Original Publication Date: September 4 , 2017; Edited and Republished on July 18, 2022
As organizations begin to better understand workplace bullying, the likelihood that they will intervene increases. However, before organizations can effectively intervene, they must understand a few key features of workplace bullying.
First and foremost, organizations need to recognize that workplace bullying is different than anything else they have dealt with before. This knowledge helps organizations with the development of effective tools to cope with bullying. Strategies need to be creative, hold the bully accountable, help the environment heal, and ensure that aggression does not continue. Interventions should be revisited to ensure that they are doing what is expected.
Organizations must also realize that the work environment will most likely get worse before it gets better. When bullies are held accountable, they push back and retaliate because intervention means they are losing their control over the culture. Aggressors become more covert and underhanded. Aggressors will also put increased pressure on bystanders to participate more in the bullying which makes it more difficult to identify who is perpetrating the violence. Leadership and organizations must plan their intervention strategies accordingly. This should include preparation for retaliation from the aggressor and bystanders. A clear means to protect witnesses and receivers from retaliation and further bullying must be incorporated into interventions.
Organizations often fail to recognize the complexity of workplace bullying and as such, they intervene only on one level. The most common strategy used by organizations is to intervene with the receiver. This increases workplace bullying causing additional harm and failing to address the real problem. Organizations need to fully understand that the workplace bullying culture is multi-faceted and includes the organization, the aggressor, the receiver, and the witnesses. As such, there needs to be systematic intervention tactics on each level to successfully manage, stop, and prevent workplace bullying.