Bullying: It’s Not Just a Schoolyard Problem (2)


This is the second post in a three part series on bullying in the workplace.

As you may recall, the previous post on workplace bullying provided a description of workplace bullying, gave some startling statistics regarding its frequency, and outlined the benefits of prevention.  This post will focus on the employer’s prevention measures.

Two relatively simple ways employers can attempt to prevent workplace bullying is by enacting Anti-Bullying policies and/or Civility Codes.  While similar, the two methods differ in some key respects.  Anti-Bullying policies are akin to anti-harassment policies – the policy should contain, at a minimum, a description of the behavior, reporting procedures, and the potential consequences for violation of the policy.

Civility Codes, in contrast, are not meant to be mandated or carry the threat of disciplinary action.  Rather, Civility Codes should be used as guidelines, which outline the expected behavior of the employees.  Such policies should be written to persuade the employees that civil conduct is best, not only for them, but also for the organization as a whole.

Whatever method the employer chooses to implement, it is necessary that the employees feel that the chosen policy adequately addresses their needs.  Of particular importance, the employees must perceive the policy to be fair, that the policy will make a difference, and that they will not be retaliated against for using the policy.  As in all corporate policies, clarity and equal enforcement are necessary for the policy to succeed and for the employees to feel comfortable.

The next installment in this series will address the various government responses to workplace bullying and the proposed anti-bullying law currently before the Massachusetts legislature.