Workplace Bullying: Little-Known Factors to Help You End Bullying At Workplace

More than 60 million US workers are currently experiencing different types of workplace buying, based records from 2017, with the figure likely to increase due to growing inappropriate interventions or noncompliance of workplace bullying laws. According to a 2017 WBI US Workplace Bullying Survey, only 6% of the perpetrators get punished while 23% of the targets receive help from their employers. Whereas 25% of the victims’ employers do nothing and 46% are paddling sham investigation.

With this ugly scenario, the corporate ecosystem is subject to permanent loss of great talents who are victims aside from incoherent productivity – the heaviest effect in a general perspective. While some of the victims who understand how to deal with workplace buying are able to walk over the challenge, more cases show that most workplace bullying victims, deeply affected, rarely recover from the knowledge that one or more persons believe they are no good. With some of them having to change careers or permanently deal with depression. Some of the victims that could push for a resignation or retirement from their bullying workplace move on with other jobs, but others remain unemployed due to depression and a feeling of being a failure.

What is workplace bullying? (Workplace bullying definition)

Workplace bullying is a repeated and systematic maltreatment behavior from others in the workplace which can cause harm emotionally or physically. Bullying could be nonverbal, verbal, and psychological or patterned as physical abuse or humiliation. Workplace bullying definition can be based on its characteristics: repetition, duration, power disparity, attributed intent and escalation. It is a difficult type of workplace aggression because workplace bullies usually operate within the organizational regulations. In more cases, workplace bullying perpetrators are usually bosses or someone superior over their victims.

WBI survey shows that 61% of all workplace bullying come from bosses, 33% from coworkers and 6% from the bottom (or subordinates). It could be covert; secretly practiced or overt; obvious or known throughout the organization. The negative effects are not only felt by the victims or targeted individuals; workplace bullying can result in a change of organizational culture and a decline in employee morale.

While most bullies are not open in their behavior, those who are open frighten their victims and as well as those witnessing the practice. The major factor in workplace bullying is fear and the bullies always pick on workers without confidence and those they perceived as a threat.

Bullied workers are always anxious, tensed and susceptible to emotional outburst. They live day to day-to-day fighting to regain normalcy, which they hardly ever achieve, and eventually become introverted and isolate themselves from other workers, in some cases from their family members in an effort to fight the hostile work environment.

How to recognize bullying in the workplace?

Recognizing bullying in the workplace could be a little difficult; it could hide under work stress or leave the victim with a feeling of incompetence at work. Understanding the different types of workplace bullying is a major criterion for identifying workplace bullying.

The different types of bullying are:

  • Isolation or marginalization such as the exclusion of the employee from meetings, silent treatment and not returning the employee’s emails and phone calls intentionally.
  • Demeaning behavior such as put-downs and insults
  • Threatening and intimidating behavior such as verbal (cursing or yelling) and non-verbal (gestures) threats and the use of online media to harass or threaten the employee.
  • Abuse of supervision such as harsh criticism of performance, threatening an employee with demotion or job loss, making unreasonable work demands and implementing arbitrary rules and punishment.
  • Carrying out work sabotage such as failing to defend or attacking an employee’s proposals or plan, systematically destroying work materials and spreading rumors to ruin worker’s reputation.

Bullies will:

  • Deliberately shout at victims publicly to disempower them
  • Delegate tasks obviously beyond the worker’s ability
  • Issue instructions that are later changed for no clear reason
  • Give unfair appraisal as a means to block the worker’s promotion, bonus or pay increase
  • Systematically exclude the worker from important meetings or discussions that will help performance
  • Make unreasonable demands or illogical requests
  • Micromanage the worker and clinically scrutinizing the employee’s work to highlight incompetence and find reasons to abuse the worker.
  • Imposing impractical deadlines in an effort to overwork the worker and deliberately setting them up for failure.

When does it become legally actionable?

Workplace bullying is not to be managed, provided it’s posing health and safety risks. Once you begin to feel uncomfortable with around the bully, then that fear is beginning to manifest in you. At this point, there is a need to take actions.

Before you begin to consider it legal, you may want to first read through your employee handbook. Some companies provide a guide on how to deal with workplace bullying. Consider discussing with the bully one-on-one if you are comfortable doing so. But most preferably, send an email to the bully; categorically stating his/her behaviors threatening your health or safety feeling and print/document a copy of the email. N/B: For safety keeping, do not keep any discrimination document in your workplace. It does not matter if the perpetrator response or not. The email is just to provide a documentation trail.

Lastly, report to your Human Resources personnel and also be sure to send a follow-up email to your HR thanking them for listening to your concerns. This will provide you with proof if the issue escalates beyond your organization.

Workplace Bullying EEOC

Please be informed that workplace bullying is not illegal. However, Equal Employment Opportunity Commission would recognize it under workplace discrimination laws (as hostile work environment discrimination) if you are mistreated based on any of the characteristics protected by law: race, sex, harassment, national origin, sexual orientation, retaliation for filing charges, genetic information, pregnancy, religion, disability, age, and equal pay. Hence, workplace bullying claims not affiliated to any of the protected characteristics would not be investigated by the EEOC.

In addition, if the bully had committed actions like hitting you or damaging your property, then you have a valid claim. As it is, workplace bullying EEOC jurisdiction coexists with discrimination laws.

Priyansha Mistry
Currently editor at The HR Digest Magazine. She helps HR professionals identify issues with their talent management and employment law. | Priyansha tweets at @PriyanshaMistry

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