Workplace bullying is defined as “repeated mistreatment of an employee by one or more employees; abusive conduct that is threatening, humiliating, or intimidating; work sabotage; or verbal abuse.” This is according to the Workplace Bullying Institute, the first and only organization in the United States dedicated to the eradication of workplace bullying.
Workplace bullying is more prevalent than we think. According to a worldwide poll conducted last October 2019 by global online employment solution firm Monster, 90% of respondents said they have been bullied at work. Of these 51% said they were bullied by their superiors, nearly 40% said their bullying came from a fellow coworker, while 4% said they were bullied by a client, customer, or someone else other than a coworker.
What workplace bullying looks like
According to MindNation psychologist Jessa Mae Rojas, examples of workplace bullying include targeted jokes, being purposely misled about work duties, continued denial of requests for time off without an appropriate or valid reason, threats, humiliation, and other verbal abuse, and excessive performance monitoring.
She clarifies, however, that criticism is not always bullying. “If the criticism is relayed objectively, constructively, and directly related to workplace behavior or job performance, then it is not workplace bullying,” she explains. “It becomes bullying only if the criticism is meant to intimidate, humiliate, or single someone out without reason.”
Effects of workplace bullying
A bullied employee can develop physical issues such as digestive problems, high blood pressure, or have trouble sleeping. They may also suffer from mental health conditions like depression, anxiety, low self-esteem, and even suicidal thoughts. Business leaders need to address workplace bullying because it can impact the organization negatively in the following ways:
- Financial loss resulting from legal costs or bullying investigations
- Decreased productivity and morale
- Increased employee absences
- High turnover rates
- Poor team dynamics
- Reduced trust, effort, and loyalty from employees
What you can do
As a leader, here are some ways you can manage workplace bullying:
- Keep communication lines open. “Regularly check in with your team to find out if bullying is occurring, or if there are factors likely to increase the risk of workplace bullying,” Jessa explains.
- Offer employees easy-to-access, confidential mental health benefits with a focus on preventative tools and intervention.
- Address all concerns and all forms of aggression. Adopt a zero-tolerance policy towards inappropriate behavior. “Additionally, periodically review your organization’s anti-bullying policies and procedures so team members feel safe and supported in raising a complaint when it first arises,” she suggests.
- Arrange, support, and attend training. Teach staff how to resolve conflicts peacefully, give feedback constructively, or reduce their unconscious bias.
- Assess your leadership style. According to the Monster poll on bullying, more than half of bullied employees said that their workplace bully was their boss. “So review your own actions to know if your behavior might cross the line to bullying. Ask a trusted colleague for their opinion, and seek help if needed,” Jessa says.
Workplace bullying impacts the morale, retention, and productivity of everyone in the team. As a leader, don’t wait for workplace bullying to become a problem before you address it. Creating a safe space at work makes good sense from a physical, mental, and financial perspective. MindNation conducts virtual trainings on managing difficult conversations at work, reducing unconscious bias, and creating safe spaces at work so that your team can manage conflict peacefully and get along with others. Email [email protected] to book a training now!