Some may say it begins by instituting a `zero policy’ attitude. Others may say it begins as an incident of workplace bullying or violence begins and disciplinary steps are undertaken. Others may say it begins at the onset of an internal investigation into an alleged occurrence of bullying or workplace violence. For me, it starts with understanding what actually constitutes workplace violence and bullying, and how to recognize when you are either a victim or an actual perpetrator of workplace bullying. I can imagine many readers rolling their eyes at this statement. How can a bully not know when he is bullying? Of course he or she knows that they are a bully! They have probably been bullies their whole lives and thrive on being one. Ironically, most times this is not the case.

I have been investigating workplace violence and bullying for almost 24 years as a police detective and as a private investigator, and I have concluded that when it comes to interviewing the alleged bully they are totally ignorant that their actions have caused the outcome leading to an investigation. Now I am not saying that everyone is blissfully ignorant of their scathing comments, angry glares and sarcastic management styles, but there are many out there that have grown up in different cultures with diverse backgrounds that may not understand what is not acceptable. For this group it sometimes comes as a huge shock when they become the subject of a workplace bullying investigation.

Prevention starts at training, informing and guidance. If it is clearly outlined to employees what is considered as bullying or violence they will have a clear understanding and will recognize these behaviours when they occur. Even if they don’t agree, they will still have a point of reference and will be able to recognize and refrain from these actions deemed as bullying. Once there is a clear understanding, the task of investigating and rectifying a situation is left to the mere facts and not to the interpretation or the subjective opinion of any one person. There are many forums for acquiring training related to workplace violence and bullying and I recommend exploring these avenues and starting the process of prevention from the beginning.