Bullying (22): How organizations can stop bullying

Workplace drawingWhen individuals bully at work, the problem is not as severe as when the organization has a culture that supports bullying. The organization as a bystander can choose to be a defender, protect victims and create a cooperative atmosphere, or to be a major supporter of bullies and increase the problem. Unlike the kids who are bystanders at school, organizational bystanders suffer from the bullying directly through loss of productivity and money.

This chapter includes many tips to help the organization condemn, stop and prevent bullying. Each tip here can make a huge impact on someone’s life and has the potential to stop the bullying cycle – victims feeling powerless and bullying others to regain their power, causing their victims to bully others to regain power and so on.

When I was 15, I had a very special teacher who supervised our school’s student council. He was a very devoted teacher and we felt he really cared for us. One day, I asked him, “Reuben, why do you do this? Why do you work so hard to empower us?”

He said, “If I convince 5 of you to make a change and each of you convinces another 5 who will convince another 5 each, eventually, we will have a better world!”

I am spreading his words. If you are part of an organization, particularly in a leadership position, and you help condemn, stop and prevent bullying towards one person, you will make a difference in the lives of their partner, their children, their grand children, and their great-grand children for generations to come.

We need strong and courageous people to put a stop to this cycle. If we stop one bully and then one more bully, we can gradually change the world. I believe this with all my heart.

How to prevent workplace bullying

  • When recruiting people, organizations can reduce bullying by not accepting bullies to work. Many years ago, research showed that people with high emotional intelligence are better workers, even when they lack knowledge (initially). When recruiting, especially for managers, examine their emotional intelligence, not just their knowledge and technical skills.
  • When recruiting employees, prepare very clear job descriptions and clear and visible policies regarding holidays, sick leave, overtime, accidents, sick kids, doctor’s appointments and work hours. Make sure job descriptions do not include punishments but they do include incentives for doing a good job and getting along well with the other employees.
  • Have quarterly meetings with each of your employees and a procedure that allows them to give feedback and express concerns outside the review cycle.
  • Give incentives to healthy workers. You can let your employees take their sick day allowance as a vacation, for example. This is better for you, because your will know and plan ahead when they are away and not have to find a replacement when they do not show up in the morning.
  • Sand sculpture of head pushed downGive money for extra working hours. When you pay your employees for their time, you are not putting pressure on them to work without reward. They can then choose how long to work and how much compensation to receive. Alternatively, have a “time in lieu” system that allows people to take personal time off instead of pretending to be sick when they need it.
  • Plan a realistic work load. If there are 40 hours in a work week, but they include lunch breaks, short breaks, public holidays, sick leave, vacations and meetings, do not plan the workload for 40 hours a week. When Gal was a manger and had to give an estimate of how long his team would complete a task, he calculated how many productive hours each of them actually had. He discovered that on average, each of his team members could work 3 hours a day, so if a job would take 10 hours, instead of promising to deliver it in a day or two, Gal estimated it would take three to four days (including spares). Be realistic! Your employees do not really have 8 hours of productivity every day.
  • Have good training for new workers. Have a proper job succession procedure where the person leaving spends time with the new worker to fill them in. New workers are targets for bullying because they can be fooled and tricked by using their lack of knowledge.
  • Have a buddy system for new employees. When you hire a new employee, they are at risk of being bullied, because they lack local information and there is a chance their arrival may be considered a threat by some established veteran. Assign a buddy to help them adjust and learn their new work. Be very careful when choosing a buddy and find someone who will be a good protector and a good ambassador for your organization.
  • Have professional and personal development training quarterly. Many organizations focus too much on professional development, which is very important, but cannot evolve without personal development. Employees are humans, so they need to manage themselves, their emotions, their finance, their relationships and their family life. When they do not manage those well, they are not as productive as they could be. Help yourself by helping them.
  • Have a structured, confidential complaint system. It is very natural for every organization to have unhappy people. Instead of letting them build up into something serious, introduce a procedure to tackle misunderstandings when they happen. Rather than assigning blame and punishing wrongdoers, this system should seek to resolve issues and benefit everyone involved.
  • Eliminate competition between workers. When people compete, you are at risk of starting a rivalry between people and putting pressure on them to perform at each other’s expense. It is better to encourage teamwork than reward individual wins. In the best scenario, everyone works for the same team and what is good for the organization is good for everyone.
  • Discuss deadlines with your employees. Deadlines can cause a lot of stress when the organization makes bad decisions and/or changes them often. I remember that Gal had to estimate how long a project would take and when he said it would take a week to complete, his boss would sometimes say, “We need it for tomorrow” and really expect it to be finished in 2 days. Remember, setting deadlines without consulting the person who actually needs to deliver the work is risky. If you have conflicts of expectations, ask your employee, “Why do you think it will take that long? What might slow you down? What needs to happen for you to complete it sooner? How can I help you complete it earlier?” As an employer or a boss, your main job is to help your employees do their jobs better, because their success is your success.
  • Finger pointingReview managers’ performance and behavior and limit their power. Power is tempting and not everyone can use the power given to them wisely. Without a monitoring system, managers and other people in power can start taking advantage of their power. Have proper review of every manger and include their employees’ feedback in it. Much like at universities, where the students write an anonymous review on each lecturer, you should have an anonymous review on each of the managers, including yourself.
  • When you need to remove an employee, do it properly. Do not make their life so hard they will quit. The time, effort and risk are not worth it. If you are worried about the termination payment, remember that unproductive workers who do not wish to be at work and feel threatened can do more damage than that even if they stay one more day.

A good workplace can make a huge difference in our community. At work, we have many people who will do all they can to gain some power when they feel weak. A good organization can eliminate bullying by building trust between members of the organization and contributing to the health and wellbeing of its workers. A happy worker gives good customer service, takes fewer “sickies”, is more creative, is more committed, goes the extra mile and above all, goes home and provides their partners and children the confidence they need. This way, we will have fewer parent bullies and child bullies in our society.

Join me next week for the chapter on the scariest bully of all – the parent bully.

Until next week, stand up for justice and make a difference!