Bullying is repeated inappropriate behavior that undermines an employee’s right to dignity at work. The bullying behavior can be aimed at a group or an individual. Basically, it appears in three forms: verbal, physical or cyber, which includes internet or phone activities like social networking sites, texts and email.
Bullies seek to intimidate others. Their weapons also include gossip intended to damage someone’s reputation, obscene language and social isolation and exclusion.
Examples of Bullying
Bullying includes, but is not limited to, the following behaviors:
- Slander, ridicule, name calling and jokes about the person
- Physical interaction such as kicking, pushing, tripping, poking, assault or threat of assault, as well as damage to property or work area
- Social or physical exclusion in work activities
- Obscene language or gestures
- Public humiliation
- Ignoring or interrupting
- Rumors and gossiping
- Interfering with work, such as withholding information, imposing impossible deadlines and assigning menial tasks
Effects of Bullying
This inappropriate behavior affects both the target and the organization.
Those experiencing bullying can have stress-related illnesses and loss of confidence. They will withdraw at work and elsewhere. Their work performance can suffer, and they may show increased absenteeism.
The effects of bullying will spread to the organization, manifesting in reduced productivity, decreased morale and company loyalty, lack of trust and teamwork among coworkers, increased absenteeism, and higher health care and Workers Compensation costs. Clearly, the presence of workplace bullying has far-reaching consequences for an employer.
According to the Society for Human Resource Management (SHRM), workplace bullying incidents are not generally covered by anti-discrimination laws unless the target is a member of a protected class.
There are as yet no Federal anti-bullying laws. However, on the state level, legislation called The Healthy Workplace Bill contains workplace anti-bullying laws. First introduced in California, this grassroots effort has been presented (but not yet enacted) in 23 state legislatures. You can check the status of The Healthy Workplace Bill in your state here.
Consider Implementing a Workplace Bullying Policy
Instead of waiting for your state to enact The Healthy Workplace Bill, you can act now and create a Workplace Bullying Policy. This can be a standalone policy or part of a larger anti-harassment policy.
The policy should be widely communicated and include these components:
- Definition of bullying with examples
- To whom the policy applies and where
- Zero tolerance statement on bullying in any form
- Consequences of policy violations
- Responsibilities of employees, supervisors, managers and Human Resources
- Reporting procedures
Once in place, it’s a good idea to have training sessions for all employees on this new policy to ensure that they’ve received adequate notice.
No one wants to work in an environment where they are not welcomed and valued. Being bullied takes its toll on the individual and the organization. Act now to crack down on bullying in your workplace.