In recent years we have seen many changes to the business model and employee workplace routine - with many businesses using hybrid working models, or letting go of their offices altogether, and switching to remote businesses. But it seems these new models may not be having the desired effect, as workplace bullying claims rising by 44% since last year.
A record number of bullying claims have featured in lawsuits at the UK’s employment courts over the past year, in a sign that while working from home is welcomed by many, it’s also contributing to tensions for others.
Employment tribunals, which hear actions brought against employers by workers, saw a 44% surge in cases that included bullying allegations, according to employment law firm Fox & Partners. The number jumped to 835 suits in the 12 months through the end of March, compared with 581 in the previous period.
The increase should be a wake-up call for many firms as it shows that leadership teams have “struggled to maintain healthy workplaces during the shift to hybrid working,” said Ivor Adair, a partner at Fox & Partners.
Some of the examples from claims included patterns of bullying that are hard to identify, such as leaving colleagues out of remote meetings, gossiping on messaging apps, and making cutting remarks on video calls that are hard to address.
So, what can you do to ensure that no one is feeling this way in your business, and how can you prevent it in the future?
Talk openly with your team
If people feel that they can be open about how they’re feeling with their manager they are far more likely to address any issues they may be having. This then means that issues can be dealt with and you can make your employees feel heard, understood and that you care about how they feel.
If your workplace is an open environment it is also far more likely to be a happy environment, which encourages employees to get along.
So, be the example to your employees of how they should treat people within your workplace, listen to people if they have an issue, and always have an open door policy.
Review your disciplinary system
Sometimes the “work it out between yourselves” approach can be sidestepping your responsibility as a manager. Choosing to do nothing can mean that the problem continues or even gets worse, leading to more damage and distress.
Your job of dealing with unacceptable behaviour is easier if there is a clear statement or policy outlining what is acceptable conduct and what is not within the organisation. If such policy doesn’t exist, now is the time to evaluate your disciplinary system. You can use your HR team, or external HR advisors to help you put this together, and how to put it into practice effectively.
If employees are aware that there are consequences to their actions they are far less likely to take part in any workplace wellbeing, and if this does still happen you are able to hold people accountable, and show how unacceptable that behaviour is.
This will be the hardest step of all, but also the most important. As the person in charge, it is important that you are leading by example, and you in fact aren’t the bully.
Being in a powerful, stressful, and extremely busy job role, it can often be easy to slip into habits you may not know or like - such as being snappy, being too busy to talk to people, or not being available when needed. These are all traits that could lead to a negative environment which is less likely to create happy employees.
It’s time to take a step back and ask your employees, family and friends, ‘Could I be doing anything better, or change anything to make this environment happier?’. Take the time to listen to what people say, especially your employees, and make changes if you need to. It’s important to keep an eye on behaviour and follow up on this conversation to see if employees are happier.
Workplace bullying is something that should never occur, but if it does then following these steps should help you eradicate the situation efficiently. Read more about how you can encourage positive well-being in your workplace, here.