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Employers: How to keep bullying out of your business

One of the most important things you can do for your employees is provide a workplace safe from harassment, discrimination and retaliation. For this reason, you need to make sure that bullying does not become a part of your workplace culture.

Figuring out how to do that may require some research. Below are some ways you can make your employees feel as though you value them and want to ensure they are protected from bullying. Doing so may not only accomplish those goals, but could also spare your company from litigation from a bullied employee.

Make your policies on bullying clear

Your employees need to know what you expect of them. Putting a clear and concise policy into place that prohibits and describes bullying could go a long way toward preventing it. Use as much detail as possible helps eliminate any room for interpretation. Yes, you should expect those you hire to know how to treat people well, but you can't take it for granted that they do.

Create and prominently display your company's definition of a civil workplace and what behaviors it will not tolerate. Giving examples can help drive your point home.

Make employees attend training

It's not enough to simply write down a policy these days. You need to provide your employees with training that clearly illustrates what bullying is, the behaviors your company prohibits and more. Everyone needs to attend the training from workers to supervisors to managers. Even your human resources people and executives should receive the same training. No one is immune from crossing the line, so everyone needs to know where that line is.

Identify and describe a bully

In order for your policies and training to have the desired effect, you need to recognize when bullying behavior occurs. Like any other behavior, it can happen subtly. Looking only for overtly bullying behaviors could end up getting your company into trouble and subjecting an innocent employee to a hostile work environment.

Even an employee who looks good on paper could actually be subjecting someone to bullying. Regardless of how good or productive an employee is at attending to his or her duties, the company will not tolerate this behavior.

Take care of bullying right away

Once an employee comes forward to complain of bullying, don't delay in addressing the situation. Make sure the victim feels as though you are listening and willing to take action. Conduct an investigation and take the appropriate action depending on the outcome. Again, even a good employee must be held accountable for this type of behavior.

Part of the challenge involves knowing how to talk to a person accused of bullying. While you want to resolve the situation, you need to handle it delicately in order to make sure that you get to the truth and your admonitions get through. The person doing the bullying needs to understand that his or her behavior has consequences, but that you will proceed with the process fairly.

Get legal support

Every employee has legal rights, including the one doing the bullying. You must carefully walk a tightrope between protecting the victim and not violating the rights of the accused. In order to make sure your policies, training, investigations and disciplinary actions adhere to federal and California laws, it could prove useful to consult with an employment law attorney.

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