Most people spend over a third of their lives at work, interacting and engaging with colleagues and supervisors. That’s why feeling like you’re part of a positive and rewarding environment is integral to professional happiness and satisfaction.

On the other hand, bullying in the workplace, while a difficult topic, is an area I have seen gaining attention. Since it can be detrimental to both the individuals involved and the organization as a whole, here are a few ways I would suggest to help recognize, prevent, and stop this behaviour.

Show your door is always open

Whether an employee directly reports an instance of bullying in the workplace to you, or you suspect it is happening based on clear indicators, speak to the individual being bullied. Confronting the issue hands-on and as quickly as possible is crucial in maintaining harmony, mending relationships, and improving work performance.

I suggest inviting this person to your office, or grabbing a coffee together in a quiet and safe space to discuss their feelings and get more information. Then, have this same type of conversation with the “bully” to hear both sides of the story. You’ll need to decide what actions, if any, to take based on the meetings. An isolated situation may not warrant any further steps. However, to discuss strategies to handle bullying, you may consider contacting your Employee Assistance Program (EAP) provider.

Open a dialogue

I recommend taking a neutral approach and speaking to your entire team and referencing “a few instances” of bullying (even if there is only one). This will bring the issue of bullying out of the dark and give it the attention it needs without alienating the affected individual. It is best to try and avoid singling out someone who could already be feeling vulnerable.

Some other indirect approaches to take include:

  • Inviting your EAP provider to host a bullying workshop (while ensuring that all of your staff attend)
  • Asking your EAP provider to supply anti-bullying posters (for your break or lunch room)
  • Including an anti-bullying video in your staff newsletter that reminds staff they can reach out to you or your EAP provider if they know someone who has experienced bullying

Speak to the alleged “bully”

Although direct confrontation may initially concern you, ignoring even subtle instances of bullying might just exacerbate bad behaviour. I urge you to address this issue as soon as possible, as many bullying incidences tend to escalate. But first, you may want to figure out what to say to ensure you are prepared and sensitive to both parties.

An individual who bullies is often struggling with their own personal issues and may also require EAP counselling. If you make these services known throughout your office, even “bullies” might take the initiative to seek help.

Aim for prevention

The Canadian Centre for Occupational Health and Safety (CCOHS) notes that, when it comes to preventing workplace bullying, the first step is developing a confidential workplace violence prevention program.

In addition to working with your EAP provider on an anti-bullying campaign, you and your organization should consider communicating regularly about bullying as a whole. This may include:

  • Discussing the consequences of intimidating others
  • Encouraging affected individuals and witnesses to report cases
  • Outlining procedures for investigation and resolution

For more information on counselling for bullying and related service offerings, contact your EAP provider today.