One would assume childish bullying is left on the playground, abandoned as people develop into mature adults. However, adults are carrying this harassing activity into their professions, which can have devastating effects on the workplace. In fact, in its 2010 U.S. Workplace Bullying Survey, the Workplace Bullying Institute found that 35% of workers have experienced workplace bullying with an additional 15% of workers reporting witnessing bullying in the workplace.
With workplace bullying so prevalent, can you pinpoint its signs? Further, are you aware of the appropriate actions to take if you witness it happening to a co-worker? The following are tips for recognizing bullying behaviors and your options for stopping the harassment.
Recognizing Bullying Behaviors
Workplace bullying involves the repeated mistreatment of one or more employees by one or more perpetrators. Bullying often happens when perpetrators feel threatened by the talents of coworkers or to increase their low self-esteem levels. The following are a few forms workplace bullying can take…
- · Verbal abuse – This includes gossip, put-downs, belittling and other verbal tactics meant to demean the target.
- · Offensive behaviors – These actions include threatening, intimidating or humiliating verbal and non-verbal tactics.
- · Sabotage – Work interference, otherwise known as sabotage, prevents the target from completing their assigned work duties.
Since bullying can take many forms, look for clues such as an employee withdrawing from their work environment or for workers partaking in malicious or demeaning actions against a co-worker.
The Impact of Bullying
Bullying can have devastating impacts if allowed to continue unchecked. Employees who feel bullied are less able to complete work tasks, feel uncomfortable in their working environments and may seek employment elsewhere. Bullying witnesses also suffer repercussions including reduced workplace satisfaction and the fear of being a future bullying target.
A few top organizational impacts include:
- · Reduced employee efficiency
- · Low employee morale
- · Increased worker’s compensation claims
- · Expensive civil actions
Leading by Example
As an employee witnessing the mistreatment of coworkers, you may not know how to respond. While you may want to report the bullying, you’re likely concerned of being targeted with the perpetrator’s wrath. As such, the following are actions to consider taking:
- · Avoid Gossip – Gossip is a commonplace form of bullying and should be avoided. When coworkers are gossiping near your workspace, walk away from the situation. If another employee attempts to gossip with you, change the subject and don’t encourage future discussions.
- · Maintain records – All bullying you witness should be diligently recorded. Whether you overhear workplace gossip or witness the sabotage of a coworker’s assignments, the records you maintain will clear you of wrongdoing and can help resolve the situation sooner.
- · Take formal action – If the bullying escalates from occasional gossip to less subtle forms such as sabotage, additional action may be needed. One option is to make an anonymous complaint to upper management. This will avoid you from being a future bullying target and can initiate a workplace investigation.
Bullying is a current hot topic in the workplace and occurs far more often than some employees realize. Whether you’ve been subjected to workplace bullying or have witnessed it, this activity shouldn’t be tolerated. Employees must feel comfortable and at ease to perform their assigned work duties. By standing against workplace bullying and reporting the harassment, you’ll do your part to ensure the workplace is a safe environment for all workers.
Author Bio: Shayla Ebsen is a full-time freelance writer and graphic designer with more than seven years combined experience from her time in the corporate world and through her freelance work. Shayla’s education includes a Bachelor of Arts degree in News/Editorial Journalism from South Dakota State University and a Master of Arts degree in Communication Studies with an emphasis in Organizational Communication from the University of South Dakota. Learn more about Shayla and her services at shaylaebsen.com.