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HR Insights with Ali: Addressing Bullying in the Workplace

Posted on 6/28/2017 by Ali Oromchian, Esq.
We like to tell ourselves that the workplace is where we, as adults, are treated fairly and recognized for our accomplishments. But in actuality, the office can often be more akin to the schoolyards of our youths, where people are bullied, gossiped about, and forced to accept unfair outcomes. As a business owner, it often seems easier to simply ignore so-called petty office disputes and to focus on your work. But the truth is that office bullying could have a bigger impact upon your practice than you think.

Consider this: As every good owner and boss knows, your practice is only as strong as the people who make it run. This is why you direct so much time and energy into hiring the best workers possible and ensuring that they receive the training and support they need. But if that new hire is bullied or otherwise made to feel unwelcomed by his or her coworkers, then all of your time and efforts will become obsolete. Another way that bullying hurts your business is by diminishing communication. Employees can be an incredible resource when it comes to maintaining and improving upon your practice methods. But if a competent, creative employee is afraid to speak up out of fear of being bullied, then those ideas may never be heard.

One of the most effective ways to address office bullying is to create a clear channel of communication with your staff. If your workers feel comfortable bringing workplace issues to your attention, then office bullies will be less confident that their tactics will escape your attention. Another good approach is to keep your actions from contributing to bullying - this means treating everyone equally. For example, if you repeatedly let one employee arrive late for work or take other liberties without repercussion, then this can lead to that employee being seen as “untouchable” by the others. Such inequality helps bullies to thrive.

No office, just like no playground, is completely immune from bullying. We are, after all, human beings, and human beings are imperfect. We can be jealous or petty at times, and working in close quarters will inevitably lead to friction at one point or another. But the goal here is to ensure that you prevent and/or address bullying to the extent possible - and never letting it take hold as a component of your office atmosphere. While you cannot ensure that all of your staff will get along 100% of the time, you can reduce friction and address unfairness by making it clear that bullying is not acceptable in your business.

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