53% of surveyed felt their work place tolerated abusive behaviour.


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What are the best ways to deal with co-worker abuse? Is this a cause you take on by yourself? Do you involve your co-workers or management? Do you confront someone directly or do you gently drop hints that their behaviour could be abusive? What is the best approach to take?

This section is designed to help you answer these questions. One person cannot solve the larger issue of co-worker abuse on their own, but one person can make all the difference in building a better workplace just by reaching out to others to begin talking about it. Will that person be you?

Steps to Creating a Healthier Work Environment.

On Your Own

Reflect upon and observe your own behaviour. Understand that action can be taken to make a difference. Open a dialogue with your co-workers and managers. Here are specific actions you can take on your own:

1. Approach your supervisor or manager about the issue.

If you are serious about wanting to see abusive behaviour come to an end, you will need some assistance. Go through the proper channels, talk to your supervisors, management or Human Resources staff to begin the process.

2. Be pro-active. Be prepared to offer solutions rather than complaints.

Acknowledge the abuse that you have encountered but offer up ideas on how the issue can be resolved. We encourage you to be creative—there may be obvious solutions and then there are other ways you may not have thought of, that could really help. Ask if you can create a team building or brainstorming session so that everyone can participate.

With Your Team

Engage in team discussions. Ask management or Human Resources to provide information on processes and supports that are available to deal with team/unit based issues. Take responsibility and engage with those around you, and share any resources you can with your team. Here are specific actions you can take:

1. Develop a code of conduct.

When you develop a code of conduct, make sure that you define acceptable and unacceptable behaviour. Clearly identify the actions that will be taken when there is a breach of the code. Seek input and buy-in from your entire team. You cannot develop a successful code of conduct unless there is a plan for enforcement throughout the group.

2. Get everyone to sign the code of conduct.

This commitment assures accountability to each other.

3. Adopt a zero tolerance stance.

This is vital to ensure success. No one, not even yourself, should be allowed to cross the line once you have developed this stance.

If You’re in a Leadership Role

Use this material for team discussions. Here are some specific actions you can take:

1. Provide educational material.

Ongoing communication is important. Providing education regarding communication skills, willingness to communicate, the code of conduct, and the process to report issues within the code is imperative. It is also important to teach individuals to develop skills to use in confronting disruptive behaviour.

2. Provide coaching or mentoring.

Seek the advice of experts in the field. Often an outside coach or mentor can reach a group more effectively than a co-worker they are familiar with. Your organization may also have coaching or team building resource people you can draw on.

3. Provide mediation services.

Develop a plan that will work for everyone. Mediation services are often the best way to get to the heart of the matter with unresolved disputes between parties.

4. Take disciplinary action if needed.

If well-documented efforts at changing behaviours are not working, be prepared to take disciplinary action. It is important to clearly communicate this step in your code of conduct, before anyone puts their signature to any documents so that everyone understands the consequences of unresolved abusive behaviour.

Additional Actions for Individuals, Teams and Leaders

1. Seek advice from experts in your field.

2. Look internally and externally for resources and solutions.

3. Consult with your Human Resources staff about creating a plan or policies to deal with co-worker abuse.