How Bullying Manifests at Work — and How to Stop It
Bullying is an unfortunately widespread issue that affects individuals in many different contexts, and the workplace is no exception. Whether it’s subtle or overt, bullying in the workplace can have a detrimental effect on the mental health and morale of employees.
It can take many forms, from verbal abuse to withholding resources to manipulation. It is important to understand the different manifestations of bullying and the ways it can be addressed and stopped. Through increased education and training, and by creating an environment of support and respect, organizations can create an atmosphere that discourages bullying and promotes a safe and productive workplace.
What is workplace bullying?
Workplace bullying is a form of psychological abuse in which an individual or group systematically mistreats another person in the context of their job. While not all mistreatment in the workplace is bullying, all bullying is mistreatment in the workplace.
Bullying in the workplace takes many forms, including inappropriate or malicious comments, unreasonable criticism, public humiliation, attacks on one’s character or competence, unreasonable demands, threats, and harassment based on any protected characteristic. It can happen in any type of workplace, from a small company to a multinational corporate office, and can affect employees at every level.
Bullying can take many forms. It can be overt, with a manager or co-worker screaming or berating someone in front of others, or it can be subtle, with comments passed behind closed doors.
Signs of workplace bullying
If you are being bullied at work, you might experience any combination of the following signs:
- You start dreading going to work.
- You are depressed or anxious, or start feeling that your life is out of control.
- You’re experiencing health problems like gastrointestinal issues, headaches, or trouble sleeping.
- You have trouble getting along with family and friends, even people who have nothing to do with your job.
- You’re putting in long hours without accomplishing anything.
Why workplace bullying is a serious issue
No one should be made to feel unsafe or unhappy at work, but bullying can cause long-lasting effects. Individuals who experience workplace bullying can experience a wide range of symptoms, including anxiety, depression, and physical illness. This can lead to increased absenteeism, doctor visits, and healthcare costs, as well as lost productivity.
A culture of bullying can drive employees out of the workplace entirely, costing organizations millions in recruitment and training costs.
Bullying can also have negative effects on the organization as a whole. Studies show that companies with strong cultures and high employee satisfaction perform better on the whole. While any one instance of bullying can be addressed, bullying that is allowed to continue can have a lasting impact on morale and productivity.
How to create an environment that discourages bullying
Beyond addressing bullying that is already occurring, employers can take steps to prevent bullying from occurring in the first place. By creating a culture that encourages open and honest communication, and that respects every person, whether they are the CEO or a new hire, employers can help prevent bullying.
Employers can also take steps to eliminate imbalances of power in the workplace and avoid creating situations that could lead to bullying. This can include having clear policies and procedures, distributing information on resources and support available to employees, and instituting transparent and fair evaluation practices.
Employers can also encourage employees to speak up when they see bullying occurring. This can include having an anonymous tip line, encouraging peer-to-peer communication, and providing training on how to address bullying and bring it to the attention of management.
Strategies for addressing workplace bullying
Once bullying is reported, employers should investigate and address it immediately. This includes clearly communicating that the behaviour is unacceptable and that those who engage in it will be held accountable.
Employers can take a wide variety of steps to address bullying, including offering training or coaching in skills and communication, providing support services like counselling or employee assistance programs, and taking disciplinary action against anyone found responsible for bullying.
Bullying is often a symptom of a larger problem, such as a toxic culture, poor communication, or a lack of training and skill-building. In addressing bullying, it is important to get to the root of the problem and address it as effectively as possible.
What employers can do to stop workplace bullying
Employers can also take additional steps to put an end to bullying in the workplace, including instituting regular employee surveys, providing resources and support for those affected by bullying, and making sure supervisors and managers are appropriately trained to deal with any instances of bullying that may arise.
The importance of bystander intervention
One of the most important ways that organizations can address bullying is by empowering bystanders to intervene. While it can be helpful to focus on dealing with bullying after it has happened, it can be more effective to prevent it from occurring in the first place.
Those who witness bullying and do not speak up can be called bystanders, and they can take action to discourage bullying and support those affected by it. Bystander intervention can include speaking up when you see bullying occur, or, if it’s not safe to do so, reporting it after the fact. Employers can provide support and training to help employees intervene safely and effectively.
Legal implications of workplace bullying
Workplace bullying is against the law in some jurisdictions, and employers who fail to address it can be held liable for negligence or workplace discrimination.
No one should have to suffer through bullying at work, and, if you are being bullied, you have the right to address it. This includes taking action against your employer if they fail to stop the bullying or make you feel safe at work.
Bullying at work can be a serious and devastating problem. Employers have a responsibility to create a safe and supportive workplace where everyone can feel empowered to do their best work. This means taking swift action against bullying when it happens and proactively addressing the root causes of bullying in the first place. By taking these steps, employers can help put an end to bullying in the workplace once and for all.
Effective ways to create a workplace free of bullying
Ending workplace bullying requires a multi-faceted approach. Employers must take steps to prevent bullying in the first place, respond appropriately when it occurs, and create a culture of respect and support that discourages bullying.
Create a non-punitive environment that encourages open communication.
The best way to prevent bullying is to create an environment where employees feel comfortable addressing issues, reporting concerns, and speaking up for themselves and others. This means creating a non-punitive environment, where employees feel safe bringing up issues without fear of being punished.
Invest in training and coaching to address the root causes of bullying. No one is born with the skills to be a respectful and effective manager or colleague. By investing in training and coaching, employers can help equip employees with the skills they need to positively contribute to their organization.
Provide support and resources to help employees cope with bullying. While it’s important to take action against bullying, it’s also crucial to support employees who have been affected by it. This includes providing resources like counselling and access to employee assistance programs.
Workplace bullying is a serious issue that can have devastating effects on employees. It is important for employers to take steps to prevent bullying from occurring, to respond appropriately when it does happen, and to create a culture of respect and support that discourages bullying.
By taking these steps, employers can help put an end to bullying in the workplace and create a positive environment where everyone can thrive.