Podcast Title: Health and Safety to Go!

Episode #: 152: Bullying in the Workplace: 6 Tips for Prevention


Introduction: Welcome to Health and Safety to Go, broadcasting from the Canadian Centre for Occupational Health and Safety.

Host:† Threats, constant or unjust criticism, intimidation, belittling, heckling, gossip, and physical abuse are all bullying behaviors that are increasingly being recognized as a serious workplace problem that can cause undue stress, anxiety, and low morale among workers.

Harassment and bullying can happen in any workplace and the effects can be far reaching. Beyond the individual, the harm can spread through an entire workplace into the bullied personís friends and family.

Conflict at work and bullying are very different. Co-workers donít always agree or share the same opinions. And while conflict at work is normal, natural, necessary and expected, it is not the same as bullying. Bullying and harassment are forms of workplace violence.

In the workplace, bullying can include verbal aggression or yelling, spreading malicious rumors, the calling of derogatory names, exclusion, humiliation beyond feedback, establishing impossible deadlines, and undermining or deliberately impeding a personís work. Bullying is a form of aggression where the actions can be both obvious and subtle. Bullying can come in many forms and is usually considered a pattern of behaviour which means that it is ongoing and persistent. It is usually seen as acts or verbal comments that could mentally hurt or isolate a person in the workplace. It is also described as the assertion of power through aggression. Bullying does not, however, include offering constructive feedback, guidance, or advice about work-related behaviour.

The impact of bullying and harassment on a victim can be emotional, physical and psychological and in turn, the workplace can lose the skills and assets that people bring to their jobs and the workplace. People who are the targets of bullying may experience a range of effects and reactions including shock, anger, feelings of frustration or helplessness, loss of confidence, anxiety, and various physical and psychosomatic symptoms.

The workplace can also suffer the effects of bullying in the form of increased employee absenteeism, increased turnover, decreased productivity and motivation, and poor customer service.

†When it comes to prevention, what is the employerís role?

Preventing workplace bullying requires a commitment from management. This commitment can be communicated in a written policy that identifies and defines bullying as a form of violence in the workplace and includes clear guidelines of what behaviours are considered acceptable. This policy can help to develop and support an organizational culture with standards and values against bullying. The policy should include a reporting system where employees can report instances of bullying and harassment, as well as a clear statement of the steps the employer will take to investigate and resolve any issues.

Employers also have a duty to not engage in bullying and to train workers and supervisors to recognize the potential for bullying and harassment. Everyone should take action and follow the procedures for reporting.

Workers should report their harassment to the person identified in their workplace policy. In general, individuals can report to a designated person, their supervisor, or human resources manager. If they feel that their concerns are being minimized and arenít satisfied with the response they receive, they should proceed to the next level of management.

Here are six tips to help prevent workplace bullying:

  1. Encourage everyone at the workplace to treat one another in a respectful and professional manner.
  2. Have a workplace policy in place that includes a reporting system.
  3. Treat all complaints seriously. Try to resolve situations before they get serious or out of control.
  4. Educate everyone that bullying is a serious matter - what is considered bullying, and whom they can go to for help.
  5. Train supervisors and managers in how to deal with complaints and potential situations. Encourage them to address situations promptly and confidentially whether or not a formal complaint has been filed.
  6. Have an impartial third party help with the resolution, if necessary.

For more information and resources about bullying in the workplace, please visit www.ccohs.ca. Thanks for listening everyone.