3 Essential Elements: How to Eliminate Workplace Bullying

There are a lot of things that get in the way of your corporate wellness – deadlines, work-life balance and nagging colleagues to name but a few. However, one thing that really takes its toll on wellbeing is workplace bullying; potentially preventing employees from thriving and flourishing in their careers, and instead causing them to become demotivated, distressed and disgruntled at work. As an employer, it’s important for you to tackle workplace bullying head-on.


According to Rachel Clements, BSc Hons, M Psych, MAPS, co-founder and Director of Psychological Services and Principal Organisational Psychologist at the Centre for Corporate Health, ‘We know that being in a toxic work environment where bullying and harassment is allowed to occur poses a significant risk to any organisation. Workplace bullying impacts people and their ability to undertake their jobs efficiently and effectively, as well as having a detrimental impact on their psychological health and wellbeing. These negative effects come at a significant financial and personal cost, not only to the business but to its employees as well.’


For Clements, there are three fundamentally necessary components to eliminate workplace bullying:


1. Organisational Culture: Clements explains, ‘Organisational culture is defined as the collective behaviour of all employees, which influences how we behave and how we feel at work. We know that reactive cultures which are either aggressive (competitive or negative and destructive) or passive (not making important decisions, being negative behind others’ backs, avoiding confronting issues or concerned with being liked and popular) lead to a range of bullying and harassing behaviours. On the other hand, organisations that have creative cultures whereby people operate from a position of confidence, tend to be leaders in their field, have employees Research & Insights who build effective relationships with each other, achieve and perform well, and are well encouraged, supported and developed at work.’


2. Leadership and Managerial Competency: ‘Turning around a workplace where bullying and harassment occurs requires managers at all levels to continually improve their leadership and management skills to ensure they are consistent with a culture of zero tolerance for bullying and harassment,’ Clements asserts. ‘How executive, senior and middle management behave has a dramatic impact on the performance and behaviour of staff throughout the whole organisation.’ If your management team is lacking in this area, conduct specific skills based workshops to address important behavioural competencies such as performance management, managing conflict, bullying and harassment, organisational change. You should also get your managers to develop strong relationships with staff so that people will feel comfortable coming to your leadership team with issues, and the leaders can then tackle those issues early-on.


3. Quality Workplace Relationships: To prevent workplace bullying, open communication, effective teamwork and supportive workplace relationships are vital. Clements advises, ‘Ensure that all staff at induction are educated about acceptable and unacceptable workplace behaviour, as well as relevant policies and procedures in this regard. Have regular opportunities for teams to come together both formally and informally for social, networking and professional development. Conduct skills based workshops to address important team competencies such as managing conflict, working with individual differences, mental health awareness and emotional resilience. Facilitate regular team meetings to ensure that open communication is maintained and any issues are addressed and “nipped in the bud”.’ You should also aim to boost morale and motivation, as this makes bullying and harassment less likely to occur.


Clements concludes, ‘Turning around a culture of workplace bullying and harassment is no easy task, but with commitment and effort, it is possible to ensure a happier and healthier workplace for all staff to enjoy.’

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