Workplace bullying is damaging to targets, witnesses and the organization as whole. Targets become depressed and they lose their luster for work. Witnesses lose their loyalty to management. Organizations lose good employees and positive bottom line results.
Meanwhile, organizations that focus on maintaining positive and healthy workplaces have motivated and inspired employees, invest in success, increase retention and reduce turnover, have effective internal communication, demonstrate quality work product and customer service, attract better talent, and minimize costs on workers comp and potential litigation.
That said, here are 10 tips to help your organization have a bully-free 2010:
1. Understand that workplace culture is a business strategy. Strategic culture adjustments can only be made after obtaining buy-in from as many employees as possible. To do this, get them involved in developing a vision of positivity and the corporate policies that back it up. When employees feel included, they are more likely to take heed simply because they are personally invested.
2. Use communication strategically. Leaders and management can use language to deliver a healthy workplace culture, and encourage open discussions and employee empowerment. Develop rituals that applaud interpersonal communication skills, empathy, optimism, conflict resolution and positive attitudes as a part of the routine.
3. Use anti-bully corporate policies as a nail, not as a hammer. I’ve seen a lot of stuff out there claiming the answer to your bully problem is a corporate policy. We can implement policies all day long, but if they don’t have management’s transparent support and employee back up, then who cares. Policies are meant to help the process, but they won’t fix your problem.
4. Use training programs, but they only work if they are backed by performance measurements. Trainings should include topics such as conflict resolution, negotiation, interpersonal communication, assertiveness, empathy, stress management, leadership, optimism and self-examination. Now, just like corporate policies, we can train all day long, but if these programs don’t have performance measurement attached to them then they don’t matter. So expectations regarding proficiency in these areas should be tied to performance and career advancement, and show up in employee goals and awards programs.
5. Implement leadership programs. Bullies bully because the organization has given them permission (whether implicitly or explicitly). So let’s look at Allstate, who went through a systemic and strategic long-term leadership process that started in 1995. They defined leadership as “achieving results and creating a supportive work environment.” During the program, they did things like develop mutual expectations from employees to company and vice versa, utilize 360° reviews, develop resource guides for leaders, and identify internal coaches and potential leaders. It must have worked – they remain the second largest personal US insurer (Phillips & Ashby, 1999).