Bullying: It’s Not Just in Schools
While it’s likely been years since most of us were in high school, there’s one thing that even adult employees face today that harkens back to their school-age days: bullying. No one is getting into fistfights in the parking lot (hopefully) or pulling hair, but that’s because workplace bullying is subtler in nature. It’s psychological and verbal bullying that today’s workforce must contend with.
It may not be outright illegal, but it’s counterproductive and an extremely poor way to treat people you work with.
How do I define workplace bullying?
The reality is that there is no legal definition of bullying; however, the Workplace Bullying Institute provides the following explanation:
“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.”
No one should have to endure that in their career or profession.
Victims of bullying should realize that they’re not alone, and that it isn’t their fault they’re being bullied. In fact, the Workplace Bullying Institute labels bullying as a “systematic campaign of interpersonal destruction that jeopardizes your health, your career, and your job. It is a non-physical, non-homicidal form of violence that frequently escalates to emotional harm.”
How bullying creates a hostile work environment, and the similarities to domestic violence
It’s important to note that just because workplace bullying isn’t illegal per se it can still cross the line into a ‘hostile work environment.’ Further, there are some startling similarities between workplace bullying and domestic violence.
Typically, the bully (or abuser in the instance of domestic violence) inflicts pain where and when they choose to keep the victim off balance. The victim knows that the bullying (or violence) can happen at any moment, but they’re also teased with the possibility of safety during a period of non-aggression for an unknown length of time. Due to the proximity in relationships and at work, the bully is able to keep the victim close to them, allowing them to repeat the behavior at a whim.
Your mistreatment has gone too far when…
1) Your endurance of the bullying becomes a condition of continued employment.
2) The bullying is severe or pervasive enough to create a work environment that a reasonable person would consider intimidating, hostile, or abusive.
Workplace bullying could even be covered by OSHA’s general duty clause as employers have the duty to provide a workplace free from hazards, which may include the threat, promise, or actualization of harm to an employee.
What this means for employers who uncover workplace bullying
No one wants to preside over a hostile work environment, let alone work in one. Educate your employees about proper conduct in the work place and make it known that you will not support bullying or harassment of any kind. Encourage your team to step forward if they’ve been the victim of bullying OR been a witness to bullying, and make sure that your policy against workplace bullying is well known.
Keep in mind, the Health and Safety at Work Act 1974 for the welfare of employees was designed to remind employers of their responsibility to care for all their employees. For employees who feel their mutual trust and confidence with you, as their employer, has been broken due to workplace bullying, they could potentially resign and claim constructive discharge (making them eligible for unemployment.) Of course, that only applies to employees with at least two years’ worth of service, but whether someone has been there for two years or two days, bullying is never acceptable.
Keep your workplace a #DramaFreeHR experience—and a safe one— contact us at firstname.lastname@example.org and request a sample Bullying Policy.