In our present ever-changing, diverse work environments, employers must mitigate risks involving bullying in the workplace. Workplace bullying means when an individual (or group of individuals) repeatedly target another employee (or group of employees) with actions that embarrass, humiliate, degrade, or sabotage that person or group. Bullying victims incur a high risk of psychological abuse and damage to their health and safety.
Traditional workplace bullying is compounded by the widespread use of technology, the popularity of social media, and sensationalized news stories. Therefore, it’s not surprising to see why workplace bullying has become an increasing concern for employers. Behaviors exhibited include cyber-bullying and cyber-stalking as well.
The California Mental Health Services Oversight and Accountability Commission considers bullying an "urgent public health issue" and states:
"Bullying is recognized as a significant public and mental health issue. Most definitions of bullying specify aggressive, unwanted, repeated behavior that is difficult to stop, inflicts physical and/or emotional harm, and involves an imbalance of power."
Workplace bullying typically lacks physical aggression, but repeated verbal and emotional attacks can be just as detrimental to the victim and to the organization.
According to the Workplace Bullying Institute, workplace bullies utilize ten common tactics in their mistreatment of fellow employees:
- 71% Falsely accused someone of “errors” not actually made
- 68% Stared, glared, used non-verbal intimidation, and clearly showed hostility
- 64% Discounted the person’s thoughts or feelings (”oh, that’s silly”) in meetings
- 64% Used the “silent treatment” to “ice out” and separate the individual from others
- 61% Exhibited presumably uncontrollable mood swings in front of the group
- 61% Made up own rules on the fly that even she or he did not follow
- 58% Disregarded satisfactory/exemplary quality of completed work despite evidence
- 57% Harshly and constantly criticized based on a different standard for the target
- 56% Started, or failed to stop, destructive rumors or gossip about the person
- 55% Encouraged people to turn against the person being tormented
Legislation against workplace bullying doesn’t exist yet, so this type of harassment isn’t punishable by law. Workplace bullying occurs four times as much as sexual harassment or racial discrimination in a company or organization. For these reasons, employers should be especially vigilant of workplace bullying. In order to protect their company and employees, employers must assume the lead to maintain a safe, productive work environment. Below are a few tips to support those efforts.
- Develop a company culture that embraces change and diversity, even if individual employees’ comfort levels vary.
- Utilize corporate policies, training materials, and training methods to ensure each and every individual understands the part they play in the process.
- Demonstrate that the workplace is respectful and inclusive by taking the following steps:
1. Avoid clearly discriminatory or intolerant behavior;
2. Respect the unique perspective and knowledge each person offers;
3. Act in ways that build people up, not tear them down;
4. Let go of the belief that your way is always right.
- Don't expect or need to be best friends.
- Appreciate differences.
- Find the value that each person brings to the overall group effort.
A healthy work environment where managers, supervisors, and employees are friendly and supportive of each other is a win-win no matter how you look at it. It leads to great cooperation and collaboration that in turn results in high volume efficiency and production. Conversely, workplace bullying significantly reduces morale, which then affects overall speed of production.
Aside from production, a work culture that is free of bullying contributes to loyal employees who will dedicate their careers to your company. Valuable personnel wouldn’t quit because of bullying conflicts, and you wouldn’t have to hire or fire people unnecessarily.