Identifying and Preventing Workplace Bullying


Bullying and workplace bullying have become a more commonly discussed topic in recent years and there has been increased awareness about toxic workplace environments.

Workplace bullying is harmful to mental and physical health, causing stress, depression, anxiety, blood pressure, gastrointestinal issues, sleep disturbances and more. The impact of bullying isn’t limited to the victim, it can negatively impact other members of the team as well as the culture and morale of the organization.

Defining workplace bullying

According to Healthline, workplace bullying is “harmful, targeted behavior that happens at work.” Bullying can be more obvious and overt when it comes in the form of yelling, coercion, threats, mocking, intimidation, humiliation or verbal abuse. However, bullying can also be more subtle and hard to define like targeted practical jokes, manipulation and passive aggression. For behavior to be considered bullying it has to be repeated, form a pattern and be directed at a single person of a few people. If it is one instance or if the behavior is directed at everyone, it can make someone very unpleasant to work with and the behavior still needs to be corrected, but it might not be classified as bullying.

Criticism doesn’t always mean that bullying is occurring. In fact, one of the qualities of a good leader is providing frequent communication and feedback on performance. It is not bullying if the criticism or discipline is objective, constructive and related to job performance or behavior in the workplace.

How to help prevent workplace bullying

Because bullying isn’t illegal, workplaces may not address it within their company policies. If your company doesn’t have a specific bullying policy and doesn’t want to craft one, consider including mention of it within an existing employee handbook or company value statement. By defining and providing examples of good workplace behavior for your employees you can ensure that your employees know what behavior is appropriate and fits within your company culture.

 

If you believe that you might be getting bullied, speak up early to both the bully and to your leader or to someone else in the organization if your leader is who is bullying you. If you do not feel comfortable confronting the bully, don’t feel obliged to do so, and consider bringing a third-party with you like another coworker or your supervisor to witness the conversation.  When addressing the bully, be civil but firm, providing examples of the behavior and how it makes you feel. If you need more information about how to respond when being bullied or how to eliminate bullying in your organization, Forbes provides an explanation of how to shut down bullying in the workplace. Documenting the bullying, your performance and what steps you have taken will also help your conversation and resolving the issue.