10 practical steps for managers on workplace bullying
It’s important for managers to be proactive in creating a respectful, supportive and healthy workplace culture that reduces the risk of workplace bullying.
At LawCare we are seeing a rise in the number of support contacts about workplace bullying. The most common concerns we hear about are a difficult boss, being spoken to in a disrespectful way, micro-management or being sidelined or undermined in front of colleagues, feeling that your employer wants to get rid of you, or being expected to take on work that is beyond your experience or competence and then struggling with it.
Bullying can lead to a range of mental health issues such as stress, anxiety, depression and can cause an individual to make mistakes, go on extended sick leave, resign or leave the law entirely. Bullying can have a negative impact on the recruitment and retention of staff, team morale, organisational reputation and can lead to intervention from a regulator.
Creating a respectful and supportive environment, with open communication that fosters a healthy workplace culture, will reduce the risk of workplace bullying.
Here are 10 practical steps for managers to reduce the risk of bullying
1. Clear policies and procedures
Develop, maintain and communicate clear policies on bullying, how to report an incident or make a complaint.
Ensure that all staff understand the policies and the consequences of engaging in bullying behaviour. Make sure the policy is clear as to what behaviours will not be tolerated and set out the positive behaviours expected of staff, i.e. how they interact with each other and clients.
2. Confidential reporting mechanisms
Implement confidential reporting mechanisms to encourage staff to come forward with their concerns without the fear of retaliation, this could include anonymous reporting systems such as a third party reporting service, online forms or a confidential email. Provide, while maintaining confidentiality, a mechanism for giving feedback to anonymous reporters.
3. Training and education
Provide training for all staff and managers on how to recognise and prevent bullying, what behaviour constitutes bullying, how to report bullying and the consequences of such behaviour. Every member of staff should understand their rights as well as their responsibilities to others and the behaviours expected of them at work.
4. Leadership commitment
Creating a supportive and inclusive environment where staff feel that poor behaviour is not tolerated and that complaints are taken seriously and followed up is key.
Foster a culture of respect starting from the top. Leaders should demonstrate their commitment to a healthy workplace environment and role model the positive behaviours expected.
5. Promote a positive work environment
Foster a positive workplace culture that values diversity and collaboration. Create a psychologically safe workplace where staff feel comfortable raising concerns or addressing conflicts constructively.
Do this by getting to know the people in your team as individuals and build and sustain relationships with them, that way you will be better placed to understand any personal pressures that may be affecting them at work and talk openly about any problems they may be experiencing with another colleague.
Build relationships based on trust by ensuring you respect colleague’s privacy when concerns are raised and by treating everyone you manage the same. Be confident to address inappropriate behaviour at an early stage. Staff need to feel that they can trust managers to address concerns raised and respond sensitively, quickly and non-judgmentally.
6. Prompt investigation and action
All reports of bullying should be taken seriously and a prompt, impartial, consistent and thorough investigation into the allegations conducted. Reassure staff that appropriate action, in line with organisational policy, will be taken based on the findings.
7. Support systems
Establish support systems for those who have experienced or witnessed bullying, or have had allegations of bullying made against them, to help them cope. This could include counselling, employee assistance programmes or LawCare’s peer support programme.
8. Regular reviews and updates
Regularly review and update anti-bullying policies to ensure they remain effective and relevant. Keep informed about the latest research and best practice in preventing workplace bullying.
Ensure your team and organisation understands its obligations and is complying with relevant legal sector codes of conduct and regulatory frameworks related to workplace behaviour as well as employment law and regulations.
10. Continuous monitoring
Regularly monitor your team or workplace for signs of bullying and address issues as they arise. If your organisation has an annual anonymous staff survey include some questions about any experience of bullying. Exit interviews with staff who are leaving may signpost to bullying as a reason.