So you think there might be bullying in your organisation..

This is the third in our step-by-step series on how to prevent, identify and manage bullying in your workplace. In this one, we talk about responding to complaints.. Read on if you’d like to know more!

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So you’ve done what you can to build a great culture, you’ve made sure everyone in your organisation knows what bullying is and how to report it, and you’ve kept a close eye out for things that could indicate that bullying is present. And now, someone has reported an incident of bullying. What do you do next?

Firstly, take it seriously. Then, sit down and think very carefully about your course of action. Are there other directors or managers who are experts in dealing with situations like this? Could you get some support from an expert on how to proceed? Some great advice is worth a lot in this situation, and might save you a lot of heartache later.

You’ll need to fully understand the complaint that has been made, who is complaining and why, what the behaviours are they’re worried about, how long it’s been going on, whether there’s any evidence, how severe it is and what the complainant ideally would like out of the situation. You’ll also want to understand if the behaviour complained about is actually bullying. To do this, you can match it up with the definition of bullying, which you’ll find in the BE Intent ‘Stop Bullying‘ module. That’s a great start, so you know what you’re dealing with. A note here: even if the behaviour is not deemed to be bullying, it can still be detrimental and destructive, and even potentially be a precursor to bullying. Try not to just think that if it’s not ‘bullying’, it’s not an issue.

An investigation will need to take place, either by bringing experts in, or by starting with an informal investigation yourself. At this stage, take care to protect the complainant. Find out whether they’re willing to be named, and make sure there are no repercussions towards them if the alleged bully finds out they’ve spoken up.

A solution needs to be tailored to the individual situation. Does some mediation need to take place? Perhaps a discrimination programme for all employees is necessary. And if the behaviour is serious enough, some serious repercussions for the bully themselves, to make sure it doesn’t happen again. Remember to see the bully in a three dimensional light too. They may be very keen to learn how to stop, or need some support themselves. It’s easy to think that if someone is exhibiting bullying behaviour, that they are a bad person and should be punished and even dismissed without support. You’ll need to hear their side too, and ideally offer some support if it looks like they’d be willing to accept it.

It may feel like a minefield, but just remember, if done right, you might be changing lives.

You can read the first post in this series here, and the second here. Contact us if you’re interested in the Stop Bullying module we have available. It’s there to help you, using a relaxed and easy to understand manner, and the unique, proven BE Intent learning methodology.

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