Bullying in the workplace: how to stop it
Have you experienced bullying at work? If so, it’s important to know you’re not alone. In fact, 60 per cent of Canadians have reportedly experienced harassment at the office.
Every worker in Canada is entitled to a harassment-free workplace. It is written in provincial legislation in every province and federally. It is outlined in the Occupational Health and Safety Act (OHS) in Alberta. The Workers’ Compensation Board says employers are required to stop and prevent it.
The WCB has several tools to help both workers and employers deal with incidents.
A toxic work environment
If you are an employer, bullying in the workplace can hurt the culture making for a very toxic situation.
The morale in your shop will take a massive hit if bullying is not stopped in its tracks, which will lead to a decrease in productivity and motivation, higher stress and increased absenteeism.
Recruitment and retention strategies will become harder and harder to execute because people will not want to work in a workplace where bullying is not addressed.
The Canadian Centre for Occupational Health and Safety says bullying can make people react in many different ways.
- Frustration and/or helplessness
- Increased sense of vulnerability
- Loss of confidence
It can also include many physical symptoms such as inability to sleep, loss of appetite, headaches, and stomach pain.
All of this can, in turn, hurt your bottom line, as it will result in poor customer service and reduce your business’ corporate image and ultimately erode customer confidence.
What do with a bullying or harassment complaint
Fostering a culture where employees feel safe enough to come forward with a bullying or harassment complaint is the first step. If/when an employee approaches you with a complaint, how you treat them and the issue will set the foundation for next steps.
- Listen. Take the complainant seriously and listen to their story. Ask questions, express empathy and acknowledge their courage for coming forward.
- Gather the facts. Diligently gather unbiased, fact-based information on the claim as soon as possible. This information will be used, in part, to determine if you need to bring in a third party workplace investigator or if it’s within a scope your team is trained to deal with.
- Evaluate. Take a step back and review the information to determine both the severity of the complaint and whether it is a symptom of a more pervasive workplace issue. This will help you make the decision on whether to investigate further or conduct a broader review.
- Seek Advice. As soon as you receive the complaint, it is important that you seek out appropriate legal advice. Although it may not seem like a serious matter, every employee harassment and/or bullying complaint raises potentially serious legal, HR, and policy risks. Make sure your team understands those risks and responds accordingly.
- Respond. Use the complaint as a leadership opportunity by being proactive in addressing broader harassment and bullying concerns. This may take many forms including: workplace remediation, a formal workplace culture review, or dismissing a toxic employee. This will go a long way towards building or rebuilding trust and confidence with your team.
Yes, there are obvious legal and financial costs associated with workplace harassment and bullying, but do not underestimate the effect that inaction or condonation can have on employee morale. One of the most common employee complaints is that an employer simply didn’t do anything to address the problem.
Workplace harassment and bullying is a serious problem facing employers in today’s workplace; take the time and invest the resources to address it with a professional and methodical approach, thereby mitigating your risk while also restoring or improving employee morale and confidence in the organization.