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Employers advised on zero-tolerance stance to workplace bullying

Employers that have concerns about bullying or harassment in the workplace have been offered some advice on how to enforce zero-tolerance policies around these issues.

Shoba Sreenivasan and Linda Weinberger, clinical psychologists at the University of Southern California's Keck School of Medicine, explored this topic in an article for People Management magazine.

They pointed out that, far from being an immature behaviour that stops when people leave school, bullying is a worryingly common problem that can cause serious problems in workplaces.

November 2015 figures from the Advisory, Conciliation and Arbitration Service showed that the organisation receives approximately 20,000 calls related to workplace bullying and harassment every year.

Commonly defined as psychologically abusive and intimidating behaviour, these threats can take many forms. Verbal aggression and unreasonable demands on staff can be viewed as workplace bullying, along with sabotage and rumour mongering.

The experts highlighted a number of specific examples of how this issue could manifest itself, such as targeting an individual with sarcastic comments in meetings, forcing someone to forego pre-booked holiday time or withholding important information.

There are certain environments and leadership styles that can increase the chances of bullying and unfair treatment occurring. These include autocratic, top down leadership and workplaces where there is high pressure to achieve results, or where the seriousness of bullying is not acknowledged.

As far as the possible repercussions of this problem are concerned, the experts pointed out that employees could suffer from low morale, loss of self-confidence and further impacts on their mental and physical health.

There is also a risk of bullying and harassment escalating into workplace violence, in which case an on-site security service could be required to defuse the situation and protect members of staff.

As far as business performance goes, higher absenteeism, lower productivity and potential legal costs are among the possible consequences of workplace bullying.

So it's clear that there are many advantages to be gained from taking a zero-tolerance approach to this issue. According to Drs Sreenivasan and Weinberger, it's important for employers to be proactive and decisive.

"Achieving zero-tolerance for bullying requires active efforts on the part of employers that move beyond issuing policies against it," they wrote.

"In public sector or large organisations, addressing workplace bullying may become mired in a lengthy bureaucratic process during which time the bullied employee remains 'under the thumb' of the bully. Given employers' lack of responsiveness, the most immediate remedy to the pernicious effects of workplace bullies - as with school bullies - may be to create a zero-tolerance public awareness movement against them."
By having a dedicated security service on-site, your business can send a clear message to anyone who may be guilty of bullying, harassment or inappropriate conduct in the workplace that their behaviour won't be tolerated.

It will also reassure all members of staff that, should any clashes or potentially violent arguments occur, there are professionals on hand and ready to respond.

 

Posted by Julie Tucker

 

Image courtesy of iStock//KatarzynaBialasiewicz

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