The prevalence of bullying in the workplace is rising, and there are likely a number of reasons that this is the case. One reason could be due to people feeling more able and empowered to report bullying and harassment. Another is that some managers are struggling with higher levels of diversity in the workplace (be that generational, race, or gender differences), so they resort to using their position to ‘manage people out’ of the workplace through bullish methods.
Recent studies have found that interventions against bullying are not effective (see this article). Why? Because policies designed to address bullying have not historically worked – they are focusing on the wrong thing. These policies have been written in a way to tell people what they cannot do and say, which likely confuses people even further as to what is appropriate in the workplace.
We as a workforce have gotten lost somewhere, focusing purely on our emails and instant messages as ways of building relationships. What we really need to be doing is encouraging human-to-human conversation, which will help people to understand their own and others’ strengths and help identify ways of working that suit everyone. Managers can role model this by not only creating more time for themselves to get to know their people, but also by creating a platform for their teams and others around the business to simply get to know each other.
Jane Dutton’s High Quality Connections research can help us here. Building these connections will help everyone feel empowered to deliver feedback (whether developmental or motivational) appropriately and help people respectfully engage with each other. Not only this, but it is likely that both performance AND wellbeing will improve as a result!
‘Having a best friend at work’ has historically been a good measure of your relationships at work but this is surely no longer enough. We need to have a solid network of relationships which will build personal and organisational resilience, wellbeing, and performance.
If you are currently experiencing any negative situations at work, organisations such as ACAS exist for when you need some professional advice on how to deal with workplace bullying (see their advice page here).