This is the third piece in our series about workplace bullying, an old and surprisingly common problem that has been gaining widespread attention recently. In our first post, "Grown Up Mean Girls," we introduced the topic with some real-life stories from our colleagues and friends. The second piece covered the similarities and differences between workplace bullying and harassment. Here we cover a few of the ways managers can act to keep bullies from creating a toxic work environment and harming your employees.
Many other countries that have legal protection for workers include bullying as prohibited conduct. United States law does not, but one suit could be all it takes to change that. But regardless, the potential for harm to your good employees and to your business should be enough to motivate managers to strive for a bully-free work environment.
Left unaddressed, bullying in the workplace can cost your company dearly in the form of lowered productivity as employee attention shifts from meaningful performance to office power struggles. Whether or not there is a lawsuit, bad actors can cause tension and fear among employees (even those not being targeted), staff turnover and associated costs of hiring and training, stress-related health problems among employees, and absenteeism.
Employees who are bullied or who witness bullying tend not to report it, but instead vote with their feet. This can allow a bully to single handedly transform your organization into a toxic dump as top performers hastily abandon ship and leave behind those who will endure poor conditions for the paycheck because they were never that invested in the first place.
For these reasons, it's critically important to get bullies out of your organization and take steps to avoid inadvertently hiring or promoting one.
Our business culture often rewards assertiveness. Beware of inadvertently allowing a bully to rise to management positions or be hired into them, as this can cause significant damage to your company even in the absence of legal protections for targets.
Here are some tips for managers who wish to combat bullying:
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