Management Tips··5 min read

Identifying, Preventing, And Dealing With Bullying In The Workplace

Bullying In The Workplace

Every organization is responsible for creating a culture of respect and dignity in the workplace. There should be absolutely no place for things like harassment and bullying. Every single employee has the right to feel at ease and comfortable at work.

Unfortunately, those are high ideals that are not always implemented in the real world. Bullying is not just something that happens on the school playground. It still happens in thousands of workplaces across the United States.

Is bullying at the workplace really still happening in the United States?

Workplace bullying is as real as sexual harassment. In the US, there is even an institute that helps to fight it - The Workplace Bullying Institute. And according to these guys, well over 60 million working Americans are victims of bullying.

The sad part is that current state and federal laws only protect employees against bullying when physical harm is involved, or when the victim belongs to a protected group.

The negative impact bullying has on a business

As a business owner or manager, you should be aware that bullying in the workplace has severe implications for the firm. These include:

  • Negatively affecting productivity
  • Losing valuable staff members
  • Negatively affecting interpersonal relationships at work
  • Encouraging a culture of disrespect
  • Victims developing mental health issues such as anxiety, stress, lack of sleep
  • Negatively impacting the victim’s self-esteem

How to Identify Bullying

Instead of giving you the scientific definition of workplace bullying, we are just going to illustrate it with a few practical examples. Bullying includes:

  • Being misled (on purpose) about job duties such as unclear directions or incorrect deadlines
  • Malicious practical jokes
  • Humiliation, threats, and verbal abuse
  • Repeatedly denying someone time off without giving a valid reason
  • Unjust or unnecessarily harsh criticism
  • Excessively monitoring someone’s performance

The four kinds of workplace bullies

According to the Workplace Bullying Institute, the vast majority of bullies at the workplace are bosses (61 percent). That, however, still means that nearly 40 percent of bullies are not managers, but lower-level employees or peers. Below are four types of bullies and the behavior they typically display. If you recognize yourself in one of them, do what has to be done.

First. The aggressive communicator

This kind of bully likes to instill fear in workers by shouting, yelling, or cursing. He or she wants to make sure that not just the victim, but also other workers are too scared to speak up. Aggressive communication can include other forms of hostility such as body language or sending angry emails. At staff meetings, these people would often assume a ‘power pose’ to try and intimidate others.

Second. The manipulator

This type of boss would start by not giving clear instructions and then criticizing the worker for doing things wrong. Sometimes he or she would accuse a subordinate of not doing tasks he never told him or her to do in the first place.

They will also try to set you up for failure by giving inadequate instructions or setting totally unrealistic deadlines.

Three. The humiliator

This kind of manager loves to humiliate his or her employees by constantly criticizing them, however hard they try. If you decide to work over a weekend because you could not meet their (unrealistic) deadlines by Friday afternoon, you will only meet with an even bigger barrage of criticism on Monday morning. Eventually, you will believe that everything you do is wrong, that you are a stupid, useless imbecile who doesn’t deserve a cent of the salary you are receiving.

Four. The two-face

One of the most difficult types of bullies to unmask - and hence to deal with - is the kind that pretends to be a friend but then goes behind your back and undermines you in your absence. He or she tears your reputation with others to shreds while you quite happily believe they are your friend.

How to prevent workplace bullying

There are many things that business owners, managers, and employees can do to help prevent bullying in the workplace. Below are a few steps that will help to create a bully-free work environment.

Be aware of bullying and make your staff aware too

Make certain that your employees know what is regarded as bullying so that whether they are victims of bullying themselves, witnessing a colleague being bullied, or perhaps unintentionally being guilty of bullying a fellow worker, they will recognize bullying the moment they see it.

Be on the lookout for signs of workers being bullied

Sadly, some people are more likely to become victims of bullying than others. Employees who are shy or who do not easily make new friends, members of minority groups, new workers, and people with disabilities are prime examples. Telltale signs that they might have become the victim of a bully could include becoming withdrawn, taking off more days than usual, and productivity dropping without any obvious reason.

Have an open-door policy

Employers should encourage their workers to come forward if they feel they or one of their fellow workers is being bullied. Make sure all your workers know that you have an open-door policy in this regard, and that reporting bullying will never be held against them.

Training for business owners, managers, and employees

Bullying and harassment training will make sure that business owners, managers, and workers all understand what comprises bullying and/or harassment and what steps they should take if they become victims of bullying or witness someone else being bullied. Proper training is also useful in the sense that it clearly shows to your workers that the company cares about them and that you will not tolerate this kind of behavior at the workplace.

Lead by example

Business owners, managers, and supervisors should always set an example for the rest of the staff. It is their duty to pave the way toward a bullying-free workplace. Managers should also know that abusing their position and making themselves guilty of bullying will come with consequences. There should be no exceptions in this regard.

Dealing With Bullying In The Workplace

In the first place, every business should have clear policies regarding bullying. Make sure everyone knows exactly what is regarded as bullying and what is not. If you receive complaints that someone is bullying someone else, act immediately by calling in the accused and having a preliminary conversation with him or her. You might also need to call in other employees to verify the often conflicting accounts you may get from the two parties.

If the facts confirm that bullying actually took place, but it’s not of a very serious nature and it’s the accused’s first transgression, an apology and a written warning may be in order. More serious cases should go through the appropriate channels and could lead to the guilty party being fired.

This will prove to both management and other employees that the firm views bullying in a very serious light. It should also significantly help to deter any further bullying in your organization.

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