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  • Writer's pictureBobbi K Dominick

Training to Prevent Bullying

One step many employers miss in bullying prevention is training. We have become accustomed to training to prevent harassment but don't often see the connection between bullying, respect in the workplace, and harassment prevention.

So why is it so important to prevent bullying by training? This chart shows the progression that researchers have told us is likely when we allow disrespect in the workplace.

Disrespect in the workplace provides a breeding ground for other, more damaging, behavior in the workplace. Bullying can also damage a workplace significantly even if the other behaviors do not follow (job satisfaction, retention, engagement, etc.).

So what steps should be taken in training the team? the first step, after developing an effective policy (as described in the previous post, it to distribute the policy widely. Post it everywhere you can think of. Develop a "reminder" program of posters, email reminders, internal website reminders, team meeting blurbs, etc.

The next step is to conduct training of all employees. In this type of training, employees can learn what types of behaviors are inappropriate, they can learn about the damage the behavior causes, and the expectations the organization has for their behavior. They can also learn of the consequences of engaging in this behavior. They will also learn of what they should do it they see the behavior in the workplace with someone else as a target (bystander training) and what to do if it happens to them.

The training will remind employees that they are responsible for:

*their own behavior by interacting responsibility with fellow employees, supervisors, and clients;

*being familiar with organizational policy regarding workplace respect;

*promptly reporting actual and/or potential acts of disrespect or bullying to appropriate channels;

*cooperating in any investigations/assessments of allegations of bullying.

In addition to ongoing reminders, organizations should also implement specific supervisor training to address the responsibility that leaders have for policing their own behavior as well as controlling the behavior occurring in the workplace.

The training should remind leaders that, in addition to the above guidelines, they are responsible for:

*informing and reminding employees of the organization's respectful workplace values;

*taking all reported incidents of bullying seriously;

*investigating (or referring to the appropriate resource immediately--like human resources) all acts of bullying in a timely fashion and taking the necessary action(s);

*providing feedback to employees regarding the outcome of their reports regarding bullying;

*requesting, where appropriate, assistance from functional area expert(s);

*being cognizant of situations that have the potential to produce bullying complaints (like teasing, name calling, etc.) and promptly addressing them with all concerned parties;

*assuring, where needed, that employees have time and opportunity to attend training, e.g., conflict resolution, stress management, etc.

The best prevention strategy is to maintain an environment which minimizes negative feelings, such as isolation, resentment, and hostility among employees. Although no workplace can be perceived as perfect by every employee, there are several steps that management can take to help create a professional, healthy, and caring work environment. These include, but are not necessarily limited to:

>promoting sincere, open, and timely communication among leaders and employees

>offering opportunities for professional development;

>maintaining mechanisms for complaints and concerns and allowing them to be expressed in a non-judgmental forum that includes timely feedback to the initiator;

>promoting "quality of life" issues such as adequate facilities and tools, or job satisfaction; and

>maintaining impartial and consistent discipline for employees who exhibit improper conduct and poor performance.

Part of the training could also include making sure employees understand what is NOT considered bullying. Employees may feel "picked on" or even "bullied" when leaders are engaged in a performance improvement process. It is not generally considered bullying when a supervisor is firm in instructing and directing an employee or documenting an employee's unsatisfactory job performance and the potential consequences for such performance. It is important to distinguish between bullying behavior and appropriate workplace supervision. Reasonable supervisory actions, carried out in an appropriate respectful manner, include providing performance appraisals; coaching or providing constructive feedback; monitoring or restricting access to sensitive information for legitimate business reasons; scheduling ongoing meetings to address performance issues; setting aggressive performance goals to help meet departmental goals; counseling or disciplining an employee for misconduct; and investigating alleged misconduct. Differences of opinion, interpersonal conflicts, and occasional problems in working relations are an inevitable part of working life and do not necessarily constitute workplace bullying.

Often lists of preferred behaviors are a part of such training. Here is one list from a University respectful workplace policy. Employees are encouraged to engage in these behaviors:

  • Holding yourself and other accountable to the College's mission, vision, and core values.

  • Interacting with others in a considerate, patient and courteous manner.

  • Promoting equality and acceptance of people from diverse backgrounds.

  • Demonstrating a caring and positive attitude: greet and acknowledge others, make eye contact, say please and thank you; give recognition and praise.

  • Respecting confidentiality and privacy whenever possible.

  • Working together by promoting cooperation, participation and sharing of ideas, and information to promote team success.

  • Fostering open, honest communication and being honest and truthful at all times.

  • Actively listening to the perspective of others and seeking to resolve conflicts promptly.

  • Apologizing when mistakes are made and/or misunderstandings have occurred.

  • Using proper and appropriate channels to express dissatisfaction.

  • Promoting an environment that includes respect for differences that are valued and/or protected.

  • Being knowledgeable of other related and applicable College policies and procedures including, without limitation, Affirmative Action, Service Standard Guidelines, Non-Discrimination/Anti-Harassment Policy, and the Workplace Violence Policy.

Another aspect of the training should include, especially for supervisors, reiterating that retaliatory action against those who complain is strictly prohibited and will merit consequences.

This training can be effective in many formats, but addressing the types of behaviors that are encouraged, and those that are prohibited, is required. Successful training programs include having employees analyze case studies, interact in role plays, or similar types of behavior modification training.

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