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Ways to Handle Office Bullying and Potential Workplace Violence

Office bullying is workplace violence that may damage your employees’ physical and psychological health, as well as the financial health of your business, both now and in the future. Whether you suspect that your professional environment is host to office bullying and workplace violence, or you just want to take preventative measures to ensure the safety of your employees and coworkers, it is advised that you proceed as follows:Stop Bullying

Step 1: Verify Existence

The first thing that must be determined is whether or not your business is currently a host of office bullying or is at risk of becoming one in the future. Recognizing office bullying can be difficult, as it is often latent. However, just because you can’t immediately see it doesn’t mean it doesn’t exist. In fact, often times the extent to which office bullying is hidden is relative to its seriousness.

It is your legal responsibility as an employer to ensure a safe work environment for employees and there are standard ways to survey the work environment for such disruptions. If an employee reports bullying then it must be investigated. However, office bullying often goes unreported due to the nature of power dynamics in bullying. There are other ways to determine if you are a host to office bullying. These include: 

  • Conducting an anonymous survey about office bullying with your employees
  • Noting patterns of employee absences, turnover of staff, onsite injuries, and grievances
  • Closely monitoring the quality of relationships between co-workers

If you have thoroughly assessed your work environment and see no signs of bullying, it is recommended that you continue to monitor employee behaviors for patterns and even take preventative measures such as training your employees on workplace violence awareness . When it comes to safety, it is always better to be proactive.

Step 2: Determine the Risk Category

There are different levels of risk in office bullying, and different levels of risk call for different ways of proceeding. It is better to identify bullying at lower risk levels so that you can address it early and prevent it from becoming physical workplace violence, later. Many workplace violence consulting specialists offer risk categorization charts to help you determine the severity of office bullying. Once you determine the risk category, a workplace violence consultant can help you decide how to proceed.

Step 3: Intervention

Once you have decided that you do indeed have a case of office bullying and have also determined its level of risk, it is your responsibility to take action to stop office bullying before it progresses into workplace violence. It is recommended that you work with a workplace violence consultant to take proper action. According to the context of your work environment and how a particular bullying situation ranks in terms of risk categorization, your workplace violence consultant may advise that you take any number of measures to stop bullying from escalating into a tragic instance of workplace violence. This could be anything, ranging from meeting with leadership to determine how to best move forward with operations, all the way to coordinating protection with law enforcement or an independent security company.

Step 4: Evaluation

After the storm has calmed, dedicate a significant amount of time to reviewing and evaluating the process you and your employees have gone through and revisiting all of your company’s formal policies and procedures regarding office bullying and workplace violence. Pay specific attention to whether the strategies that were implemented in response to the bullying were successful, and whether or not any policies or training could have been in place that could have prevented office bullying from happening in the first place. This process should be ongoing, and your goal should be to create a healthy work environment in which employees are comfortable discussing their experiences.

If you believe your work environment is a host to office bullying or would like to learn more about effective policy writing or workplace violence training programs, contact Huffmaster for a consultation.

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Mike Saad, CPP

Senior Director Consulting Services at Huffmaster Crisis Response, LLC
Michael Saad is Senior Director of Consulting Services, Huffmaster Crisis Response, LLC. He is responsible for the security consulting line of business for the company. In that capacity he manages security program evaluation, corporate policy and procedure development, federal security compliance initiatives, corporate investigations, security threat and vulnerability analysis, and business risk management.
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