Taming disruptive behavior
Thus, as a manager and steward of organizational assets, including your employees, you must do something. But what? As a manager, there are five concrete actions that you must take to prevent workplace bullying when it occurs.
1. Adopt a workplace bullying policy.
The purpose of a workplace bullying policy is to formally establish the “rules of the road” regarding inappropriate, and in some cases, appropriate behavior at work. Other HR policies such as harassment and safety policies do not usually address workplace bullying. As such, the contents of a workplace bullying policy should spell out which behaviors will not be tolerated (e.g. physical abuse, verbal abuse, email stalking, etc.) and then identify how incidents are to be reported and how they will be handled by the organization. It is critical that the workplace bullying policy align with existing policies so that workers are not confused or do not play one policy against the other. An attorney must review the policy before it is finalized to be sure that it comports with federal, state, and local laws and regulations. Do not minimize the unnecessary legal, regulatory, and public relations risk of failing to attend to workplace bullying in a serious fashion.
2. Communicate and educate the workforce about the policy.
It is crucial that the policy is effectively communicated. Once the workplace bullying policy is approved a communication plan must be developed, focusing upon the key messages, different audiences, and communication channels used to disseminate the policy; simply slapping the policy on an intranet site or website is not sufficient in terms of communicating the policy. Policies of this type should be presented in person with senior leaders, direct supervisors, and HR so that a discussion can be facilitated about the policy and to signal its importance. Beyond making people aware of the policy which is the aim of communication, the policy should be incorporated into all orientation sessions. Classes on “Preventing and Addressing Workplace Bullying” should be designed with the policy as the centerpiece to the training. Nothing beats face-to-face interactions, even in the age of the Internet. Effectiveness and efficiency are not the same.
3. Set expectations that the policy will be followed without exception.
A policy without consequences, whether positive or negative, is like a dog without teeth. You are familiar with the saying, “All bark and no bite.” Be sure to put “teeth” into the policy to create and sustain a bully-free workplace. Examples of such include aligning the bullying policy with the organizations’ progressive discipline policy and even having awards for the organization or certain departments if there are zero occurrences of workplace bullying in a specified time period – similar to safety awards for having no injuries or accidents.