Workplace bullying is repeated mistreatment of a worker by one or more people. Workplace bullying is unfortunately common and can be detrimental to both the health of the employee and the culture of the workplace. It is important that employers understand what workplace bullying looks like and take steps to prevent it from happening.
Workplace Bullying Distinction
Workplace bullying is different from racial discrimination, sexual harassment, or violence, so it is often overlooked. Workplace bullying consists of verbal abuse, damage or interruptions that prevent work from getting done, and threatening or humiliation. A 2014 survey done by the Workplace Bullying Institute revealed that about 27 percent of American workers feel they have encountered workplace bullying.
Some examples of what constitutes workplace bullying include:
- Spreading gossip about an employee
- Changing work rules to confuse employees
- Setting unattainable standards to cause failure
- Threatening abuse or harm
- Unfairly assigning very difficult duties to only one employee
- Cursing or yelling at an employee
- Making offensive jokes about an employee
- Thwarting an employee’s attempts to train or perform
- Stealing or damaging an employee’s belongings
- Inhibiting an individual’s work
- Intentionally socially isolating an employee
Stopping Workplace Bullying
At this point in time, there are not laws in place preventing workplace bullying. Smart employers realize that workplace bullying is harmful and can taint a company name, however. There are several actions that employers can take that may help to stop workplace bullying.
Create Bullying Policies
Putting policies in place and following up with disciplinary action can help to stop workplace bullying that is going on and prevent future employees from being victimized. To be effective, policies should use very specific wording that addresses the different forms of bullying and specifies consequences. Bullying policies should be updated periodically as needed.
Encourage Reports of Bullying
One of the main issues that is often encountered when bullying policies are put in place is that employees are reluctant to report bulling for fear of being labeled as a whistleblower. It is important to cultivate a culture where employees feel safe reporting incidents of bullying in order for bullying policies to be effective. Reports should be kept anonymous and action should be taken that immediately changes the dynamic so that bullying is not allowed to continue unchecked.
Include Bullying Policies in Training
To create a company culture in which bullying is discouraged, it is helpful to include a discussion of bullying policies as part of training along with discussions about discrimination and sexual harassment. Discussing bullying and the repercussions for it right away in training can help employees to understand what is considered bullying and inform employees about their options if they feel they are being bullied.
Offer Support for Victims
Workplace bullying can take an emotional toll. Providing support for employees that have been bullied can help employees to recover faster, which may help employees to feel more comfortable and content. By creating a company culture in which employees feel valued and safe, employers help to ensure that employees are free to focus on work needs and remain satisfied with the workplace.