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8 Signs of Workplace Bullying and What You Can Do About It

Christine Batten, PHR
by Christine Batten, PHR on March 20, 2018

signs of workplace bullyingWorkplace bullying may be more common than you think. According to research published in Forbes from Dr. Judy Blando, almost 75% of employees surveyed had been affected by workplace bullying as a target or a witness. This is why it’s important for employers and employees to be able to recognize the signs of workplace bullying and know what to do about them. 

Workplace Bullying Defined

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. Below are the most common signs of workplace bullying.

Top Signs of Workplace Bullying

  • 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 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.

Why It’s Important to Recognize the Signs of Workplace Bullying

  1. The workplace bullying 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 bullying 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 workplace 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

When you recognize the signs of workplace bullying, you will notice that the bullies are often people who are good at manipulating situations. They will use bullying tactics to feel better about themselves. Workplace bullies 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

After recognizing the signs of workplace bullying, it’s important to take action. The steps that workplace leaders should take when this happens are identified below.

  • 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 including how to recognize the signs of workplace bullying, call 1-866-697-6576.

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Christine Batten, PHR
Christine Batten, PHR

Christine has over 20 years of HR related experience with a background in labor and employment law.