How female small-business leaders can deal with workplace bullying

Workplace bullying and harassment is a big problem costing the Australian economy between $6 billion and $36 billion every year. On average, each claim costs employers between $17,000 to $24,000, depending on the case.

Money aside, the human impact of workplace bullying and harassment on other people can be devastating. Comprehensive research indicates ramifications of workplace bullying often result in significant detrimental effects to the individual, those around them, and to the reputation and overall profitability of an organisation.

This impact is amplified when applied to the small business environment, as people tend to work more closely together (often geographically) and the negative bullying effects easily vibrate throughout the entire organisation. Many find it difficult to recover from. Not to mention the time that needs to be invested in managing an evolving bullying issue. Or even a crisis.

Women often make exceptional leaders and many believe this is due to our heightened emotional intelligence and intuition. Therefore, as a female in a leadership role, it is critical that as soon as you get a “whiff” of behaviour that resembles workplace bullying or harassment, you jump onto it. Far too often leaders leave the problem alone, hoping the issue will resolve itself in time. It never does.

Act quickly and follow these five clear-cut strategies to deal with workplace bullying and harassment.

Be aware
Look for warning signs such as high absenteeism, complaints or decreased staff morale. Develop processes to allow your staff to report incidences without fear of retribution. Trust your intuition – if you suspect something is amiss, you’re probably right. So, check it out by taking the team member aside privately and check in to see if everything is ok.

Create and implement a ZERO tolerance to bullying policy
Implement a policy of this nature as an integral part of your business culture. Place Workplace Culture as an agenda item at each team meeting. Make sure your senior leaders role model exemplary, positive behaviour and act as advocates for the culture of your business, at all levels.

Train your team
Empower your people by training them about enjoying a healthy achievement (of goals) and support (of each other) culture and policies from day one. Educate them on the nature of workplace bullying and harassment. Include information about your ZERO tolerance to bullying policy in their induction to the company. Schedule all-staff recap sessions on a six-monthly basis.

Respond quickly
Any complaint needs to be dealt with immediately. Don’t allow time for the issue to grow. Monitor behaviour and communicate the results to staff efficiently.

Investigate all complaints
Take all accusations seriously. Gather all the facts, speak to witnesses, promise confidentiality and deal with the situation promptly.

Ongoing workplace bullying and harassment in an organisation is a leadership issue. Gifted, transformational and involved leaders who value the importance of healthy and happy workplace relations ensure their teams communicate well and regularly, and are supportive and encouraging of each other, no matter what.

Workplace bullying and harassment adversely affects your people, your productivity, your reputation, your profits. Take it seriously. It needs to be dealt with immediately. Act today.

Caryn Walsh, Executive Coach and International Leadership Specialist, Pure Magic International Business Solutions