When we talk about workplace bullying, it is often mentioned in the context of the workplace narcissist or the psychopath. Did you know we can all be bullies at times?
Our own behaviours can be influenced by what is occurring around us. In the current COVID-19 world, where our jobs are at risk, or in many cases gone, and we have been told to stay home and isolate by our government and employers, we are understandably feeling threatened and afraid. This can cause us to act out a range of negative behaviours becoming bullying.
Yet throughout all this, employers still have a responsibility to provide a physically and mentally safe work environment be it in an physical work environment or as it is for many, now remotely (aka in their homes). To do this, you need to be able to see the signs of bullying behaviours, act when you see them and prevent them where you can.
Understanding the Threat
COVID-19 represents a threat to our basic needs. It is a threat to our physical lives; while at other levels it is a threat to our professional and economic lives. Our minds move instinctively to protect ourselves often without awareness. We live in a state of heightened anxiety.
This can show itself in our workplaces, remote as they are, through angry outbursts via phone, video meetings or email. In other more covert ways, information can be withheld because we aren’t keeping up our team environment, or we spread gossip and rumours about someone because it is harder to verify if we aren’t in the same physical location. At a base level, it’s a him/her or me mentality.
Understanding the solution
Research indicates that if you are to prevent the negative behaviours leading to bullying you need to implement systems that control the behaviours you don’t want to see. This is no different in the current environment.
Employers have had to modify their workplaces quickly to isolate their employees in a home based work environment. The focus has more been on how to do that technically, rather than how to create a safe and respectful environment.
We are being told that this might be our new reality for up to six months. It’s time to act to manage your risk and create a safe mentally workplace. You need to:
- understand what behaviours you might experience in our new world so you can recognise them and act;
- know how to manage these behaviours when they are experienced by you or your employees; and
- know how to prevent these behaviours from occurring in the first place.
If you do this, you can get on top of this and mitigate your workplace risk of bullying.