A business guide to bullying.

Bullying is toxic to an organisation; it drives down performance and damages reputation – not to mention the irrevocable impact to the victim.

So how do we tackle bullying and prevent it happening in the first place? Here are my top five tips:


How do you define your workplace culture? Is it a culture your people want and need?

How do you align your people to your culture? Are you using performance indicators that contribute to the company’s culture or just those based on the company’s bottom line?

Does your recruitment process ensure potential employees align with your culture? What happens if a current employee does not adhere?

A culture of openness, honesty and respect is one in which individuals thrive. It also provides an environment where people feel both comfortable and encouraged to speak up and out against inappropriate behaviour.

Updating the “rulebook”

Policies and procedures: dry, dull, redundant…?

They don’t have to be. They should be informed by your culture and your culture should be lived and breathed by your people.

Policies and procedures are not just a box-ticking exercise and your employee handbook not just a set of rules on how to behave. They’re a reference point for everything your organisation is already doing and your people have already internalised.

They’re also a helpful advisory tool for employees should they be faced with a situation or a colleague that misaligns to the company culture. How many people in your organisation have read the employee handbook (HR doesn’t count!)? Do they know how to access it?

Here’s a radical idea: why not ask your employees write their handbook?

Promoting diversity

A diverse and inclusive workplace prevents employees seeing others as “other”; rather it fosters an appreciation of difference and optimises difference to enhance the profitability of the organisation.

Changing the mind set from “otherness” to an appreciation of difference removes the power dynamic that motivates bullying – the need for one person to assert their authority or power over another due to being threatened or fearful of their difference, as well as the need to maintain and protect the status quo.


Here’s an important question: can your managers manage?

How did they get to their management position? By being a longstanding employee? By being highly skilled at their role? By being an inspirational leader who can bring out the best in others?

Management training is fundamental. It prevents unnecessary incidences of bullying, which often occur when a manager doesn’t have the skills to manage their team nor equipped to deal with being responsible for the performance of others.

Training to communicate effectively as a manager is also key. Managers need to have difficult conversations – whether dealing with conflict behaviour within the team or carrying out performance reviews – so they need the skills to do so.

Now for another radical suggestion: two-way performance reviews whereby the team (anonymously, if preferred) are encouraged to provide feedback on their manager. This could be a valuable way of identifying training needs.

Trust in HR

If HR can do one thing, it is to have an open door and an open mind. Yes, HR need to wear a commercial hat, but primarily they need to stay human, be approachable, fair and create practical solutions.

It is the people that determine the success of an organisation and companies have a duty of care to protect their people. HR can spearhead this by being pragmatic in preventing workplace bullying while also ensuring any incidences of bullying are dealt with quickly, efficiently and sympathetically.


Need support assessing your company’s culture, implementing policies and procedures, management training or dealing with a current incident of workplace bullying? Tell Jane can help.

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