10 Steps to Replace Workplace Bullying with a Positive Environment

by Mar 23, 2016

A healthy work environment is essential for the well-being and productivity of employees. Unfortunately, workplace bullying can disrupt this balance and have severe consequences for individuals and organizations. To counteract the negative effects of workplace bullying and foster a positive atmosphere, here are ten essential steps to consider.


Steps to Replace Workplace Bullying with a Positive Environment

We discussed this on our webinar and sharing some tips with you:


1) Leadership

Leadership plays a pivotal role in eradicating workplace bullying by setting clear standards of behavior and fostering a culture of respect. When leaders actively address and discourage bullying, it sends a powerful message that such behavior won’t be tolerated.

Their commitment to fairness and inclusivity encourages open communication and trust among team members, creating an environment where everyone feels valued and supported. Strong leadership also implements robust policies and procedures for reporting and addressing bullying incidents promptly, ensuring that the workplace remains a safe and positive space for all employees.


2) Prevalence Audit

Conducting a prevalence audit in the workplace offers a comprehensive understanding of the extent and nature of bullying, enabling targeted interventions. By identifying specific areas or patterns where bullying occurs, organizations can tailor strategies to address these issues effectively. This proactive approach empowers leaders to implement targeted training and support programs, fostering a culture of awareness and prevention.

Moreover, the audit demonstrates a commitment to taking bullying seriously, encouraging trust and confidence among employees that their concerns will be addressed. Ultimately, the data obtained from such audits enables evidence-based decision-making to create a more positive and respectful work environment.


3) Healthy Workplace Policy

A Healthy Workplace Policy serves as a foundational framework that explicitly outlines expectations for behavior and interactions among employees. By clearly defining what constitutes acceptable conduct, it sets a standard that discourages bullying and promotes a culture of respect. Such policies often include avenues for reporting and addressing bullying incidents confidentially, ensuring swift and appropriate action.

This proactive approach not only deters bullying but also signals to employees that their well-being is a priority, fostering a sense of security and trust within the organization. Consistent enforcement and communication of this policy reinforce a positive work environment by emphasizing mutual respect and inclusivity.


4) Vision and Values

A clear vision and set of values act as guiding principles that shape a workplace culture centered around respect, empathy, and collaboration. When these values explicitly denounce bullying and emphasize mutual support, they serve as a moral compass for behavior and interactions among employees.

By aligning actions with the organization’s vision, employees feel a sense of purpose and belonging, reducing the likelihood of bullying behaviors. Additionally, a strong vision and values framework fosters a cohesive team mentality, encouraging individuals to uphold these standards and intervene if bullying behaviors arise, ultimately cultivating a positive and supportive work environment.


5) Develop Action Items

Developing action items through SMART (Specific, Measurable, Achievable, Relevant, Time-bound) goals provides a structured approach to addressing workplace bullying effectively. By setting specific and measurable goals related to preventing and addressing bullying incidents, teams can track progress and hold themselves accountable.

This approach ensures that efforts to eliminate bullying are not vague intentions but actionable steps with tangible outcomes, making the process more achievable. Additionally, the time-bound nature of SMART goals ensures timely intervention and resolution of bullying issues, contributing to a healthier and more positive work environment. Finally, this approach fosters a culture of continuous improvement, where ongoing efforts to meet these goals create lasting changes in workplace behavior and dynamics.

“It is easier to act your way into a new way of thinking than it is to think your way into a new way of acting.”The Great Workplace, Burchell & Robin, 2011


  • Starting this Fri, hold one brainstorming session on the last Friday of each month to collect ideas for healthy workplace projects.
  • Starting Mon, start all staff meetings off with “thank you’s.”
  • Create and obtain personal pledges for positive communication from all staff no later than March 31.
  • At the staff meeting on March 26, hold an open discussion about giving constructive feedback.


6) Provide Training

Providing training on respectful workplace conduct, coupled with attaching learning objectives to rewards and performance evaluations, is a strategic approach to eliminating workplace bullying. When employees understand that positive behavior is directly linked to rewards and career advancement, they are more likely to embrace a culture of respect and collaboration.

Attaching positive environment criteria to manager rewards further reinforces the importance of fostering a healthy workplace atmosphere. This approach not only educates employees on acceptable conduct but also incentivizes them to actively contribute to a positive work environment. By aligning personal development with organizational values, this integrated approach establishes a strong connection between individual behavior, professional growth, and the overall well-being of the workplace.


7) Performance Management

Performance management plays a crucial role in eliminating workplace bullying by setting clear expectations and standards for behavior. When performance evaluations include assessments of interpersonal skills and collaboration, it encourages employees to prioritize respectful interactions.

  • Understand your top performers
  • Set expectations for everyone
  • Add core values to performance measures
  • Reward positive energizers
  • Managers provide ongoing coaching 

Addressing bullying behaviors through performance management processes provides an opportunity for constructive feedback and corrective action, signaling the seriousness with which the organization views such conduct. Furthermore, linking performance to values and behaviors reinforces the importance of fostering a positive work environment, incentivizing employees to embody these principles. Ultimately, an effective performance management system creates accountability and promotes a culture where mutual respect and professionalism are integral to success.


8) Coach People With Negative Behaviors

Coaching individuals exhibiting negative behaviors in the workplace is a proactive strategy that addresses the root causes of bullying. By providing personalized guidance and support, coaches can help individuals understand the impact of their actions and develop healthier communication and conflict resolution skills.

  • Use 360 degree reviews
  • Teach the right behavior
  • Use discipline if you need, up to termination

This approach not only focuses on correcting negative behaviors but also empowers individuals to become more self-aware and empathetic towards their colleagues. Moreover, coaching sessions create an open dialogue where concerns about bullying can be discussed in a supportive and non-confrontational manner, fostering a culture of trust and growth. Ultimately, coaching promotes behavioral change, leading to a more harmonious and positive work environment where respect and collaboration thrive.


9) Use Grievances

Utilizing a grievance procedure provides a formal and structured avenue for employees to report instances of bullying or harassment, ensuring that their concerns are addressed impartially and efficiently. This process demonstrates a commitment to taking such issues seriously, fostering trust among employees that their voices will be heard and acted upon. By resolving grievances transparently and fairly, it sends a clear message that bullying behavior is not tolerated, promoting a culture of respect and accountability.

  • Make it clear you are open to hear complaints
  • Discipline people who violate your core values; celebrate those who live them

Additionally, the existence of a grievance mechanism encourages open communication and discourages the perpetuation of bullying, contributing to a more positive and inclusive work environment. Ultimately, it empowers individuals to stand up against unacceptable behavior, creating a safer and more supportive workplace for everyone.


10) Lather, Rinse, Repeat

“Lather, Rinse, Repeat” is often used figuratively to denote a cyclical process of continuous improvement. In the context of addressing workplace bullying, this concept implies a consistent and ongoing approach to tackling such behavior. By continually educating, training, and reinforcing positive behaviors, organizations create a culture where bullying is actively discouraged. Regularly revisiting policies, training programs, and interventions ensures their relevance and effectiveness, allowing for adjustments based on evolving needs. This cyclical process of addressing and preventing bullying behaviors contributes to a sustained positive work environment by embedding a culture of respect and inclusivity into the fabric of the organization.

Nothing I’ve shared with you today is theory.

Every single one of these 10 steps works. I know that because I’ve used them with my own clients. They are supported by my experiences, and by the experience of other experts in the field of culture change and workplace bullying.

Do you know how much money chronically bad behavior costs your company? Spoiler alert – it’s a LOT higher than you want it to be. Download our data and worksheet to see how it’s costing your organization and what you can do to fix it.


About Catherine Mattice

Catherine Mattice, MA, SPHR, SHRM-SCP is President of consulting and training firm, Civility Partners, and has been successfully providing programs in workplace bullying and building positive workplaces since 2007. Her clients include Fortune 500’s, the military, several universities and hospitals, government agencies, small businesses and nonprofits. She has published in a variety of trade magazines and has appeared several times on NPR, FOX, NBC, and ABC as an expert, as well as in USA Today, Inc Magazine, Huffington Post, Entrepreneur Magazine, and more. Catherine is Past-President of the Association for Talent Development (ATD), San Diego Chapter and teaches at National University. In his book foreword, Ken Blanchard called her book, BACK OFF! Your Kick-Ass Guide to Ending Bullying at Work, “the most comprehensive and valuable handbook on the topic.” She recently released a second book entitled, SEEKING CIVILITY: How Leaders, Managers and HR Can Create a Workplace Free of Bullying.

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