How to handle a workplace bully in your team?

As a business owner, what do you do when you suspect that there might be workplace bully in your team? In this video, I explore the effects of bullying in the workplace and why it makes business sense to stop it in its tracks. I also provide tips on how to mitigate bullying in the workplace. 

How extensive is workplace bullying?  

According to a University of South Australia study, two-thirds of Australians experience bullying, but only 10% of those surveyed self-identify as a victim of bullying. This study finds worrying implications: 

  • That while bullying exists in most if not all workplaces, many instances of bullying don’t get reported. 
  • Many managers misconstrue incidents of bullying as a different issue, often an interpersonal problem between staff members. 
  • Bullying is possibly more widespread than what most people in Australia think. In fact, Australia ranks 6th in workplace bullying, compared to 31 European countries studied. 

How does bullying affect your business? 

The cost of bullying at work in Australia is estimated to be $36 billion per year. Think about it. Bullying contributes to performance issues. Bullying victims experience having trouble making decisions, an incapacity to work, difficulty in concentrating, a loss of self-esteem, and a decline in productivity.  

Bullying affects not just one person. It also affects you, the business owner. Bullying in the workplace creates a hostile work environment, it promotes absenteeism, it impacts workers compensation claims, it reduces overall productivity, and it may result in a costly and even possibly embarrassing legal issues. 

As a business owner or a leader, it is our responsibility to mitigate bullying in the first place. That’s because aside from its dollar costs, bullying has been shown to have lasting effects in the organisation, which affects the growth and development of your employees and your business.  

What contributes to workplace bullying? 

There are many factors that contribute to bullying, but here are three of the most common factors: 

  • How workplace performance is managed, monitored, and appraised. A lot of bullying issues surround policies that affect how an employee is evaluated and how this evaluation affects their progress in the company. A lot of bullying happens in performance evaluations, particularly when an employee is being evaluated at the close of a project, for a promotion, or for a raise.  

How do you hold performance evaluations in your company? How many people get to evaluate each employee? Are the same people involved in every performance evaluation? How transparent is this process? 

Bullies love having the control to make sure that their victims are rendered helpless. Subtle forms of bullying include berating people, stealing credit, or unfair criticism. 

  • How entitlements are managed. Exclusion is a common manifestation of bullying. Victims of bullying claim that bullies are likely to exclude them from recognition or rewards that they are otherwise entitled to receive.   
  • How you manage your emotional culture. In a previous video, I discussed what emotional culture is and why it is important, especially because it affects productivity. An organisation with a positive emotional culture is one where employees are treated not just with respect but where there exists psychological safety, which is a crucial factor in building high performing teams.  

On the flip side, an organisation with a negative emotional culture is one where bullying is allowed to persist. Where people are allowed to blame others for failures, even if they themselves have contributed to this failure. An organisation with a negative culture allows people to threaten others, or to speak in a threatening language.  

How do you mitigate bullying?  

Now that we know what contributes to bullying, how do we mitigate it? The key to mitigating bullying is to nurture a healthy workplace culture and to put healthy systems in place.  

Bullying isn’t caused by just one person. Persistent bullying in the company is often the result of broken systems and a negative workplace culture that either enables or allows the behaviour to persist. For example, bullies will abuse vague policies and take advantage of loopholes to allow them to continue such behaviour. They also take advantage when authorities do not respond to repeated complaints about them. 

Here are six things you need to note to help mitigate bullying in the workplace: 

  • Do not tolerate bullying. Be consistent both in words and in action.  
  • Don’t ignore complaints of bullying, especially when it forms a repeated pattern. 
  • Train managers to handle complaints. Often times, the inability to respond to complaints isn’t for lack of concern or intention but because managers do not have the knowledge or skill sets required to manage this situation. 
  • Have a bullying reporting protocol in place and ensure that your employees know these steps. We need to observe due process, to be transparent, and to be thorough at every step of the way. Remember, false complaints are also forms of bullying.  
  • Promptly take action. When a formal complaint is lodged, carry out swift action. Remember that bullying has a cost, and it affects the organisation as a whole in the long run. 
  • Learn proper performance management. Performance management, in general, should have a specific scope, focused on priorities, and be balanced. The process should also be transparent and made known to all stakeholders.

If you are interested to know more about what a business has to go through when facing exponential growth, you can download the first chapter of the book, ”$20K to $20 Million in 2 Years” absolutely free here. The chapter talks about the differences between a good and a great business and puts out questions that make you consider how you can turn your business from good to great. 



Get Your
Free Insights

pdf insights

More To Explore

Get the latest business tips.

Grow your Business, Enhance your Mindset

Subscribe for the latest business tips & company news.