Workplace Bullying

Dec 26, 2012

Workplace bullying is an occupational hazard defined as repeated abusive conduct committed by bosses and co-workers. Workplace bullying can include one or more of the following actions: insulting a co-worker or humiliating your employee in front of others, undermining another employee’s work, making threats, using or tolerating violence, and spreading malicious rumors.

It’s crucial to address workplace bullying at once because it has a major negative impact on bullied employees. They may start to suffer from hypertension, depression, anxiety, and the physical ailments associated with those conditions—headaches and chest pains, for example.

Moreover, workplace bullying harms a company as a whole. Bullied workers don’t perform as well or produce as much and tend to take more sick days than they otherwise would.

Further, many bullied employees leave their jobs, as do some non-bullied employees who are upset by the bullying. Employees who leave often inform others—in person or through social media websites and sites that review businesses—about the working conditions they faced at their former companies. Over time, this negative publicity can inflict major damage on a company’s reputation, leading to lost revenue.  

So how do you prevent workplace bullying? First, employers, owners, or management must take responsibility for creating a healthy work environment, ensuring a culture of equality with well-defined rules in job selection, promotions, compensation, rewards, and bonuses. In addition, an employee handbook and code of conduct should clearly define the consequences for anyone engaged in bullying. Institute a zero tolerance policy toward bullying with a specific list of actions that will be construed as such.

At the first complaint of bullying, sit down with the accused person, his immediate supervisor, and someone from human resources. In some cases, the accused person when confronted will be contrite. If he or she apologizes and promises never to repeat the behavior, you may simply want to write a letter of reprimand and store it in the appropriate personnel file. You may also inform this person that he or she is on probation and that any actions will be carefully monitored over a period of time.

Currently, there are no federal or state laws prohibiting workplace bullying, so it may be difficult to fire a bully immediately. In many cases, bullies persecute others based on their religion, gender, race, or other qualifying issue. Sexual harassment or persecution is illegal in the workplace and thus a legal means to prosecuting a bully.

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