Many people mistakenly believe that growing up and joining the workforce marks an end to schoolyard bullying. Unfortunately, for many adults, that’s not the case. Instead of growing up, the schoolyard bully simply changed locations and tactics, becoming the workplace bully. Workplace bullying is a serious threat to the physical and mental well-being of those targeted, creating a toxic workplace. Employees dealing with bullying in the workplace may experience stress, trauma, high blood pressure, depression, anxiety, gastrointestinal problems, and other issues. Bullying is often subtle, making it difficult for targets to prove the bully is harassing or threatening. This article explains bullying in the workplace and how you can protect yourself if you become a target of a workplace bully. Although a universal definition of bullying in the workplace doesn’t exist, workplace bullying is generally understood to be a pattern of repeated unwanted actions designed to isolate a person in the workplace. These unwanted actions may include verbal comments intended to intimidate, degrade, humiliate or undermine an employee. Examples of workplace bullying include:
- Intimidation or threats
- Withholding information a person needs to do their job
- Targeted practical jokes
- Excluding or isolating an employee
- Spreading malicious gossip or rumors about an employee
- Violating an employees privacy through stalking, spying, or pestering
- Excessive or unjust criticism
Managers who have high expectations of their employees and provide constructive criticism are not necessarily bullies. Criticism or disciplinary action related to job performance or workplace behavior doesn’t constitute bullying. Bullying occurs when a manager or other employee uses criticism to attack, intimidate, or humiliate or single someone out without justification.
Signs of Bullying in the Workplace
Workplace bullying isn’t always easy to identify, but paying attention to the workplace climate can help you determine when bullying occurs. Each situation is unique, but a good litmus test for whether a specific case is bullying is, would a reasonable employee consider the behavior uncomfortable, offensive, or hostile. If the following is happening in your workplace, you might be witnessing or the target of bullying in the workplace.
- You notice coworkers become quiet when you walk into a room, or they ignore you
- Coworkers don’t invite you to workplace social activities such as parties or team lunches
- Your manager requires you to meet with them several times during the week or repeatedly checks on you for no reason
- Your manager asks you to complete assignments that are outside of your job duties without training, and management denies your requests for training if you ask
- Your supervisor closely monitors your work to the point you become unsure about tasks you have routinely done successfully in the past
- You’re given busy work or impossible tasks and criticized or ridiculed if you cannot complete them
- There’s a pattern of documents, files, or other items you need to do your job disappearing without explanation
At first glance, you may not think much of this type of behavior. However, if these behaviors become a persistent part of your day-to-day work experience, you may begin to doubt yourself or fear losing your job. Next, we’ll take a closer look at bullying in the workplace cases. Find a way to protect yourself by reading this!
Bullying in Workplace Examples
Although bullying is a form of aggression, it’s not always apparent if you don’t know how to identify this type of behavior. There’s no checklist to help you identify bullying because each bullying in the workplace case is different. However, if most people would consider the conduct unreasonable, it’s most likely a case of bullying. Spreading unfounded rumors or innuendo about an employee that causes their coworkers to think less of them is another typical example of bullying.
The rumor may relate to the employee’s personal life, mental health, or work performance. These types of rumors may lead to an employee becoming isolated at work and excluded from work activities. Also, bullies often attempt to undermine or impede their target’s work. Stopping someone from doing their job effectively may result in them receiving unjust criticism. Bullies may also make it impossible for their target to effectively do their job by assigning unreasonable work duties or workloads that nobody could handle. Conversely, a bully may remove a target’s responsibilities without cause. A target may find themselves without any work to do or constantly changing guidelines. Verbal abuse such as yelling and belittling, and constant criticism are among the most common types of bullying in the workplace. Bullying in the workplace by managers creates a toxic environment where the only alternative is often to leave the job. Bullying by management usually involves an abuse of power because of the supervisory position they have over employees. A boss may bully a subordinate in several ways, such as giving them an unjustified negative performance evaluation, threatening to fire or demote them, not allowing them to take time off, or preventing them from transferring to another office. The primary difference between bullying in the workplace by a manager versus a coworker is that managers often significantly influence an employee’s career progression. An employee bullied by their manager may not have anywhere to turn, making the situation even more challenging to handle. You don’t have to be a victim. Read this to change your situation!
Preventing Bullying in the Workplace
Companies are in a powerful position, need to ask ‘how to prevent bullying in the workplace,’ and implementing policies that ensure employees are safe at work. Management plays a critical role in developing a workplace culture that prohibits any form of violence or harassment towards employees. Companies should formulate a written policy against bullying that covers the full range of bullying behaviors. An effective way for management to get employee buy-in is by allowing employee representatives to work with management to draft an anti-bullying policy. Everyone in the company must be held accountable to the anti-bullying policy, including leadership, managers, employees, clients, independent contractors, and anyone else who does business with the company. Companies should encourage employees to report bullying, whether they are the bully’s target or witnessed the bullying. To encourage employees to report bullying, management should guarantee employees won’t face retaliation if they report bullying. By implementing a comprehensive anti-bullying policy, companies can ensure their workplace is a welcoming environment that encourages employees to excel.