It’s International Workplace Bullying Awareness Week! Here at Speak Up At Work, we are honoured to be part of the campaign to spread awareness, address and eradicate bullying at work.
Victims of bullying often feel alone and don’t report because, thanks to toxic work culture, they feel they need to put up with it. We tell ourselves, this is the working world. I know of young lawyers who felt they had no choice to leave the profession because of bullying. They did not get to live their dreams (in fighting for justice) and the world lost an uncut diamond.
At Speak Up, we have had people approach us – from academia, law enforcement, media, technology, government and the non profit world – all with stories, with many feeling alone.
They did not know how common their stories are. Because, much like sexual harassment until #MeToo blew up in 2017, people stay quiet about their bullying.
We want to shatter this silence. Knowing that others have suffered too, makes you feel less alone. There is safety in numbers. Share your story, use #UsToo on social media. When stories flood our space, employers and bosses have to act.
What can you and your employer do? We’ve pulled together our resources to help you address bullying at work.
1. Learn how widespread workplace bullying is
Our video, You Are Not Alone, shows statistics across the world and across industries.
Show it to your management, to HR, to make them aware. If 1 in 3 people have been bullied at work – chances are it’s happening in your workplace, even ones with great processes in place.
2. Move from Bystanding to Upstanding
When you see a colleague or someone being harmed by bullying, intervene. You might want to help, but don’t know how. When we don’t intervene, the victim feels like no one is supporting them, leading sometimes to depression and even suicidal thoughts. The bully, unchecked, continues with his or her bullying ways, getting worse and harming more people.
Betty Yeoh explains how to intervene, in our September webinar How To Be An Upstander.
You can see, and download the slides here:
We are planning a short course on Upstanding offered by Betty, which should be up by the end of the year, and a masterclass on Creating a Safeguarding Culture At Work. Sign up for our newsletter to stay tuned.
3. Learn about the harm bullying creates
Bullying at work is toxic. One junior bully in a large organisation might harm his or her immediate circle. If unchecked, others seeing this behaviour would think that they can do the same and get away with it. A bully is a cancerous cell. It spreads, getting more harmful to the body – the organisation.
If the bully is at a senior level, the harm is that much greater.
In our webinar Is Your Organisation Healthy or Toxic, Linda Crockett, Kernan Manion, Carita Nyberg and Michael Banks spoke about the harm in toxic workplaces and what you can do to address them, including if you’re in HR and management.
4. Comply with the Basics
To address workplace bullying and other forms of harassment, workplaces should have the following, as a bare minimum. Find out if your workplace has this.
- An Anti-Harassment Policy or code of conduct that clearly explains harassment and bullying, that action will be taken against people who harass and bully. Anti-harassment policies should include bullying, sexual harassment, racial harassment and discrimination.
- No-Retaliation Policy. The organisation will act towards anyone who retaliates against people speaking up and reporting harassment and bullying.
- Reporting Channels. A number of reporting channels accessible to employees, contractors and the public which are publicised and in local languages. Internal channels would include people who are trained to handle harassment and bullying. Ideally there should be an external third party reporting channel.
- Training and Awareness. Employees attend training where they learn about the different forms of harassment and have safe conversations with colleagues about what they find harmful.
- Enforcement. Act upon harassment reports.
Employers owe a duty of care to their employees and contractors who work for them. This isn’t just physical safety, but psychological safety.
4. Support Victims of Workplace Bullying
Even the best of organisations struggle with this part. Whether it’s HR or other parts of management, people need to be specially trained to receive reports of bullying and harassment. If you recall some of the famous #MeToo cases, women had reported their harassment internally, but were let down by the organisation. They felt they were interrogated, not believed and a number had to leave – they were dismissed or conditions got so bad, they could no longer continue working there.
Not only does this harm the victim, but it sends a clear signal to other employees – that they will not be protected. The harassment continues and the organisation becomes increasingly toxic.
5. Address the Bullies
There hasn’t been much focus on…. what do you do to change a bully’s behaviour? Some bullies – those who malicious and almost predatory like – are irredeemable, and organisations need to remove them.
Most bullies, you’d be surprised to know.. can learn and can change. That was indeed my journey which I describe in Confessions of a Harasser
In November, in Speak Up Academy, we focus on leaders and bullying. What types of behaviour, perhaps seen as leadership traits some decades ago, are now seen as harmful behaviours? When does getting someone to perform, cross into harassment? Beginning with my own story, we invite leaders who want to open up, share their experiences and ask questions through our call-in Speak Up Voices, and a few weeks later, as part of our Speak Up Spotlight, we will host a few leaders who speak about exactly that. Leadership behaviours and harassment. Stay tuned through our newsletter, and on our social media pages.
6. Move from Toxic to Healthy
At Speak Up At Work, we help organisations get back to a healthy workplace culture. We call this the Speak Up Journey. Read more here: Speak Up Culture and Toxicity for Leaders and HR
Changing cultures from healthy to toxic is the mainstay of the conversations we have at Speak Up Academy. Join us and learn from fellow change-makers across the world.
You are not alone.