Occasionally, it’s common for our workplace to feel a lot like high school. Rumours and gossip can spread across the hallway, cliques are formed and passive-aggressive behaviour consumes us. Whether we like to admit it or not, workplace bullying is very real. And the effects of it eat away at our mental health, slowly destroy our self-esteem and force us to question our positions at work or even worse, our worth.

Some cripple under the effects and others put on a brave face, hoping the stress of it will pass. But it’s behaviour that shouldn’t be condoned, ignored or pushed under the rug. It doesn’t matter where you work, what your position is or how old you are – nearly half of Australians will experience workplace bullying, increasing the risks of depression, anxiety and post-traumatic stress disorder (PTSD). The stats speak for themselves. But nothing can compare to the negative impact bullying will entail, or the health and workplace problems that come with it. Whether you’re a business owner seeking effective ways to manage workplace bullying, or you’re an employee that has found themselves being bullied, it’s imperative we work together to find a way to beat it.

What is Workplace Bullying?

The first step to dealing with workplace bullying is understanding exactly what it is. As defined by Safe Work Australian, “workplace bullying is repeated and unreasonable behaviour directed towards a worker or group of workers that creates a risk to health and safety. Bullying can take different forms including psychological, physical or indirect – for example, deliberately excluding someone from work-related activities. It can be obvious or subtle, which means it’s not always easy to spot”. Some examples include:

  • Belittling or intimidating behaviour.
  • Abusive or offensive language/comments.
  • Unjustified criticism or complaints.
  • Aggressive or intimidating behaviour.
  • Making impossible demands, setting you up to fail.

Workplace harassment doesn’t just affect those directly being bullied, it also has a negative impact on the entire workforce. Reduced productivity, lost time due to high-stress situations, high staff turnover or lack of job satisfaction and an impact on the business’ reputation can all contribute to the workplace culture.

Evaluate the Situation

The first step is to evaluate the situation. Workplaces are professional environments and there will always be someone we don’t see eye to eye with – and that’s ok, but there’s a fine line between bad attitudes and bullying. Bullies will go out of their way to hurt you, either emotionally or physically. Staff with bad attitudes will more likely be seen by multiple people in the office.

Take a step back to assess and speak to a trusted colleague or employer if in doubt. This is a good time to get into the habit of documenting the situation too. Whilst you don’t want to encourage the behaviour to carry on for too long, keeping a detailed log can be helpful in putting a stop to things.

Confronting the Bully

One of the hardest things to do, especially when the effects of bullying have started to take hold, is to confront them. Even the strongest people can still find themselves being bullied. And a high percentage of staff and business owners will struggle to find a professional, yet firm and effective way of dealing with the situation.

Confront the person in question by outlining the specific behaviours. It’s important to remain grounded and avoid giving them a reaction. After all, that’s exactly what they want and thrive on! Business owners must be prepared to implement performance measurements, with specific ways of controlling the behaviour. Recognise that bullies will generally put others down because of what they’re lacking internally. This shouldn’t condone the behaviour, but is vital in combatting the issue and shifting the bully from tension to empowerment.

Invest in Workplace Bullying Training

If you’re a small business owner, consider investing in workplace bullying training. Staff that are being bullied are encouraged to make the suggestion to their place of work too, which will assist in offering the tools to better manage negative situations. These corporate training services help to reassure employees they are valued in their workplaces and provides a sense of confidence via actionable skills to implement. It’s also a fantastic investment for businesses to control the damages associated with bullying and keep everyone in the office on the same page.

Don’t Tolerate it, Communicate

It’s easy, but incredibly painful, stressful and frustrating, to allow a workplace bully to walk all over you. DON’T tolerate it! Take a stand and communicate the impact it’s having on your work and health. Great business owners will work hard to create a safe and comfortable office environment, which is everybody’s right to have. Business owners must be approachable (in a confidential way) and ensure staff feel good about turning to them for support should bullying occur.

By opening up the lines of communication, refusing to tolerate the negative behaviour and investing in the right resources, we’re all in a better position to minimise the damaging effects.

This article is written by Jayde Ferguson, who recommends Future Institute of Australia – A professional leadership and business training company. You can catch her on Google+.

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