Four proactive steps to bully-proof your workplace

Taking the right approach to workplace bullying can be a key strategy in running a successful business
By Jodi Zigelstein-Yip
|Canadian Employment Law Today|Last Updated: 07/29/2013

Turn on the evening news virtually any night and it seems the issue of bullying — whether in the school yard or the workplace — is front and centre in the public realm.

Explaining the underlying social causes behind this phenomenon is perhaps a job better suited to sociologists, but it’s safe to say that in the workplace, at least, there are some key causal factors behind bullying’s emergence as a major challenge for executives and HR practitioners. We should begin by noting that perception plays a huge role — greater recognition and an evolution of workplace legislation have brought an already pervasive issue to the forefront like never before. Bullying has gone on forever, but we’re only now beginning to assess its impact on everything from workplace culture to profitability.

It’s not surprising workplace bullying continues to be a hot-button HR issue with the emergence of legislation crafted to protect employees. Similar to their schoolyard counterparts, adult bullies subject their targets to unjustified criticism and look for trivial faults upon which they can capitalize. They have an inherent need for control and work hard to humiliate, ignore, overrule and isolate their targets, which emerge at all levels and in all industries. Leaders are not immune to their attacks, as bullies often target their superiors. Bullying bosses are also in ample supply across Canadian workplaces, typically setting up staff by burdening them with unrealistic job performance goals or deadlines, then all-too-often denying information or resources they need to succeed.