The word bullying usually conjures up images of children acting out on the schoolyard or teenagers exchanging taunts in the hallways. But recently a different form of bullying has received more attention from psychologists, managers, and human resources departments nationwide: workplace bullying.
Though we’d like to believe that bullying becomes a thing of the past once we all reach adulthood, sadly workplace bullying is a reality. Victims of workplace bullying are repeatedly subjected toward misconduct in the form of verbal abuse from managers or colleagues. Not only can workplace bullying affect someone’s productivity, confidence, and emotional wellbeing, in extreme cases it can lead to injury or even fatality.
It can be difficult to recognize, report, and handle workplace bullying. Here’s some information to help workers, managers, and human resources personnel who may have to deal with bullying in the workplace.
What is Workplace Bullying?
In many ways, workplace bullying resembles its childhood counterparts: it takes the form of verbal or physical harassment disguised as jokes or hazing. Some forms of workplace bullying include:
- Intimidation, whether achieved through verbal or physical cues
- Spreading a rumor about a colleague to harm their reputation
- Making hurtful, offensive remarks about others in the workplace (including general remarks about their sex, gender, race, religion, social class, and so forth)
- Purposefully undermining a colleague, worker, or superior
- Attempting to cause someone’s social isolation
- Stalking or spying on a coworker, superior, or inferior
- Constantly changing work guidelines to undermine or challenge someone
- Giving someone an unrealistic deadline designed to ensure their failure
- Requiring workers to perform dangerous or embarrassing acts that do not fall within their job description or qualifications
- Engaging in workplace mobbing, in which multiple perpetrators gang up on the victim to commit acts of workplace bullying
How to Stop Workplace Bullying
If You Are the Victim
When you feel you have been the victim of workplace bullying, you should first write down a record of the workplace bullying you have endured. This will help you as you move forward and discuss the workplace bullying with your manager or HR representative. Before addressing the issue with the higher-ups, try speaking with your harasser privately — after all, depending on the severity of their actions, they may not even realize they have been committing workplace bullying. Pull your harasser aside, then calmly explain that you feel their behaviors constitute workplace bullying and that the behaviors need to stop.
If the workplace bullying continues, you should talk to your manager or human resources personnel. If your supervisor or manager is involved in the workplace bullying, you can address the problem with their bosses or just HR alone. Bring in your record so that you can reference the specific examples of workplace bullying you’ve experienced and note when the bullying commenced. The people in management and HR should be equipped to put an end to the workplace bullying.
If You Are a Manager or HR Representative
If you are a manager or HR rep, it’s your job to implement policies against workplace bullying. The wellbeing of your employees should be your priority. Be sure that your company has a strong policy against the behaviors that qualify as workplace bullying, and make your zero-tolerance policy known. If anyone reports workplace bullying to you, work quickly to mediate the situation and dispense discipline as necessary. If you work with your employees and educate them about these negative behaviors, you better combat workplace bullying!