Charles Benayon

Founder & CEO of Aspiria


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Tips to Reducing Workplace Bullying

stop-bullyingOn February 22, Canadians will celebrate Pink Shirt Day, a day to raise awareness about the issue of bullying in our schools, workplaces and homes. The non-profit organization CKNW encourages people to wear pink on this day to symbolize the end of bullying. This day of recognition started in Nova Scotia after a young boy was bullied for wearing pink to school, and after seeing this, class members who opposed this kind of bullying sported pink shirts.

While events related to Pink Shirt Day are often highlighted in schools, where bullying is a major problem, workplaces are also encouraged to participate. This is due to the fact that while bullying is more common in children and young adults, it can follow us to our workplaces as well.

The Workplace Bullying Institute defines workplace bullying as repeated, health-harming mistreatment of one or more persons (the targets) by one or more perpetrators. Additionally, this abusive conduct is threatening, humiliating, or intimidating. In 2017, this kind of behaviour is not limited to face-to-face encounters. Cyber bullying can also significantly impact an employee’s mental health, and is often kept under the radar.

As an Employer:

Staff look to you to ensure they are being treated fairly and are not experiencing any kind of mistreatment. That being said, dealing with a workplace bully can be difficult. Here are my tips on how to address workplace bullying in your organization:

  1. Hold bullies accountable. If someone from your team approaches you about an issue with a co-worker or boss, make sure you speak to the person in question to get his or her side of the story. Talking to someone about their bully-like behaviour can be awkward, but you owe it to your employees who are being impacted by this person’s conduct.
  1. Have a plan in place. If someone has received a few complaints about their bully-like behaviour, it’s important to have some disciplinary measures in place to ensure bullying in any form stops immediately. After confronting a bully about their behaviour, it may be determined that this situation is a result of conflict between two co-workers, in which case mediation would be helpful. If a bully’s behaviour remains an issue, warnings may not be enough. Consult your EAP for support in this area before probation or termination results.
  1. Keep your eye out for inappropriate conduct. As a manager in the workplace, don’t just wait for someone to come to you with an issue. Make sure to be on the lookout for any kind of inappropriate behaviour in the workplace. If you notice someone is abusing an employee or co-worker in any way, make a point to sit down with him or her to discuss their behaviour. Victims will often shy away from reporting bullying incidents out of fear of repercussion to them. If you are “in the loop” on what’s going on in the office, you can save a possible victim from the embarrassment of reporting it higher in the organization.
  1. Promote awareness. Make and post anti-bullying posters, wear pink t-shirts, host lunch and learns about anti-bullying. Raising awareness about this issue can help generate productive conversations and break down the stigma of workplace bullying. 

As an Employee:

  1. Try to speak to the bully and let them know how what they are doing is affecting you. Share with them that what they are doing is not appropriate behaviour.
  1. Speak to a boss or manager about your situation. If you begin to notice that your workplace culture enables this kind of abusive attitude, speak to a manager. Employees should not be afraid to come to work, and in order for employees to work effectively, they need to feel comfortable and safe in the workplace environment. Alerting a senior staff member to the situation can allow them to take measures to prevent this from happening in the workplace.

What are you doing in your office to help recognize anti-bullying?


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“It Never Happens Here”: Workplace Bullying

harper-titleThe first thing one thinks of when hearing the term bullying is schoolyards or cyber bullying, but when these bullies grow up, they often become bullies in another environment: the workplace.

The statistics are alarming – 40% of Canadian employees have experienced one or more acts of workplace bullying at least once a week for the last six months; a staggering 74% of employees have been bullied at some time in the workplace, and 75% of employees that have been bullied leave their workplace! The result of this bullying can have a devastating impact on your workforce with decreases in productivity, an increase in employee turnover, an increase in absenteeism, an increase in health issues ranging from depression to harming oneself or others, an increase in legal costs, workers compensation, or management time, and a decrease in company morale.

Besides the stigma of workplace bullying, many employees are hesitant to report it to their HR departments because they might be concerned of the repercussions, or of being labelled a whistleblower, or of their perpetrator, particularly when their manager is involved, making things even worse for them at work.

Although we are more likely to laugh off an insult or comment at work or to treat it as a personality trait (particularly when a boss or manager is verbally offensive to you at work) but the fact is, it is bullying and it won’t stop until you do something about it. It seems there is a very fine line between a strong management style and bullying, but if you are feeling repeatedly mistreated, then chances are you are being bullied.

Employers often treat bullying and harassment as one and the same, however they are different: workplace bullying is repeated, unreasonable and unwelcome behaviour directed towards an employee or group of employees that creates a risk to health and safety. Workplace harassment is unwanted behaviour that offends, humiliates or intimidates a person, and targets them on the basis of a characteristic such as gender, race or ethnicity.

I have found that in most cases employees know when they are in a bullying situation, but what they don’t know is what to do about it that is safe and effective. I have outlined below a few approaches to reduce workplace bullying at your organization:

  1. Create a protective environment for employees that will foster positive and respectful relationships.
  2. Employees need to feel safe at work. Develop an internal anti-bullying workshop to create awareness of the issue, teach people social and emotional skills, post applicable company policies in visible areas, and develop team-building exercises.
  3. Provide support (third party EAP counselling) to those who may be affected by workplace bullying and take active steps to stop it from occurring again.
  4. Create a bullying response process to ensure everyone in the organization responds in an appropriate way when they see bullying or conflict occurring.
  5. Provide intervention and prevention programs.
  6. Create anti-bullying policies and procedures.

When is bullying acceptable? Never. Whether it is in the schoolyard, online, or at work, there is no situation in which an individual should be made to feel harassed, ridiculed or inferior. Make sure your organization does the right thing and takes actions towards creating a safe and collaborative environment.

If you have an anti-bullying policy at work, does it go far enough in protecting your employees? If there isn’t one in place, do you know what steps to take towards implementing an anti-bullying policy? I look forward to a lively discussion on this topic.