What is silent bullying?
Silent bullying is a non-verbal form of bullying and harassment which removes someone’s sense of belonging by attacking their confidence and demeaning them. Workplace examples include a manager who ostracises an employee by withholding information to make it impossible to achieve a set goal, or by restricting interaction with fellow colleagues. The presence of silent bullying contributes to a toxic workplace so needs to be dealt with quickly and effectively.
If you lead an organisation, it should be a key part of your role to create an environment in which your people feel free to get on with their jobs without the fear of being bullied or harassed. But not all bullying is overt, namely silent bullying, which is less easy to identify and can therefore go unnoticed by others.
How to tackle silent bullying?
In order to tackle silent bullying in the workplace, leaders need to contribute to a positive culture and ensure that ostracism is recognised. Your organisation will have to create policies to explain your approach to protecting staff. You also need to build procedures that allow issues to be raised and properly investigated. And it means you have to make sure those policies and procedures actually work on the ground. If your people are afraid to speak up when they are badly treated, then it’s not working. If they speak up and their issues are ignored, it’s not working. And if you let bullies and harassers get away with bad behaviour, it’s obviously not working.
Why is it important to deal with silent bullying?
Barely a day goes by without another media story about bullying and harassment at work. Most of our institutions are showing the symptoms. The House of Commons, the Home Office, the NHS, major charities, our universities and colleges have all recently experienced cases of bullying or harassment that have attracted significant media interest.
Organisations have a duty to provide a safe place to work meaning all forms of bullying need to be dealt with, whether silent or overt. Silent bullying has a range of detrimental effects on an organisation, such as reduced productivity, higher absenteeism and poor retention of skilled staff, not to mention compensation and legal costs.
So, as well as being massively damaging to the individuals who suffer it, the cost of bullying and harassment as a whole can be large for organisations. A study published in the BMJ estimates the annual cost to the NHS alone to be over £2bn. And being labelled a bully is a very damaging accusation for the individual concerned, which could have big implications for their future career.
Moving your organisation forward
Surveys suggest that up to 40% of people at work have experienced or seen bullying and 70% of the cases involve bullying by managers or supervisors. The patterns are all too familiar. People abusing their power and position, impatience for change in organisations, staff under extraordinary pressures of work and widespread job insecurity seem to be fuelling an increase in bad behaviour at work.
And there is often a driven and charismatic leader at the centre of the worst cases. The old saying that people don’t leave jobs, they leave their manager suggests that bullies continue to drive people away from organisations that don’t take the issues of bullying and harassment seriously enough. Losing your staff is bad enough, but the damage to your reputation can also be significant.
Getting to the bottom of what exactly happened is therefore vital – and an essential building block for a response that is both appropriate to the events and also effective in moving the organisation forward. At Verita we have carried out a number of workplace investigations to do exactly that. Some have been large, but some small and completed in a few weeks. What stands out, however, is the importance of organisations tackling allegations before they turn up in the pages of the newspapers.
We can help you to use effective diagnosis tools to assess if your organisation has problems in this area. We can investigate the most serious cases for you, especially if they involve senior people. And we can help you implement appropriate plans to allow your organisation to get ahead of these issues before you become the next story.
For more information on tackling silent bullying in your organisation, please get in touch or book a free consultation with us.