How to stamp out bullying in the workplace

Gemma O'Connor - Head of Service

March 25 2024

Published: March 25th 2024

Workplace bullying is not always easy to identify. As an employer, you’re likely to be concentrating on your core daily business tasks. That means you may miss the subtle ways that workplace bullies undermine their colleagues.

What’s more, it doesn’t help that victims may feel uncomfortable reporting any poor treatment they endure.

What is workplace bullying?

Workplace bullying is repeated inappropriate behaviour towards an employee at work. To be considered bullying, the behaviour should seriously undermine their right to dignity.

Typically, this behaviour occurs over some time. For instance, an isolated incident will likely not be classed as bullying. These actions can be done by one or more people, and are aimed at both an individual or a group of employees.

Some examples include:

  • Verbal abuse and insults.
  • Sending abusive messages online.
  • Isolating employees or an employee from opportunities, information, and social interaction with others.
  • Intimidating someone via aggressive actions.
  • Sending aggressive emails.
  • Creating malicious rumours or spreading gossip.
  • Withholding valuable information that's needed for someone to do their job properly.
  • Blaming an employee for things beyond their control.
  • Creating undue pressure with impossible deadlines

What are employer obligations around bullying?

The Health and Safety Authority (HSA) works to create a bullying-free workplace for all employees, and the Workplace Relations Commission (WRC) provides mediation to resolve issues surrounding bullying.

The Code of Practice for Employers and Employees on the Prevention and Resolution of Bullying at Work sets out a procedure for dealing with the issue.

Under the code, the employer must:

  • Take reasonable steps to prevent bullying in the workplace.
  • Have an anti-bullying policy to deal with complaints of bullying.
  • Develop the policy in consultation with their employees.
  • Prepare a safety statement based on the assessment of the risks that come from bullying.

How do you prevent bullying?

First of all, it’s recommended you put a policy in place that confirms your business won’t tolerate bullying of any description. Also, clarify that anyone found guilty of bullying will face consequences up to and including dismissal.

You should include a grievance policy that allows staff to report a bullying concern, as it's best to have a neutral point of contact that employees can turn to. That's because it can be uncomfortable for employees to report an issue to their line managers.

These policies will only be effective if they're communicated to all employees. New employees should also receive your anti-bullying and harassment policy during their company induction.

Instructional videos are a great way to highlight this issue. However, if your budget doesn’t allow it, include the policies in the company handbook.

Staying vigilant

After creating an anti-bullying policy, you still have to be on the lookout for signs that an employee is being bullied.

Some questions you can ask yourself are:

  • Has their mood recently changed for the worse?
  • Are they calling in sick more often?
  • Are they reluctant to work with a particular colleague?

The consequences of ignoring workplace bullying can be disastrous. If employers don’t act, productivity can drop, morale can plummet, and staff may choose to leave.

An employee may even feel as though they have no option but to resign. If so, you could face the huge emotional and financial costs involved in defending a Workplace Relations Commission (WRC) claim.

Need our help?

If you would like further complimentary advice on this difficult workplace issue, our advisors are ready to take your call any time day or night. Call us on 1800 719 216 or request a callback here.

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