How can workplace bullying hurt your business? Let me count the ways. If your employees are being bullied, they could quit, retaliate or even develop health problems as a result of the stress. All of these can cost your company time, money, hassles and more.
If you think workplace bullying can’t happen at your business, then you may want to read the results of a CareerBuilder study conducted earlier this year that found bullying in the workplace is on the rise. More than one-third (35 percent) of employees report feeling bullied at work, compared to 27 percent last year. Bullying drove 17 percent of these workers to quit their jobs and 16 percent to develop health problems.
You may think there’s no workplace bullying in your business because no one’s complained to you or your managers. Well, more than half (57 percent) of employees never report the problem to anyone. And of the 27 percent who have reported a bullying issue, more than half say nothing was ever done about it.
Bullying doesn’t always come from an employee’s boss. Co-workers account for almost half of bullying incidents, and 31 percent of employees report they’ve been bullied by customers.
Having managed employees for many years, I can attest that workplace bullying can be hard to spot. What seems like bullying to the victim may seem to you like nothing more than two employees joking around. Being yelled at by a boss or being insulted during a meeting are obvious incidents of bullying, but respondents in the survey were more likely to cite “not being acknowledged,” “double standards” or “being left out” as examples of bullying.
In other words, the guy who never gets invited to lunch may feel more upset about being “bullied” than the guy who just got dressed down at the sales meeting.
Given that bullying is so subjective, you may feel there’s no way to protect your business. In reality, there are several. First, develop a comprehensive grievance policy for your business that states what employees should do if they have a problem with a co-worker or supervisor.
Second, if employees do come to you or a manager with a complaint, take it seriously. (I can’t emphasize this enough.) Talk to the victim, then to the alleged bully, documenting both discussions. Don’t be accusatory but do try to get to the facts of the situation. Then bring the two workers together to come up with ideas for how the problem can be solved.
You’ll find that the majority of workplace bullying incidents, when treated respectfully and positively, resolve very easily. If the problem escalates, continue documenting the situation while trying to resolve the problem. If necessary, get help from an attorney experienced in human resource issues. Hopefully, you won’t have to go there.
As a small business owner, you and your managers are the eyes and ears of your company. No matter how busy you are, make it a point to get out and walk around your business every day and find out what’s going on. With a little sensitivity, you’ll pick up on problems before they get out of hand.
Have you ever had workplace bullying in your business and, if so, what did you do about it?
Office Bully Photo via Shutterstock