Today’s society highlights the need to stop school bullying among children, but bullying in the workplace continues to be seen as a scary topic to confront—it is uncomfortable and unfortunate, but continues to happen. A recent study done by the Workplace Bullying Institute found that 96% of American employees experience bullying in the workplace, with up to 85% of employers ignoring bullying complaints. PrideStaff Financial wants you to be aware of the signs of workplace bullying and how to deal with it.
First, who is a target? Bullying crosses all cultures and ages. There is no one specified target group, although recent studies show that upwards of 35% of women in the workplace are frequent targets of bullying. Most victims of workplace bullying do not follow the stereotypical grain of the timid, defenseless co-worker. Victims are usually those most respected at the company, those who work hard, are outspoken, and show a sense of influence within the company. These personalities are doers, independent thinkers and confident, which bullies find threatening.
Signs to look for. It is not always easy to spot signs of bullying in your workplace; some of it can be very covert. Bullies usually start by testing the waters with intended targets. If met with little resistance or if the victim doesn’t speak up right away, the bullying will escalate. It might start with gossip about the employee, false accusations of mistakes made, constant and aggressive criticism, a victim being dismissed or left out of important meetings or a team “get together,” being degraded in meetings, shaming, belittling or even ridicule. All of this is to cause the victim to lose confidence in themselves or their value within the company. Tolerance of a bully’s behavior is more likely to occur when he or she is a high-producing team member, someone who contributes valuable expertise or financial gain for the company, or someone with a higher rank or title. Research shows that many times, in small companies, bosses or CEOs are the bullies, because there is little accountability and no one to challenge that person’s authority.
What can be done? Bullying affects whole companies, not just the intended target(s). It affects health, safety and wellness of both employee(s) and company culture. The first step in combating workplace bullying is to create policies for zero-tolerance that include all management as well as employees. Stop the bullying the minute it starts by having a frank and honest discussion with the bully. However, if this does not work, here are some steps victims can take if they feel they are being bullied at work:
- Catalogue all discretions and what the bully is doing to cause distress or violation of policy. Document dates and times, and the what, how and when.
- Schedule a meeting with your HR office; they are the designated party to deal with workplace bullying. And, regardless of stigma, they are there to protect the rights of all employees—not just the institution.
- If a zero-tolerance policy is NOT in place, then outside litigation can be an option. It’s important to remember that ALL employees have the right to a safe and healthy work environment.
- If your workplace has a union, then call your representative and have them sit in on your meeting with HR.