Speaking up against workplace bullying is understandably challenging and can be made immeasurably harder by the damaging effects of being a victim of abuse. Sadly, until meaningful action is taken, it is likely that the bullying will continue, potentially intensify and exacerbate the negative impact on you.
The first step in taking positive action is, with the support of others, to breakdown the fear and call out bullying behaviour to put a stop to it.
My top tips for senior executives tackling workplace bullying include:
1. Check workplace policies
Find any internal procedures for dealing with bullying and what support is available to you (e.g. employee assistance programmes).
2. Gather evidence of bullying
Keep any relevant documentation (e.g. emails, text messages, reports etc) of the bullying behaviour and records of each bullying incident with full details of dates, times, what occurred and any witnesses.
3. Deal with matters informally
Speak to your (or a more senior) manager or HR about your concerns to try to resolve the issue quickly and informally, although this may not always be appropriate or possible.
4. Speak to the bully
If you feel comfortable and able to do so, speak to the bully directly in a firm, but non-confrontational way to explain your concerns about their behaviour and how it is effecting you and request that it stops.
5. Raise a formal complaint
If you are unable to resolve the issue informally, consider submitting a formal written complaint to your employer (e.g. a grievance) in accordance with their internal policies and procedures. Your employer should investigate the complaint, meet with you to discuss the complaint and provide you with its decision. The employer should take appropriate action against the perpetrator if the complaint is upheld or offer you a right of appeal if it is not.
6. Request a different manager / move to a different team
If the bullying concerns your manager or someone from your team and you feel unable to work with them. This may not be an option in a small company, or, as an executive you may manage a team or have specialist expertise, making this impossible. This could lead to you moving on.
7. Move on
The reality is that many employees feel that they have no option but to leave the organisation. Before doing so, it may be possible to negotiate an agreed exit with a suitable termination package, usually with the help of a legal adviser.
8. Take specialist advice
If the bullying is affecting your health, it is important to seek medical advice. It is also helpful to take legal advice at an early stage to enable you to understand your options and legal rights and provide you with guidance and support to deal with the bullying.
It is unreasonable to assume that all the responsibility for tackling workplace bullying lies with the employee. Bullying in the workplace is not new, yet some organisations have consistently missed opportunities to deal with it effectively. Individuals alleged of bullying are likely to have had a history of allegations, knowing this employers should take appropriate steps to deal with the situation and prevent further incidents.
Before trying these tips or if want to talk to a legal advisor, pick up the phone and give us a call, or send us an email. We will almost certainly have come across a similar issue to the one you face and are well placed to know how best to deal with it.
About the author
Bina specialises in successfully extricating senior executives from difficult situations at work (with particular expertise in dealing with workplace bullying, harassment and discrimination). Bina is a tough negotiator and regularly secures valuable exit packages for senior executives as well as substantial financial settlements in litigation.