How To Tame A Bully


Pink Shirt Day is February 26th, so it’s the perfect time to look at bullying in the workplace and how to prevent it. Workplace bullying is an epidemic – 28 percent of employees have felt bullied at work, and 19 percent have left a job because of a bully.

Bullying is an expensive problem for an organization, both in terms of the measurable expenses, and in terms of the resulting damage to morale. The associated financial losses can be huge: lower productivity, high turnover, retraining costs, compromised quality of deliverables, possible legal action… The list goes on, and those are just the measurable costs (Click here to calculate the costs of bullying to your organization). There are invisible costs, too, since the toxic work environment created inevitably weakens employee loyalty and engagement.

By now, all BC organizations should have a Bullying and Harassment Policy in place to comply with WorkSafe BC’s requirements. But it’s one thing to put a policy preventing bullying in writing, and it’s another thing entirely to translate that policy into practice.

The bottom line? You need a solid strategy to prevent and address workplace bullying. Here are some tips to help:

Talk about it. Many employees who are victims of bullying don’t want to talk about it, because the organization doesn’t acknowledge that workplace bullying even exists. Maybe they think their complaint won’t be taken seriously, maybe the bully is a manager or supervisor, or maybe they have been putting up with unacceptable behaviour for so long that it seems normal. Whatever the case, bullying behaviour is never okay to ignore, and it has to feel safe for your employees to talk about it.

Offer training. Do more than going through the motions. You have to offer your employees training to comply with WorkSafe BC’s bullying and harassment requirements, so you might as well make sure the training is valuable. Give employees the tools they need to nurture healthy work environments by offering training opportunities that focus on team-building and respect in the workplace.

It’s worth keeping in mind that the offending party may not even be aware of how their behaviour affects others; generally, nobody actually wants to be labelled a workplace bully. Training that creates a workplace culture of respect, open communication, and appreciation can help everyone expand their toolkit and interact in more productive ways.

“Make bullying and harassment training meaningful—think respect, communication, and appreciation.”

Use your policy. Review the policy and the processes with your employees. It’s important to make sure all your employees are familiar with your Bullying and Harassment policy, know how to report instances of bullying, and know what the disciplinary process will look like. Once everyone is on the same page with your policy and process, it’s important to stick to it. In some cases, the employer might be hesitant to address the behaviour; maybe the bully is a top performer, has worked at the organization forever, or is the boss. Ultimately, it shouldn’t matter. Complaints must be acknowledged appropriately and a fair process followed, or your policy is meaningless.

Bullying can take many different forms, and it’s important to be able to recognize subtle instances of workplace bullying. Setting clear parameters nips claims of “Just having a little fun!” in the bud, so make definitions clear to yourself and to your employees.

For more on developing your employee policy manual, Click here.

Your Engaged Assignment: “Kindness is one size fits all!” On February 26th, wear pink, use #PinkItForward, and spread the Pink Shirt Day message in your organization!

Still not sure if you’re WorkSafe BC compliant? Want to develop your bullying prevention strategy? Ask us!

More Resources:
Identify bullying vs. conflict

Bullying affects everyone in the workplace

10 Signs you’re being bullied at work