Almost half of workers feel bullied at work

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On-boarding, training, education, relationship building – HR is already taking the steps to reduce bullying as much as possible, but is the problem more widespread than many in HR thought?

Not only do 45% of Canadian workers say they have felt bullied at work, one-third have had health problems because of it and more than a quarter (26%) have quit their jobs.

The latest CareerBuilder survey shows the majority of incidents go unreported, with just a third reported to HR and half the victims choosing not to confront those involved.

The guilty parties tended to be co-workers and bosses, with customers and supervisors also being common perpetrators. A quarter (26%) were bullied by someone younger than them while 55% were bullied by someone older.

The most common forms of bullying were being held to different standards, being ignored, accused of mistakes and being criticized or belittled.

Studies show that even non-victims quit jobs when they witness bullying, and the cost of bullying in terms of turnover, productivity and absenteeism is difficult to calculate.

So what is the best practice for identifying and managing bullying at work?

  1. Have a workplace guide
    Some provinces include bullying in workplace safety and harassment legislation, but regardless of your legal obligation your company should have a clear bullying policy. Set out what level of conduct is expected, what is unacceptable and what consequences will follow breaking those guidelines.
     
  2. Identify the behaviour, and the bully
    Bullies rarely act up around managers, so tools such as anonymous reporting can help victims feel confident to report the attacks. Look for other signs such as individuals who dominate conversations and meetings, take credit for others’ work and sarcasm or humour that is too personal or has a cruel edge.
     
  3. Act quickly
    Show staff that your company won’t tolerate bad behaviour – don’t wait for a crisis. Talk to the bully, in a direct but not confrontational or emotional way.  Specify the behaviour that’s unacceptable.
     
  4. Have clear steps to take
    Follow your company guide in deciding what the right action is – does the bully get written up, offered counselling, lose pay or get fired?


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  • LP on 2012-09-07 2:23:40 AM

    The title of this article is misleading. More than half of workers feel bullied at work is very different from half of Canadian workers have at one time or another felt bullied.

    While bullying in the workplace is an issue that has to be tackled by HR, supervisors in the workplace should be held accountable for addressing problematic behaviour. Human Resources tend to be informed of concerns and get involved once the situation has been going on for some time, or if the situation is critical. However, the zero tolerance approach has to be supported by managers who are on the front lines and who have to demonstrate that bullying is not acceptable and will be addressed right away.

  • AB on 2012-09-11 4:04:31 AM

    Interesting - as a HR professional independently investigating "bullying allegations" - it often times has come out that the employees have issues with being performance managed which in term when does not work for them - they interpret as bullying. I think the issue is that managers often need clear guidelines on performance management conversations and documentation requirements so that this provides clear cut evidence in these situations with little room for subjective interpretation of the situation.

  • Gemma Gomba on 2012-09-12 11:20:29 AM

    Is there a fine line between showing authority, being firm and bullying as a manager? The approach, words used in communicating make a manager a bully. Is lack of self awareness a factor or an excuse? lack of people skills? The impact of all these classifies a manager as a bully.

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