There’s a bully in my organisation – what can I do?

There’s a bully in my organisation – what can I do?

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How do bullies cost companies money?

Bullies result in high staff turnover, especially when the boss is a bully, because people prefer to leave than confront the issue. It can cost the company up to eight months’ salary to replace a staff member.

In the last few months of their employment, a bullied staff member is not fully productive, often being engaged only 50% of the time. When they leave, they leave a mess which takes valuable internal resources to fix.

It costs up to 12% of an annual salary to use a recruitment agency to replace a staff member. It takes three months for a new employee to become productive and add value to a business.

In this time, clients, accounts and general work has not been getting the proper attention. Multiply that by the number of people the bully has caused to leave and it begins to add up.

How do I know if there’s a bully at work in my organisation?

The best way to find out is to have regular sessions with staff. Bullies bully downwards, not upwards,  so their managers seldom notice the bullying.

It is important to find ways of letting staff speak out. Often, all the employees know about it, but are fearful of speaking out.

 

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What are my legal obligations towards the suspected bully and my employees, especially since I’ve not had any direct complaints?

You will have to conduct a thorough investigation. Bullies thrive under the radar, so often when they are addressed directly, the bullying will stop.

You can confront a bully, saying you have reason to suspect… and take it from there. Tell the bully you will be watching them and ask a staff member to report back to you on an ongoing basis.

Are there steps I can take to make sure that I don’t employ a bully again?

It is very difficult to identify bullies, who are often charming on the surface. It is best to have rigorous in-house processes that allow staff to raise issues when they arise.

Regular climate checks, audits and good training on EQ and leadership skills for managers are all good tools. Most importantly though, is to raise awareness with staff, who will then feel empowered to speak about it. 

Marleen Potgieter
Marleen Potgieter is an employment equity expert on The Training Room Online’s employment equity e-training series.