Blog

News, tips, and advice for small business owners

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How to Stop Workplace Bullying

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Unfortunately, sometimes work can be a little like high school – a bunch of people with only mild commonalities are thrown together and expected to co-exist. Sometimes they make great friends, other times they’re arch enemies.

As a business owner, you take great pride in hiring the right employees. You also take great pride in providing a safe work environment. If a worker begins to bully others, regardless of the reason, this is a serious situation that needs to be taken care of without delay.

Did you know that, according to one study, approximately 35 percent of workers have experienced bullying firsthand? Other estimates have it as high as 96 percent.

A Forbes article describing the latter study, suggests workplace bullying can take on multiple forms - physical intimidation, going after someone's reputation, verbal abuse, assault - and can take place over years.

This kind of bullying at work could be a particular problem in a small business environment, where employees are often working in close proximity, and policies and regulations about behavior are not necessarily clearly defined. Many small businesses, for instance, won't even have an HR department.

The other complicating factor is that the people being bullied often do not report it. So as the business owner and CEO, you have to keep an eye out for these unhealthy dynamics. It's not only a liability issue, but a serious detriment to your company culture.

Although you may hope that this problem can be worked out on its own, this is not typically the case. Instead, you should take the following steps:

  1. Schedule a meeting with all employees. During this time, discuss the importance of maintaining a safe work environment. Don't accuse anybody of being a bully, but be stern in saying that this type of behavior is not acceptable. This is often times enough to stop a bully dead in his or her tracks.
  2. Confront the bully. Before you accuse the person of bullying others, get their side of the story. Make sure you give this person the chance to tell you what has been going on, as you may unearth some details that you were not previously aware of.
  3. Add anti-bullying language to your employee handbook. If you don't yet have this in place, now is the time to make a change. Your employee handbook should include information on why bullying will not be permitted, as well as the consequences. By providing this to all new hires, as well as those who are currently working for the company, you can curb bullying before it becomes a problem.

It only takes one bully to turn a workplace upside down. This can have a negative impact on the person who is being bullied, as well as the rest of the office. From decreased production to an increased chance of an incident, the seriousness of workplace bullying should never be overlooked.