What if there were a bully in your organization, slowly making the workplace toxic, and you didn’t even know it? What if you hadn’t been diligent in trying to prevent workplace bullying, and something happened to the target? Our employment lawyers discuss what you need to know about preventing and addressing bullying in the workplace.
1. WHAT WORKPLACE BULLYING LOOKS LIKE
Workplace bullies tend to be people who are:
- Very insecure, have poor or non-existent social skills, and little empathy
- Threatened by the good work of the target
- Looking for ways to feel more secure by attacking and diminishing more capable coworkers
Workplace bullying targets tend to be people who are:
- Dedicated, well-liked, and good at their job
- Highly motivated to do well
- Want to avoid conflict and keep their job
It’s easy to see how in this dynamic, the bully acts out of his or her insecurity—often in subtle, small ways over and over every day—to attack or threaten the target, who doesn’t want to cause trouble and keeps quiet.
2. THE COST OF WORKPLACE BULLYING
What our employment lawyers know from handling numerous workplace bullying cases is that the cost of workplace bullying is high and far-reaching.
Potential impacts on the target
- Begins to doubt their ability to do their work properly
- Quality of their work suffers
- Avoids taking initiative or solving problems because doing so would expose them to the bully
- Experiences mental health struggles, including anxiety, depression and worse
- Because of the repetitive and unavoidable nature of workplace bullying, it can actually rewire neuro-pathways, which take years to repair
- Stress and stress-related physical ailments, which often lead to health leaves from work or worse. In a recent case, a PEI woman was awarded WCB benefits after the heart attack that caused her husband’s death was linked to workplace bullying.
The impact on the workplace and organization
- Others stop communicating with the target to avoid becoming targets themselves
- Teams become and develop reputations for being dysfunctional
- Recruiting and retaining staff becomes a difficult, ongoing and expensive challenge
3. HOW EMPLOYMENT LAWYERS RECOMMEND BEING PROACTIVE IN DEALING WITH WORKPLACE BULLYING
- Create a strong policy
Your workplace’s bullying policy must contain practical steps to prevent and respond to bullying in the workplace.
The policy should:
- describe what constitutes bullying and what does not
- explain how witnesses and targets should report bullying
- explain how you will respond to complaints
- describe a fair and thorough process to use to investigate bullying
- describe the consequences of bullying
- Train your teams on the policy
It’s not enough to have a strong written policy. You must ensure your teams are trained so they know what bullying is, where to find the policy and how to use it when they encounter workplace bullying.
- Lean on employment lawyers for expertise
Gillespie’s lawyers who specialize in employment law have acted as advisors at various stages to help organizations prevent and investigate and deal with workplace bullying, including:
- Drafting and implementing policies, including designing responses to complaints
- Training team members about workplace bullying
- Investigating and responding to complaints to ensure fair and thorough processes are used to determine whether bullying occurred and to decide how to respond if bullying occurred
With our employment law team on your side, your organization has the best chance of preventing bullying or ending it and helping the target and your workplace recover. Contact us to arrange your free consultation with one of our employment lawyers.