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WORKPLACE BULLYING poses a major risk to companies that fail to take action against a problem employee who is pushing others around at work.

You can be sued and be facing a hefty damages tab like the $2 million that Microsoft Corp was ordered by a court to pay out after it allowed bully managers and supervisors to create a hostile environment for a salesperson by undermining his work, making false accusations against him, blocking him from promotions, and otherwise marginalizing him.

With so much at stake for your business, you need to put policies in place to reduce the chances of bullying in the workplace, including procedures for reporting, investigating, identifying and responding to bullying – as well as preventing it in the first place.

 

Steps for your business

In order to a have workplace that can prevent it and deal with it f it occurs, you need to have in place a complete anti-bullying policy with reporting and response procedures. Here are the basics from WorkSafe British Columbia:

  • Develop a zero-tolerence policy on bullying.
  • Develop procedures for reporting incidents.
  • Develop procedures for responding to incidents.
  • Develop disciplinary policies.
  • Train your workers and supervisors on the policies.

 

Investigating a complaint

Typically, the best source of information that an employee is being bullied is a co-worker who has witnessed the behavior or been the confidant of the target.

You’ll want to interview everyone who works with the alleged bully and find out as much as you can about any incidents of bullying they may have witnessed or been subject to themselves.

Document everything: Dates, times, places, what was said, what was the exact behaviour, whether physical threats were made, if they touched the worker, and any witnesses.

This may require some patience. Some workers may be afraid to spill the beans, but you should assure them of the confidentiality of the process and that they won’t suffer any repercussions.

 

Respond quickly

When management learns of or witnesses bullying behavior, an immediate response is necessary.

You should prepare in advance the disciplinary procedures you will implement if you have an employee who is harassing others. In addition, supervisors need to be trained in how to identify and address the issue if confronted with a complaint.

Stick to those procedures when disciplining an offender you’ve identified.

The costs to a company that tolerates bullying can be significant: low morale, absenteeism, high turnover, difficulty recruiting and retaining talented staff, or litigation against the company.

Litigation can become a reality if you ignore the signs or complaints of bullying.

And if the bullying appears to target a particular race or gender, disabled individuals or anyone similarly protected by anti-discrimination laws, the legal stakes become even greater.