How to Handle Bullying and Harassment in the Workplace

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Have you recently noticed things feeling a little tense in your workplace and find yourself wondering if you may be facing the early signs of a workplace bully or burgeoning conflict? As two of the biggest issues facing businesses and organizations of all sizes, bullying and harassment can create a toxic atmosphere that quickly spreads and end up costing employers far more than they bargained for in the long run. Knowing how to spot the early signs and address things quickly and appropriately is essential when it comes to mitigating damage and keeping everyone on track.

At Pivot HR, we know just how disruptive and destructive workplace bullying can be. Below we’ll cover what constitutes bullying and how to move forward. Read on to learn more!

What is Workplace Bullying and/or Harassment?

When we enter into discussions about bullying and harassment, it’s important to remember that we must evaluate behaviours and interactions from a purely objective set of standards. Conflict is inevitable whenever you have people of varied backgrounds and experiences in the same space, but it’s crucial to know what constitutes bullying from a legal standpoint.

WorkSafeBC defines bullying and harassment in the workplace as “verbal aggression, personal attacks and other intimidating or humiliating behaviours.” These actions cross a line into bullying when someone knowingly acts in a harmful manner and seeks to inflict discomfort, intimidation or fear upon another individual. There are many forms bullying and harassment can take, including insults, harmful hazing, calling someone derogatory names, vandalizing personal belongings and spreading malicious rumours, sexual harassment, and more.

You can mitigate such issues by:

Refining Your Code of Conduct

Ambiguity can often be the culprit in a sliding workplace culture, with people taking liberties (unintentionally at first) in their interactions and assuming that no repercussions mean tacit consent. Having a dedicated code of conduct removes this issue and makes it very clear how people are expected to behave when dealing with fellow team members. Your policies should not only outline acceptable and unacceptable actions in detail but must clearly cover the consequences of behaving inappropriately. New AND existing employees should be advised of any changes, and routine updating should be done to ensure full compliance.

Prevent, Don’t React

If you’re assuming everything is “fine” just because you’re not hearing about any issues, you may be missing some key early signs something is awry. Look for key symptoms like individuals suddenly seeming withdrawn, poor performance (in an abnormal manner), a tense atmosphere, and people avoiding certain team members, then collect enough data to know what you’re dealing with as soon as possible.

Act Fast

Bullying and harassment have no place in the workforce and must be addressed immediately. If you have reasonable cause to believe it is happening in your office, do not delay when it comes to taking action. Doing so allows bad behaviours to become far more pervasive and sets a poor example to the rest of the team. Be prepared to act fairly and in the best interest of all parties involved, and know that doing so sets a clear precedent for a healthy culture moving forward.

Learn and Grow

Unfortunately, there’s no way to completely avoid negative experiences like bullying or harassment in the workplace, even with the best plans and policies in place. The reality is, you will more than likely have to deal with such a situation eventually, and the best you can do is navigate it with as much dignity and objectivity as possible, while also taking notes as to how to improve in the future. Partnering with an experienced HR firm in the event of bullying and harassment will not only help you resolve the issue at hand but develop a better plan to address any shortcomings and build a solid foundation for the years to come.

Contact Pivot HR to learn more about our HR support services, including conflict management, bullying and harassment support, workplace investigations, and more today!

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