Bullying in the Workplace
Everyone is entitled to the basic right of human dignity in the workplace. Yet every day, there are instances of workplace bullying. Bullying occurs when individuals or a group intimidate, shame, embarrass, or undercut another employee, causing harm to the employee. This behavior can be a combination of aggressive acts over a period of time; presenting a risk to the employee’s health, work performance, and safety.
When people are given power they can be tempted to misuse it, making others feel helpless. Employers aren’t the only ones who bully. Most workplace bullying is peer-to-peer, rather than supervisor-to-employee. Coworkers, consultants, and labor representatives can also intimidate; and sometimes a group of employees will target another in a behavior known as “mobbing.” Some examples of workplace bullying include:
Bullying Versus Harassment
Though bullying and harassment both take place in the workplace, they are very different. Harassment is the illegal discrimination of a person’s protected class, such as their gender, race, disability status, etc. Workplace bullying is not considered illegal; and it’s important to be clear about what bullying is and is not. An employer or boss can be tough, while still respecting the rights and thoughts of others. Being firm does not equal bullying in the workplace.
There are times when bullying is embedded and accepted in the workplace culture. This is known as institutional, or corporate, bullying. In these instances, employers will have unrealistic expectations and deadlines for employees. They might ignore employee complaints of stress due to workload. Also, rewards or encouragement are given to bullying coworkers. This behavior is unacceptable and should be reported to human resources, because when you fail to address the problem, you might be contributing to it.
Negative Effects of Bullying
Workplace bullying hurts both the individual and the entire organization, and there can be negative physical, emotional, and social effects. Individuals might face increased sick days, changes in sleeping and eating patterns, low self-esteem, depression symptoms, and problems with finances and family life. The company as a whole can also experience negative side effects to bullying, such as a marred reputation, legal costs, low morale, staff changes, a loss of productivity, and replacement and training costs to bring in new staff.
Workplace Bullying Solutions
What can you do to help solve and prevent bullying in your workplace? The following suggestions for the individual and the employer offer helpful tools to promote a safe working environment for all:
For the bullied individual:
For the employer or supervisor:
Workplace bullying is an avoidable situation. Having good standards in place can help eradicate or prevent its occurrence, as well as provide a safe environment for the workers and employers. If you or someone you know is dealing with the negative effects of workplace bullying, consider seeking help. Many businesses have human resources personnel or a recommended counselor to assist. If additional support is needed, contact your medical or mental health professional.