October is National Bullying Prevention Month

The theme for 2022 is #BeKind, #BlueUp together, and #BlueShirtDay!  During the month schools, businesses, workplaces, and communities all over the world are going BLUE together to stomp out bullying and cyberbullying!

Bullying is defined as a form of aggressive behavior in which someone intentionally and repeatedly causes another person injury or discomfort.  A bully uses their strength or power to frighten or hurt a weaker person.  Bullying behaviors can show up in a variety of ways:  verbal, physical or sexual contact, emotional, prejudicial (i.e., race, color, religion, sex, sexual orientation, political, etc.), using threatening gestures in an intimidating way, excluding or isolating, and leaving victims out, and cyberbullying (making online threats via email, phone, texts or social media), and extortion (making threats to hurt or blackmail a victim).

Bullying can affect its victims in a variety of ways, such as high stress that causes physical, emotional, and mental health issues including depression, PTSD (post-traumatic stress disorder), insomnia, low self-esteem, reduced confidence, lack of participation in work or social events.  Victims often dread coming to work every day resulting in absenteeism that can cause financial and relationship problems.

Workplace bullying affects productivity in organizations.  It can disrupt the day-to-day business of companies and affect its financial status when employees leave due to being bullied, as well as costs associated with investigations and potential legal action.  Bullying negatively affects the victim, coworkers and bystanders, and the entire team dynamics.  Bullying can also drastically affect company culture, cause a lack of trust, and decrease in morale and overall employee engagement.  Bullying and it’s affects need to be dealt with swiftly!

Employers have a duty to maintain a safe work environment for all employees.  It is important to ensure policies are in place that make it clear that the company will not tolerate bullying behavior.  Policies need to define workplace bullying and the consequences.  The process for filing a complaint and the procedures the company will follow when investigating complaints should be clearly defined.  Employees need to know that their complaints will be dealt with promptly and confidentially and that no actions will be made against any employee for filing a complaint.  The policy must also ensure that retaliation will not be tolerated for reporting a complaint or for participating in an investigation.

It is important to ensure bullied employees are supported and provided information about EAPs (employee assistance programs) and counseling, if needed, as work-related and personal issues may arise.  Coworkers and bystanders may also need access to this support.

Managers, leaders, and Human Resources staff need regular training to ensure they know how to spot and stop bullying and reinforce the organization’s policies.  Employees also need regular training regarding the organization’s policies to prevent bullying and the reporting process and procedures in place.

The organization, every department, and all employees are at risk when bullying occurs.  Review your policies to ensure they appropriately address that bullying and retaliation will not be tolerated.  Make sure the complaint process and procedures and consequences are clear to all employees.  Develop and train managers and staff regularly about the policies.  These steps will help create a culture that promotes open communication and trust that the organization, leaders, managers, and Human Resources Departments will foster a safe work environment where reporting unacceptable behavior is rewarded.

Contact ILG if you need any assistance or examples to update policies related to prevention of bullying or programs to improve culture and employee engagement.