The last Wednesday of February is an anti-bullying day in Canada. This annual campaign originated in Canada and has now attracted the attention of the world.
What is Pink Day?
Pink Day encourages people to wear a pink-coloured shirt to show solidarity and stand against bullying and is recognized at schools and workplaces.
Workplace bullying describes a wide range of behaviours intended to intimidate, humiliate, degrade, offend, exclude, or sabotage someone. Definitions of harassment and violence in the workplace often include bullying as a relatively common problem that can have serious negative consequences for employees and organizations. According to the Canadian Labour Congress, between 26% and 71% of employees report having experienced harassment and violence at work in the past two years.
Bullying can occur between colleagues, between a manager and a subordinate, or even from a subordinate to a manager. Therefore, employers need to take workplace bullying seriously and take steps to prevent it.
The impact of workplace bullying can be significant, including reduced job satisfaction, increased absenteeism, reduced productivity, and even mental and physical health problems. It can also lead to high staff turnover, which can be costly for organizations. Provincial employment laws protect employees from workplace, so employers who do not address bullying can be charged.
What might workplace bullying look like?
We all familiar with the school yard bully trope who pushes kids around or steals their lunch money. A bully in the workforce might be harder to spot and in some cases the bully may not even realise they are being a bully:
- When the team is going out to an informal lunch and a colleague suggests they do not invite you because you are probably “too busy”
- Your manager knows you are going out of town for the weekend but deliberately fails to get you the information you need for a report that is due on Monday. The manager knows you will need to cancel plans to get it done.
- A colleague constantly raises their voice and dismisses your ideas as “unrealistic” or “ineffective,” even before you are done speaking.
- A colleague deliberately forgets to tell you about a change in venue for an important meeting and lies that they did tell you.
Employers have a responsibility to create a safe and respectful work environment, and there are several steps they can take to minimize and discourage workplace bullying:
Establish clear policies and procedures
Employers should have clear policies and procedures that prohibit bullying, and Human Resources should communicate these policies to all employees. Setting clear expectations for appropriate behaviour in the workplace will minimize bullying. Include these in your onboarding program to ensure the message is delivered consistently.
Employers must train all employees, especially managers and leaders, on what constitutes bullying behaviour, how to recognize it, and how to report it. Training can raise awareness about the issue and ensure that all employees understand their role in preventing and addressing bullying.
Employers should create a culture where employees feel comfortable reporting bullying confidentially without fear of retaliation. Ideally, there should be multiple reporting channels such as anonymous submissions or reporting to a supervisor.
Act on reported bullying behaviour
Employers should take swift and appropriate action when bullying is reported by investigating, supporting the victim, and taking disciplinary action against the perpetrator. Do not dismiss a reported breach as it is not something you think is serious enough. Always investigate.
Foster a positive workplace culture
Employers should foster a positive workplace culture that promotes respect, kindness, and inclusivity. Recognizing and rewarding positive behaviour, encouraging open communication, and providing opportunities for team-building and professional development can go a long way.
Whether you are an employer or employee, taking action is essential if you or someone you know is experiencing workplace bullying. Speaking up and taking steps to address the issue can help create a safer and more respectful work environment for everyone.
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