Bullying isn’t merely confined to the schoolyard. It is also prevalent in the workplace; research indicates that 75 percent of U.S. employees have been affected by workplace bullying. Because of its impact on productivity and quality of work, it’s crucial to take action and eliminate any problems before they spiral out of control.
Workplace Bullying Defined
Workplace bullying is the persistent mistreatment of individuals in the workplace through offensive, intimidating, malicious, or insulting behavior. It is an abuse or misuse of power through means that undermine, humiliate, denigrate, or injure the victim and may involve the following:
- Threatening, humiliating, or intimidating
- Work interference (sabotage) that prevents work from getting done
- Verbal abuse
The impacts of workplace bullying are far-reaching. Nearly half of all victims report an adverse effect on their work. It can cause stress, damage self-esteem, impair cognitive functioning, and lead to poor physical and emotional health, including depression and even – in the most extreme of cases – suicide. Think of it as a form of domestic violence at work, where the abuser is on the payroll. Many end up taking time off from work – or worse yet, quitting their jobs. This costs the company money in terms of lost productivity and turnover. Getting the upper hand on bullying in the workplace is key.
Ending Workplace Bullying
Putting a stop to workplace bullying is of paramount concern. This is something best handled by Human Resources, management, or the corporate legal team, as its consequences are so severe. The following steps can help put an end to bullying in your office.
- Learn how to identify workplace bullies. Signs of bullying are often subtle, making it difficult to spot a perpetrator. Those who bully may be skilled workers, but almost always have poor attitudes. Don’t give top performers a “free pass” just because of their performance when they exhibit bad behavior.
- Encourage workplace civility. Most employers provide clearly defined expectations when it comes to job performance, but few talk about expected behaviors in the office. Don’t shy away from this topic or oversimplify it by saying “be nice” and leaving it at that. Create a policy defining behavior in the workplace, providing specific examples of civility in the office, and make sure all employees receive a copy. Include organizational-wide training to empower employees and teach them skills for assertiveness.
- Address bullying immediately. If bullying is occurring, don’t make a mental note to address it later – do so immediately. Taking a zero-tolerance approach shows you are committed to a safe and hostile-free workplace and will foster a more positive work environment. It’s best to have a script of talking points prepared in advance, so you’ll know exactly what to say rather than letting your emotions do the talking.