What do you do if a team member refuses to greet another at work? Should you do anything? Is not saying “hello” really a sign of bullying?

I once had two team members who were in conflict. One of the employees, let’s call him Jim, would come in to work, say hello to his colleagues, with the exception of Betty (not her real name either). The team of eight sat in a small open plan room, so not saying hello stood out like a sore thumb.

Betty raised that she was feeling bullied by Tom and was visibly upset because of the way he was treating her and isolating her by not saying hello. When I discussed the issue with Jim he stated that it was correct. He didn’t say hello. He stated he didn’t like or respect her and it would go against his principles to say hello to her. He had no problem having a work related conversation with her when the need arose, so to my relief there was at least some level of professionalism.

What should you do and is it bullying?

Retrospect is the greatest thing. At the time, I was a bit flummoxed as to what to do. Though now I would have a different response.

Your workplace is a professional place of business. Like your family, most of us don’t get to choose who we work with. If you are the employer, you want your workplace to operate effectively and that requires employees to treat each other with a basic level of respect.

Your first task is to set the rules of engagement between team members to start with a basic hello as part of a respectful workplace. This is a basic standard you need to implement from induction, not in the middle of the conflict. This is not to say your employees have to like each other, eat lunch together and connect on social media as “besties”.

For Jim and your company there is an added risk. In this case Jim was saying hello to everyone but Betty. He was singling her out from the others in the team every morning; isolating her by his inaction. Bullying is repeated, unreasonable behaviour that creates a risk to health and safety. In a technical world, this provisionally ticks all the boxes of bullying. He has placed himself and your business at risk of a bullying claim.

So for all the Jim’s out there saying hello makes for a respectful, safe and healthy workplace.

It is usually the smaller actions which trigger an office battle ground. The earlier you act, the better the outcome.

Do you need to educate your managers and employees in safe workplace behaviours?

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