Safeguarding your employees from workplace abuse
Workplace abuse comes in many forms: violence, harassment, threatening or aggressive behavior and bullying. The results can be devastating, with serious physical or psychological damage being far too common occurrences.
Not only can this lead to lost employees, driven to despair and quitting their position, but it can also cause legal backlash, as employees seek financial compensation for their grievance. Plus people talk, and a workplace that allows for abuse is not one that is going have the most upstanding reputation.
So, abuse in the workplace must be dealt with, for the sake of them employee and the business, but what steps can be taken?
Outline your policy
Workers without regulations have no boundaries and no reference for what constitutes abusive behaviour. Likewise, those receiving abuse have no idea what ranks highly enough to warrant complaint and discipline.
To address this issue, employers must clearly outline their policies regarding abuse. Zero tolerance is the key when it comes to workplace abuse. Make it clear to your employees that all allegations of abuse are taken very seriously.
Inform your employees
Once your policy is clear, you need to not only let your employees know about it – through training and signs if necessary – but also explain how they can use it to protect themselves.
Advise them on formal methods of complaint, who to speak to, and how present their case. You should advise workers to collect any evidence of abuse, be it texts or emails, CCTV footage or witnesses that can be interviewed. It would also be worth highlighting that fake claims of abuse will also come with zero tolerance.
Control situations from within
Sometimes people are afraid of being ridiculed or receiving further abuse if they take matters further. Or perhaps they have no evidence to bring to you, and feel word of mouth is damaging, but not archivable. But you can go the extra mile to ensure unwanted situations do not arise in the following ways:
Abusive behavior is not always apparent, even to those doling out the abuse. Combating this requires a proactive approach to identifying behaviors and educating workers that what they are doing may not be appropriate. Courses are available that offer such training, ensuring there can be no grey area when it comes to abuse.
With comprehensive training in what constitutes abuse, not only will any abusers be aware of their actions, but those around them as well. The more people that understand the types of behaviour and their impacts, the more people that can be around to stop it or discourage others from undertaking it.
Be on the lookout
It might be hard to spot abuse as it happens, but it can be easier to identify the telltale signs that somebody is being abused. People whose attitudes towards work change might have something personal affecting them, or it might be work related. If you notice changes in employees, talk to them. It might give them the confidence to be honest, or allow them to build up to it.
Keep a look out
Employees sometimes bully each other, just like peers at school. However, the biggest and most prominent form of the workplace bully world is sometimes the boss and other members of management. Positions of power can sometimes allow bullies to be more abusive, or get away with their abuses.
As with other forms of abuse, people in powerful positions might not classify their behaviour as abusive, even if it is. Those that are overly critical, use aggressive language or withhold information may view it as an extension of their powers in the workplace, but any time this type of behaviour becomes a problem for the employee, then it’s an issue for the employer.
In a scenario with peer abuse, those that are the target of such a thing might feel they have more options for change. When it comes to a superior, however, employees that suffer abuse are far more likely to simply leave the workplace as it is far harder to impact said superiors behaviour. Clearly then, this leads to a feeling of hopelessness that no employee should face.
If you are to cut out abuse then, zero tolerance must be adhered to no matter who is involved. Formal investigations must be taken seriously, even when against management.
If managers are shown favouritism, then it undermines the policies that you are trying to enforce, making them meaningless. Make it understood that for all workers under the organisation, the same rules apply. This might mean upsetting friends and colleagues in the same position as you, but abuse can lead to serious mental health problems, and must be dealt with.