Some colleagues and I were talking about our first jobs when the subject of Waitressing came up. A symphony of groans followed and, one-by-one, people griped about earning poor tips, working long hours, always smelling like a fryer, and having to deal with horrible customers. Then, a young woman shared a story about a male co-worker we’ll call Jack.

Food service work is hard in and of itself, but this woman’s experience was particularly awful because of her co-worker. Jack went out of his way to put her down with comments like, “go home, you’re just taking up space.” Beyond the verbal derogations, the guy purposely gave her the wrong meals to take to tables and stuck her with his share of clean-up work.

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She said that she didn’t want to complain about Jack’s behavior because it was her first job and she thought people would label her as oversensitive or weak for being upset by his words and actions. She didn’t know how to deal with Jack, and she let his negativity eat at her until she eventually quit the job.

I wish I could say that this was the first story I’d ever heard of one employee bullying another, but it’s not. Workplace bullying happens in all kinds of workplaces, and too many people don’t know how to identify or deal with it. School children learn about bullying, but adults often haven’t thought about bullies since elementary school.

Bullies don’t disappear in adulthood or even in the professional setting of a workplace, and the consequences of bullying behavior can be farther-reaching than emotional distress. However, you can reduce bullying-related issues by educating your workforce on recognizing, responding to, and getting assistance for workplace bullying.

Workplace Bullying Definition and Examples

Like child-rearing, abolishing workplace bullying takes a village to accomplish effectively and is ideally tackled by more than just one person. Workplace bullying is more than just a single instance of insensitive or hurtful words or actions; it’s a pattern of targeted negative behavior that incites significant distress in a work colleague.

Workplace-Bullying-2Training and coaching professional, Bonnie Low-Kramen, defines workplace bullying as, “persistent, offensive, abusive, intimidating or insulting behavior or unfair action directed at another individual causing the recipient to feel threatened, abused, humiliated, or vulnerable… [They] cause work interference and undermine the individual’s rights to dignity at work.”

Some common examples of workplace bullying include:

    • Publicly humiliating other(s)
    • Sending abusive emails
    • Belittling other(s) opinions
    • Withholding information
    • Sabotaging the work of other(s)

Bullying behaviors can be overt or subtle, so identifying them can be difficult. While you’re unlikely to find a comprehensive list of bullying behaviors, online resources provide several examples of workplace bullying behaviors. The shared characteristic of these behaviors is that they cause mental or physical harm to another person.

Individual and Corporate Impacts of Workplace Bullying

Bullying behaviors hurt more than just the feelings of the recipient; they can seriously impact the health of the bullied. Potential health impacts can include:

    • Stress, leading to ulcers, high blood pressure, and even PTSD
    • Anxiety
    • Panic attacks
    • Suicidal thoughts
    • Trouble sleeping
    • Eating disorders

Bullying behaviors also impact a business’ bottom line. Some of the impacts of workplace bullying on business operations include:

    • Lower company productivity and morale
    • Higher employee absenteeism and turnover
    • Increased cost of recruiting and training new employees
    • Higher risk of legal action

Healthy and engaged employees are more beneficial to a company than unhealthy and disengaged employees, so a company’s Human Resources professionals should include education and prevention of workplace bullying in their companywide training as well as provide employee resources.

What HR and Leadership Can Do about Workplace Bullying

As with many corporate risk factors, prevention is the most cost-effective way to deal with workplace bullying. Invest in educating your workforce on how bullying negatively impacts both people and business, as well as how to identify those behaviors.
A person being bullied at work shouldn’t have to handle it on their own, so be available Workplace-Bullying-1and have an assistance plan ready in case you need it. Create a policy and procedure that assigns consequences, such as write-ups or counseling, for bullying behaviors, and enforce them.

Additionally, pre-employment background screenings such as personal and professional references can help you identify bullying behaviors before your hire people to your organization. You can use this information to create lists of acceptable and unacceptable workplace behavior that you can then share with your whole workforce.

How would you deal with workplace bullying in your organization? Start a conversation with me on social media.

Looking for other ways to improve the health and engagement of your workforce? Check out my blog: 4 P’s to Engaging Your Employees in Organizational Health.

ABOUT TAMMY COHEN:

In 1989, Cohen founded InfoMart, a multi-million dollar pre-employment screening company that provides services to Fortune 500 companies nationwide. InfoMart has numerous “Best Place to Work” awards from various organizations. As a recognized expert in the employment screening industry, Cohen is often referred to as “The Queen of Screen” and was influential in the founding of the screening industry’s first trade association, the National Association of Professional Background Screeners (NAPBS). Cohen is actively involved in a number of business and civic organizations and has received numerous personal honors, including a commendation in the 152nd Congressional Record, the Entrepreneur of the Year award from YWCA of the USA, an Enterprising Woman of the Year Award from Enterprising Women, and the Phenomenal Women Award from the Siegel Institute.

ABOUT INFOMART:

InfoMart is an industry leader in background screening services, providing businesses the information they need to make well-informed hiring decisions. With more than 26 years in business, InfoMart is a pioneer in developing innovative technology and screening services, from criminal history searches to verifications of employment. Accredited by the National Association of Professional Background Screeners (NAPBS), a designation earned by less than 10% of the industry, InfoMart has been recognized on Workforce Magazine’s Hot List of Background Screening Providers for 10 consecutive years. The company prides itself on its dedication to customers, innovation, and accurate reporting. For more information about InfoMart, please visit www.infomart-usa.com or call (770) 984-2727.

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