An HR’s Guide to Handling Workplace Bullying

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Any kind of mistreatment in the corporate world is an act of bullying and the repercussions can be very harsh. 

No work can be more burdensome or deadline unapproachable when you have a healthy culture at work. However, when someone gets singled out, the challenge gets real. Initially, the sufferer is the person getting bullied, but the real sufferer in the long-term is the organization. 

The recent times saw many campaigns like #MeToo and #BlackLivesMatter, which are in many ways the extent of such problems. What’s even worse is the possibility of the matter going public. And, once it does, the organizations’ long-built reputation gets the real beating. 

According to a 2017 research by the Workplace Bullying Institute

  • 61% of bullying comes from leadership
  • Ratio of bullying of whites versus the rest was 81%:19%
  • Ratio of bullying in male versus females was 70%:30%

We understood the outcomes of workplace bullying. Now let’s switch to the combating part of it.

What role does an HR manager play in controlling this menace?

ALSO READ: How to Turn Human Resources Into a Profit-Driving Machine?

First things first, “Understand Bullying”

Any act that tends to “mentally or physically hurt” or isolate a person in a workplace is Workplace Bullying. It usually involves a persistent pattern of a behavior that intimidates, degrades, offends, or humiliates a particular person or a group of people within an organization. 

The Workplace Bullying Institute or WBI defines workplace bullying as, “repeated, health-harming mistreatment of one or more persons (the targets) by one or more perpetrators.” 

Bullying doesn’t involve aggressions always, as there are many instances when bullying will be subtle and not entirely obvious. 

Here are a few examples of indirect bullying:

  • Setting impossible deadlines
  • Create a feeling of usefulness 
  • Belittling one’s opinion
  • Blocking leaves, promotions
  • Assigning unreasonable workloads


Handling a Bullying case

Here are 3 steps your HR needs to take when a bullying matter surfaces in your organization.

Step 1: Taking the First Step after Bullying is reported

The moment an employee brings such a complaint, immediate action needs to be taken. The duty of the HR is to promptly follow up on the issue. HRs can assume responsibility of investigating the case themselves or assign it to the POSHB (Prevention of Sexual Harassment and Bullying) committee. 

What’s equally important is confidentiality. A lot of people will have to work with each other after the matter resolves. This becomes easier if you maintain confidentiallity during the entire process.

Step 2: Documenting the report

Once the matter is fully understood and the HR has a clear picture of how the event took place, the whole incident needs to be documented.

Step 3: Taking the decision

“Immediate termination” is often the proposed solution, but there are several measures you can take. It is always the employer’s choice though – a termination being the threshold for the most harsh conduct.

Strategies for preventing Future Bullying 

It is your duty as an HR to make sure you are not housing another bully in your organization after the last one. To ensure a bully-free culture, here are a few efforts you can initiate:

  • Create an anti-bullying or anti-harassment employee handbook
  • Train employees at least once in six months about the same
  • Take anonymous surveys periodically 
  • Always stay watchful 

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