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Bullying in Business: The Silent Scourge of the Workforce

Workplace Bullying_4






When we think of bullying, more often than not our minds are cast back to the schoolyard. Everyone knows someone, or has been themselves, a bullying victim. Canadian schools are no exception when it comes to this problem, with recent measures being taken by the Upper Canadian School Board in regards to a number of suicides related to bullying in their schools. Bullying in the workplace may not be something that comes to mind – however it is a very present problem in a number of Canadian workplaces.

Identifying Bullying

Although we may think that we are familiar with the signs of bullying, they are often quite subtle and may be hard to spot for someone outside of the situation. Again, we often assume bullying to be associated with physical abuse, and while this can often be the case for children, there are many more forms it can take, especially when taking place in the adult world, and especially the workplace. A recent report suggests that around 40% of Canadians are victims of or have experienced bullying at work. There are a number of tell-tale signs however, and these should be looked out for by all members of staff in any business, whether the offender is a director or clerk. Verbal aggression and gossiping can often be the signs of bullying. Gossip is a common occurrence in the workplace, and can quickly turn malicious, causing a spread of bullying among employees. This is especially true if a suspected bully continually brings up the person they are targeting to every group they speak to.

The Cost of Bullying

Aside from the fact that no one deserves to be the subject of abuse at work, bullying can have a very real cost on a business. Bullying might affect not only the morale of staff but also the atmosphere in the workplace, which can in turn lead to high turnovers, reduced productivity, resentment and bickering among staff that need to be working as a team, and can cause staff to become disengaged. These can all impact a business in a very real way, eventually cutting into productivity and profits. A organization’s approach to dealing with these issues has to be firm. By simply allowing these actions to take place or turning a blind eye, businesses are in effect building a culture of bullying. Most of us want to enjoy our work, and most members of a workforce will leave if conditions are unpleasant, and they are able to find an alternative. In addition, there may be a real talent in the workforce that is not being allowed to reach potential because of bullying. A positive and supportive environment will allow and encourage employees to grow to their full potential, and this can only benefit the business as a whole. Who knows, you may well have the next big innovator on your hands who will go on to sweep up a variety of accolades both internal and external helping to boost the reputation of your company.

Solutions to Workplace Bullying

One fundamental approach is to make it clear to all employees, no matter their level of authority, that abusive or bullying behavior will not be tolerated, and consequences will be enforced. If a workforce knows a company is serious about these claims, then it can often go a long way to stopping this kind of behavior, and by taking action when it does crop up, ensuring that it is ended before any real damage is done. One common problem is the difficulty in drawing a distinction between authority and abuse. Sometimes those in positions of authority may think they are simply being professional or assertive, and may not be fully aware of the damage and hurt they are causing. This is in fact a common problem, and one that can be easily resolved through the use of mentoring – by having the knowledge and correct skills, management can do a great amount to increase morale and positivity in the workforce without causing distress to those they manage. Of course, there will always be bad eggs, but by using good practice and skills that come through coaching and mentoring, these can be identified a lot quicker, and the appropriate actions can be taken. However we approach the issue, it is one that any business has to tackle head on, especially as more and more light is being cast on this unpleasant aspect of human behavior. By taking advantage of mentoring and specialists in this field, there is no reason why the majority of workplace bullying can be a thing of the past in the future.


Our sincere thanks to guest author Julie Fenwick who has contributed this article.