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Bullying and harassment is a major source of dysfunctionality in organisations and it puts employers at risk of claims of discrimination and constructive dismissal. Poor attendance levels and high staff turnover can often be traced to bullying. How can it be stopped?

There are no absolute answers. Bullying may arise for lack of management skills, insecurity, from stress or from learned behaviour patterns. But if you want to avoid bullying behaviour happening in your organisation here are some tips that may help:

  • Lead by example. We all take some of our values from those for whom we work. Some of the suggestions here will need you as the business owner to take action and lead.
  • Create role certainty. Few situations at work are more stressful than not knowing what is expected of you. Make sure those whose report to you know your expectations. Encourage these to be passed down the line. You may also want to formalise expectations in job descriptions, particularly if your organisation is growing.
  • Value employees. Individuals who are valued, and who value themselves, perform better. Everyone has value; even if you have to search for it!
  • Know how to discipline with respect. Most of us need to receive a quiet word from time to time. It is important to remember that 99% of the time it is the behaviour of the person, not their personality, that needs correction.
  • Appropriate training. It is easy to assume that informal discipline comes naturally to managers. In most cases it doesn’t. If your lead by example is not sufficient, then it would be valuable to train managers and supervisors.
  • Encourage healthy minds. Employees benefit from a good work-life balance including exercise, time to be still, good sleep, family time and leisure time. Frazzled, tired and stressed employees are far more likely to bully others.
  • Listen. Be alert to signs that employees may feel bullied and identify the responsible individual(s) early if you can. People frequently do not realise the effect that they have on others. Alerting them may be all that is needed. On the other hand they may need help and support – they are people with value too.

Of course, you will have a bullying and harassment policy in place so employees know how they can raise concerns. But tackling such adverse behaviour is exceptionally difficult once it has become an established pattern. By the time a complaint has been raised the point of no return may have been reached. Early treatment has a greater prospect of success.