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How to handle bullying in a team

Author:
Sara Holmberg
Date Published:
November 2023
Length:
5
minute read
How to handle bullying in a team

On the whole, companies are getting so much better at putting employees first by prioritising the employee experience and employee engagement.

Yet, there is still (and always will be) work to be done when it comes to mental health and wellbeing. Because sadly, we live in a world where bullying and harassment are part and parcel of some workplace cultures.

In fact, a 2023 report found 75% of employees have witnessed bullying in the workplace, 64% of employees who have been victims of workplace bullying are more likely to quit their jobs, and 51% of victims reported a lack of management action in addressing workplace bullying… 

That's just sad stats. In the following article we’re going to explain exactly what bullying is, how to spot it, and how to handle it.

 

What is bullying in the workplace?

Imagine constantly not being invited to meetings you feel you should be included in, or overhearing gossip about you on a regular basis in the workplace. You might feel hurt and angry, it might ruin your day, and it might be uncalled for but this act in itself isn’t bullying. If, however, the same team member criticises you every single day for a prolonged period of time then we start stepping into the realm of bullying.

In essence, bullying in the workplace is a pattern of unwelcome and aggressive behaviour that is directed at an employee or group of employees, creating a hostile and intimidating work environment.

This behaviour could be verbal, physical, or psychological (or a mixture of all three). It can be overt and visible or it can be subtle and unseen. Whatever form it takes, it has a devastating impact on emotional and psychological wellbeing, job satisfaction and performance. And, when a culture of bullying is accepted and not acted upon in an organisation, it can lead to:

●     Increased stress in the workplace

●     Increased absenteeism

●     Lower productivity

●     High staff turnover

●     Reputational risk and damage

●     Poor employee engagement  

If you want your employees and your business to thrive, recognising and addressing workplace bullying is essential for maintaining a healthy and productive work environment.

 

How to spot bullying in the workplace and what to do about it 

According to HBR, “bullying is a behaviour of opportunity enabled by organisational environments that allow it to occur and continue. Organisations can’t eliminate egotism from human nature, but it is possible to create systems in which egotistical behaviour is discouraged rather than reinforced.” Here’s our advice when it comes to handling bullying in the workplace: 

1. Have a clear anti-bullying policy

A really good place to start that will help employees do the right thing and managers handle any situations that might arise is to have a very clear anti-bullying policy. In many countries this is regulated by law.

The policy should be full of guidance on how to handle bullying as well as making it super clear on who employees should speak to, what they should see, and the best way they can address any situation of bullying in the workplace.

 

2. Be crystal clear with your expectations

From inductions through to training, make it clear from the get go on what you expect from your employees and the kind of behaviours that won’t be tolerated. By getting this kind of collective buy-in and fostering a culture where employees support each other then you're also helping to create collective responsibility. When you have this in place, and your employees live and breathe your values, bullying is far less likely to happen and, if it ever does, other employees simply won’t sit by and let it happen.

 

3. Act quickly and decisively 

If there are rumours of bullying or bullying is brought to your attention then, as a manager, it’s vital you act quickly. This shows employees what kind of behaviour is acceptable and what won’t be tolerated. Failing to act go sow seeds of doubt and undermine your team's wellbeing.

 

4. Have your finger on the pulse 

First off, it’s going to be incredibly hard for you to spot a problem if you don’t have your finger on the pulse of how your employees are feeling. This means you have to listen to them, you have to ask them questions about how they are, you have to be interested in them, and you have to care about them in a way that goes beyond the workplace. Your employees want to feel safe at work and it’s part of your job to help them do so.

Doing this means having the right tools and communication channels in place alongside a workplace culture that champions employee wellbeing and makes feedback its super power. If you can see how your employees are feeling (as well as being notified when any huge red flags are raised), you can act quickly and address the problem before it grows out of control.

For example, Winningtemp can show you, at a glance, how your workforce are feeling as well as highlighting any urgent areas that need attention. The system and its Bullying and Discrimination alerts identify these situations and promptly alert managers so they can act quickly.

As Katja Odder Erikstrup, HR Director at Baker Tilly says: “Winningtemp gives us a real-time picture of the temperature of the company. This means that we always know what commitment and well-being are like. We can quickly take care of a team that is not feeling well and via the anonymous two-way chat, we can elaborate on the answers and be clear in our response.”
 

Summary

We can never fully eradicate the risk of bullying in the workplace. But with the right mindset, the right tools, and the preparation we can do everything we can to ensure that if instances of bullying arise we can deal with them quickly and effectively.

Handling workplace bullying effectively requires a combination of preventive measures, clear policies, prompt responses to reports, and a commitment to fostering a respectful and inclusive work environment. It's important to create a culture where employees feel safe, valued, and empowered to report any bullying incidents, knowing that their concerns will be taken seriously and addressed appropriately. 

If you do this, both your employees and your organisation will shine.

Discover how Winningtemp can help

 

   

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  • Malesuada
Sara Holmberg
About the Author
About the Author
About the Author
Om författaren
Sara Holmberg
With a strong background in legal and HR consulting in firms such as Fingerprint Cards, PwC and Flex, she joined Winningtemp as Head of HR in August 2021. Sara is passionate about people and believes that the future of work and HR is moving towards an approach where employees feel valued and have the tools to reach their potential. To achieve this aim, she’s focused on working to give employees their desired level of autonomy within their roles, creating a rewards system that focuses on recognising and understanding the needs of employees, from financial welfare to mental health. Additionally, her commitment to wellbeing is shown by her work as a board member at Räddningsmissionen, a Swedish charity working for social rights ensuring everyone has access to a dignified life.

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