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Strategies to Reduce Workplace Bullying

By Bridget Miller, Contributing Editor Oct 10, 2019

Workplace bullying is not condoned by employers. It not only creates a hostile working situation but also can create low morale, increased resentment, and increased turnover. It can decrease productivity and even negatively impact employees’ interactions with customers, potentially causing lost business.

These are all reasons—beyond not wanting someone to be treated poorly—for employers to take steps to eliminate bullying behaviors in the workplace.

Bullying Examples

Here are a few examples of bullying behaviors in the workplace:

  • Making threats or behaving in an intimidating way;

  • Making fun of, teasing, or speaking to others in a derogatory way;

  • Insulting or otherwise verbally attacking someone;

  • Starting any type of physical altercation;

  • Stopping someone from moving about freely or otherwise encroaching on his or her personal space;

  • Retaliating inappropriately toward someone;

  • Being disrespectful;

  • Constantly and intentionally interrupting someone;

  • Intentionally sabotaging someone else’s work or ability to complete work successfully;

  • Withholding communications;

  • Intentionally excluding information from someone or invitations to meetings that are important for his or her work;

  • Spreading misinformation or hurtful information about others;

  • Continuously giving unwarranted criticism of others;

  • Yelling inappropriately; and

  • Ignoring coworkers or others in the workplace.

These behaviors could be considered bullying, and while the list is not meant to be comprehensive, it’s meant to show behaviors that employers should try to eliminate.

Strategies to Reduce Workplace Bullying

Here are a few strategies employers can use to possibly reduce instances of bullying in the workplace:

  • Have antibullying, antiviolence, and antiharassment policies clearly outlined and communicated to all employees. Set clear expectations for employee behavior.

  • Enforce all policies consistently.

  • Take all complaints seriously and conduct proper and timely investigations when complaints arise.

  • Ensure employees have multiple means to communicate about any problems they’re having. They should have a way to report issues besides their immediate supervisor.

  • Consider allowing anonymous reporting of issues to allow third parties or those who are reluctant to come forward to still report potential problems.

  • Train managers and supervisors to recognize and reduce bullying behaviors. Also, provide conflict management training.

  • Give workplace conduct training to employees. Also, consider offering training for everyone on how to properly give and receive criticism.

  • Have and implement a progressive disciplinary process to handle bullying employees.

  • Ensure management sets a good example of appropriate workplace behavior.

  • When improper behavior is discovered, have immediate conversations to start correcting the behavior.

  • If the organization’s budget allows, consider hiring someone dedicated to addressing workplace complaints, including bullying complaints.

While bullying behaviors can range from simple to complex, employers should minimize all of them. Not all bad or bullying behaviors are necessarily breaking any laws, like sexual harassment or discrimination, but all of these negative behaviors have impacts best avoided.

Bridget Miller is a business consultant with a specialized MBA in International Economics and Management, which provides a unique perspective on business challenges. She’s been working in the corporate world for over 15 years, with experience across multiple diverse departments, including HR, sales, marketing, IT, commercial development, and training.

Bullying is often overlooked because managers and leaders do not know how to properly address it. It can lead to an increase of sick leave usage, a decline in work performance and morale, medical issues, and legal claims for a company. If you have questions or need more guidance, contact Georgia Lee Arts at or I also help employees develop strategies to deal with workplace bullies.

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