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Management and Workplace Bullying

Management and Workplace Bullying

Question for your management - Are we ready to deal with bullying at our workplace?

To deal effectively with workplace bullying requires sensitivity, skill and persistence. Some features of your workplace may need to change or be strengthened before you embark on a program to deal with workplace bullying. Consider the following:

  • Can we release this person from their other duties to do this?
  • Do our existing communication structures work?
  • Do we have someone within our organization that is skilled, confident and respected to drive the process?
  • Do we regard bullying as a serious issue?
  • Does your staff have confidence in us?
  • How will we deal with resistance?
  • How will we involve the relevant union organizer or workplace representative?
  • How will we involve the staff?
  • How will we make sure that our staff contributes to the development of strategies?
  • How will we provide backup for staff when they are attending or holding meetings about bullying?
  • If we use an external facilitator/consultant what do we expect from them and how much can we pay?
  • What do we know about bullying in our workplace?
  • What resources can we allocate?
  • Will we provide the time and resources for staff to receive training about bullying and participate in committees and meetings?
  • Who has the skills to respond effectively when individuals raise concerns about bullying?

Issues for Management to Consider

There are a number of issues that should be considered by management before they decide to commit to dealing with bullying in their workplace.

These issues include:

  • All employees have a right to a safe and healthy working environment free from discrimination and harassment.
  • All people have the potential to bully. Bullying can be deliberate and malicious, but it can also arise when there is organizational or personal pressure.
  • Anyone can experience workplace bullying. There are no clear ‘target types’. Avoid stereotyping because it can prevent you from seeing the issue from all perspectives.
  • Failure to deal with bullying can compound the negative experience and impact of bullying.
  • Organizational factors, workplace cultures and social groups can contribute to the experience of bullying.
  • People are capable of changing their behaviour.
  • People in positions of power have a responsibility to ensure that they understand the nature of bullying and are committed to bully-free work environments.
  • The experience of being bullied can have serious and damaging effects on an individual’s confidence, health, safety, productivity and social relationships.
  • Well-managed and timely intervention is critical for those who experience bullying either directly or indirectly.
  • Workplace bullying costs organizations money, time and other resources. The cost of addressing workplace bullying needs to be weighed up against the cost of doing nothing.
  • Workplace bullying does not refer to the appropriate and reasonable management of performance.


Sometimes people are bullied because of their race, gender or sexual preference.

When dealing with bullying there may be grounds for complaint under existing equal opportunity laws. If this is the case it might be more appropriate to deal with the issue as a matter of discrimination as there are different legislative options available to people in these cases.


Managers Guide to Stop Bullying Behaviour


When managers recognize that a specific employee may be behaving in a bullying fashion in the workplace they have an obligation to support their employee as well as protect them.

  • Be crystal clear about the behaviour you want halted. Should there be another incident after your meeting, inform the bully that his or her job may be in jeopardy if an improvement in behaviour is not seen immediately. (Many managers put this warning in writing to drive home just how important the command is).
  • Be sure to check in with your other employees after you’ve had your meeting. Oftentimes the bully, out of anger or spite, will take the bullying outside the office, where he or she may feel immune to chastisement. This could present an even more severe problem, since the bully’s threats could become more serious.
  • Be sure to have several specific, documented examples of the employee’s negative behaviour to present at the meeting. As you listen to his or her responses, be understanding (to a point) but firm, and make sure the employee understands that these actions are upsetting coworkers and disrupting their ability to do their jobs.
  • Many bosses are so afraid of being hit with discrimination-based lawsuits for confronting an employee over his or her disruptive, bullying behaviour that they simply look the other way. But if you are a manager, do not allow lawsuit fears to interfere with taking action. Be sure to discuss the issue first with your human resources department, and have an HR representative present to act as a mediator when meeting with the employee in question.
  • Never allow the employee to direct the conversation back to any employee(s) who may have lodged a complaint — make sure the person is aware that this meeting is about him/her.
  • Talk with your superiors in the company about the issue. People who have been on the job longer may be able to offer some helpful insight into combating this kind of detrimental behaviour and dealing with “bad apples.” Surely, everyone has had at least one on their staff at one time or another.
  • Take the employee out to lunch. Removing a bully from the workplace environment could bring about a reversal in the manner in which he or she normally behaves, paving the way for directly addressing the issue at hand. Often, the person will be unaware of the fact that he or she is even acting like a bully — ambition, humour, and aggressiveness have ways of being greatly misinterpreted.

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