What Is Workplace Bullying?
Workplace bullying is basically what it sounds like - bullying behaviors that occur in the workplace. The term "bullying" refers to any actions or behaviors that are intended to be:
These behaviors may be overt in that they are obvious and marked toward the target of the bullying. They may also be covert in that they are relational aggression or sneaky.
Bullying in the workplace is also often called harassment. Harassment is the legal term associated with workplace bullying. Harassment is not tolerated and most companies or governmental agencies have specific policies to address harassment. In fact, many companies require their employees to complete an anti-harassment training for the workplace.
Types Of Harassment:
As mentioned, there are several types and ways in which a person may harass or bully another. The following are some definitions and examples of workplace bullying.
Harassment: Harassment is the general term for workplace bullying. Harassment can be peer-to-peer, subordinate to supervisor, or supervisor to subordinate. Peer-to-peer bullying can consist of things such as telling jokes about someone, putting someone down, making fun of or mocking someone, spreading rumors, or engaging in threatening behavior.
Chronic or consistent bullying and harassment can lead to a hostile work environment if it can be proven that the harassment has gone on for a certain period of time.
Sexual harassment: Sexual harassment is harassment that is sexual in nature or related to someone's sex or gender. Sexual harassment happens to men and women, although it is under-reported by men. Sexual harassment includes vulgar comments, sexual jokes, sexual or pornographic images, and sexual touching. The term sexual harassment applies even if the target never resists or says no. Similarly, those who are not the target of the harassment can report sexual harassment about another person.
Read more about rape and sexual assault.
Workplace violence: Workplace violence refers to intimidation and physical threats or contact in the workplace. This includes yelling, threats, pushing, shoving, hitting, kicking, biting, or throwing objects at another person. Workplace violence is a very serious issue that should be reported immediately. Often there are signs and indicators of workplace violence, so never take a threat lightly, or assume it is a joke. If you believe you are in a dangerous or life-threatening situation, call 911 immediately.
Domestic Violence in the workplace: More recent research has focused on a segment of workplace violence related to domestic abuse.
Read more about domestic abuse.
Call 911 for all emergencies.
The National Domestic Violence Hotline: 1.800.799.SAFE (7233)
While domestic violence is typically thought of as a "home problem," it actually has a strong relationship to the workplace. Often it is the one place that the target of the domestic violence can be counted to be. The abuser may stalk the target or show up at his or her workplace, at which point it becomes a workplace violence issue. Many states are developing initiatives to combat domestic violence in the workplace. If an employee is involved in a domestic situation, make sure the front office staff and relevant employees are familiar with the abuser's picture and vehicle. Do not allow the abuser access to the workplace, and call the police.
Bullying by race, creed, class, or other protected classes: Title VII of the Civil Rights Act of 1964 states that no employee is allowed to be treated differently due to race, color, national origin, religion, or sex. It is unlawful for an employer to engage in this behavior, or any behavior that causes a disperate impact. This can be employees passed up for promotions, employees who are unfairly disciplined, employees who are not afforded the same opportunities as other employees, based on one of these protected classes. Most workplaces have a documented policy about Title VII harassment.
Quid pro quo: This literally means "this for that." Quid pro quo refers to an employee, typically a supervisor in a position of power, exchanging a perk or benefit for a specific behavior or action. Typically this refers to sexual harassment, in that an employee exchanges sexual favors for a perk or benefit. This also works in reverse, when a supervisor threatens an employee with a negative consequence if the employee does not engage in the desired behavior.
Am I Being Bullied?
How do you know if you are being bullied? Here are some things to consider when you think about your workplace.
- Thinking about work makes you anxious or feel like vomiting.
- You avoid going to work.
- You are unable to focus at work.
- You develop health problems such as high blood pressure or insomnia.
- You feel ashamed when at the office.
- You are obsessed with work.
- You feel isolated at work.
- You request a transfer to a new department for reasons other than your career path.
- You quit your job to avoid having to go back there.
Being bullied causes a physiological response in your body, and long-term bullying can result in anxiety, high blood pressure, pain, insomnia, or weight changes. It may also lead to coping mechanisms such as substance abuse.
How To Report Workplace Bullying:
Speaking up about workplace bullying is one of the best ways to manage bullying behavior. Often bullying centers around secrecy and silence. Common fears include the belief that you are weak, that you are strong enough to endure the bullying, or that you won't be taken seriously. Here are some ways to report bullying:
Tell a supervisor - report your concerns to your immediate supervisor. He or she should be able to help you figure out the appropriate resource, whether that is a reporting hotline, human resources, or some other method.
Tell Human Resources - If for some reason you can't tell your supervisor, if you are not comfortable, or if the bully is the supervisor, find someone in human resources to make your situation known. Typically human resources is responsible for handling internal employee concerns and they should have resources and information available to you. Some companies use a legal department or ombudsman as an employee relations resource.
Reporting hotline - All publicly traded companies and many private companies have an anonymous reporting hotline. Your employee handbook and informational posters should provide easily accessible information about where and how to report concerns. The ability to report anonymously provides a safe option to raise concerns. Employment informational posters are required by law to be posted in an easily accessible location, generally an employee break room or lunchroom.
EEOC - The Equal Employment Opportunity Commission, or EEOC is a viable reporting option for reporting concerns or allegations of differential treatment. The reporting process for the EEOC can be found here.
How To Help A Co-Worker:
Sometimes you are not the target of workplace bullying, and instead you observe a co-worker being bullied. Again, the most important thing is to SPEAK UP and not let the bullying go unchecked.
Ensure your coworker that he or she is not alone - that you see the bullying.
Other Resources About Workplace Bullying:
The Workplace Bullying Institute - This website is dedicated to workplace bullying, including how to know if you are being bullied, what to do if you are being bullied, and resources and information about workplace bullying.
Psychology Today - Psychology Today offers an article about the "silent epidemic" of workplace bullying. Information and research is contained within this article.
The Healthy Workplace Bill - This is legislation targets workplace bullying and creating a healthy workplace. This site allows you to search by state to see what the laws and legislature are doing in your state.