Signs of Workplace Bullying and What to Do About It

Posted by Christine Batten, PHR on Mar 20, 2018 11:30:00 AM
Christine Batten, PHR

signs of workplace bullyingWorkplace bullying may be more common than you think, so it’s important both employers and employees recognize the signs and know what to do about them. Unlike bullies on the playground or in school, bullying at work is less physical and more psychological.

According to the Workplace Bullying Institute, “workplace bullying is repeated, health-harming mistreatment of one or more persons (the targets) by one or more perpetrators. It is abusive conduct that is: threatening, humiliating, or intimidating, or work-interference, i.e. sabotage, which prevents work from getting done.” 

Bullying can occur amongst employees (more common) and between employees and their supervisors. Signs of workplace bullying include:

  • Unwarranted or invalid criticism
  • Blame without factual justification
  • Being treated differently than the rest of your work group
  • Being sworn at
  • Exclusion or social isolation
  • Being shouted at or being humiliated
  • Being the target of practical jokes
  • Excessive monitoring

Workplace Bullying Targets

The targets of bullying in the workplace are not the weakest people in the company, they’re usually the strongest. People often become targets because they have something the bullies don’t, like more skill, more respect from supervisors or more seniority.

Victims of bullying experience significant issues over time including high stress, reduced self-esteem, lack of sleep and even musculoskeletal problems.

Four Ways Workplace Bullying Could Cost You

  1. The target could experience a loss of confidence or an increase in stress, and performance could suffer. This directs the effort away from work and toward coping.
  2. The target could become so frustrated that he or she will quit. Now you have the cost of hiring a new employee.
  3. Allowing bullying in the workplace creates a toxic company culture and reduces morale. This could also affect performance because those who witness the bullying may purposefully do less quality work to stay off the bully’s radar. A weak culture will lead to increased absences and high employee turnover.
  4. Bullying could lead to litigation if it involves harassment or discrimination. There are a great deal of potential costs associated with harassment investigations and cases.

Workplace Bullies

The bullies are often people who are good at manipulating situations and use bullying tactics to feel better about themselves. They work hard to create a false perception that they are superior by putting others down. Bosses often know the bullies are disliked but may think the organization can’t do without them and turn a blind eye.

Factors like major internal restructuring, lack of employee participation in decisions and lack of harassment policies about behavior can lead to bullying behavior. Individuals are less likely to engage in inappropriate conduct when it is understood the organization does not tolerate such conduct.

What to Do About Workplace Bullying

  • Address it immediately.
  • Reassign employees if needed.
  • Educate employees on workplace bullying as well as harassment.
  • Establish at least two contacts for employees.
  • Show company commitment about what is and what is not acceptable behavior.

Partnering with FrankCrum grants you access to a team of HR expertsIf you have questions about any HR-related issues, call 1-866-697-6576.

6,696 Sexual Harassment Charges Were Filed with the EEOC in 2017

Topics: Human Resources

Christine Batten, PHR

Written by Christine Batten, PHR

Christine has over 20 years of HR related experience with a background in labor and employment law. She manages FrankAdvice, the premium HR service provided to business clients of FrankCrum. FrankAdvice offers senior-level HR advice on all aspects of the employer/employee relationship and includes a vast library of employment-related documents including various forms, policies and handbooks. Christine also manages the Employment Practices Liability Insurance (EPLI) claims process for both the FrankCrum corporate office and the client companies.

$46.3 Million was Paid to Victims of Sexual Harassment in 2017