FOR ADULTS IN THE WORKPLACE

 

TRAITS OF WORKPLACE BULLYING

Bullying and harassment in the workplace can be difficult to identify. Maybe a supervisor, manager, or other authority figure is constantly changing expectations or is harshly critiquing a co-worker's performance. Perhaps someone has recently been stripped of some responsibilities - or is being purposefully pitted against a colleague. At a certain point, all of these things are considered harassment.

THE SUBTLETY AND SIMPLE DEFINITION

As an adult, it’s hard to believe sometimes that bullying still exists. One would think we’d outgrow the junior high school days. But it can be worse – because the stakes are higher. Climbing the corporate ladder is the new popularity contest with the same rules – win at all costs.

What’s difficult about workspace bullying is ascertaining if the issue qualifies as being bullied or if you just have a hard-to-please boss with an offensive management style. So, let’s define it in simple, specific terms:

Workplace bullying occurs when an employee experiences a persistent pattern of mistreatment from others in the workplace that causes harm.

This usually takes the form of verbal abuse, (offensive behaviors that are threatening, humiliating, or intimidating), or interference and sabotage that prevents work from getting done.

Some of the most common tactics used by workplace bullies, according to the Workplace Bullying Institute:

 

Falsely accusing someone of errors they didn't actually make

Hostile staring or nonverbal intimidation

Unjustly discounting a person's thoughts in front of co-workers

Using the silent treatment.

Making up rules for specific people.

Disregarding/discrediting satisfactory work despite the evidence

Harshly and constantly criticizing someone

Starting, or failing to stop, destructive rumors about someone

Singling out and isolating one person from other co-workers

Publicly directing gross or undignified behavior at the victim

Yelling or throwing tantrums in front of others to humiliate someone

One common response heard from friends is, "Why don't you quit and get a new job?" However, the employee might like the company and the job, but only have the issue with an employee or manager. If the employee quits, the company also may lose an employee they value.

Because there are so many things that come into play, it's best that you consult a lawyer to clarify your situation. They will be able to ascertain your issue and advise you of your rights. You'll gain insight to the law and better understand your position.

WORKPLACE BULLYING CAN AFFECT YOUR HEALTH

Being bullied or harassed is stressful at any age. Being an adult comes with its own set of unique problems. Fear of losing a job or income can greatly compound stress. This fear may also cause an employee to simply put up with the bullying, instead of taking any action.

Long-term exposure to stress can lead to serious health problems. Chronic stress disrupts nearly every system in your body. It can raise blood pressure, suppress the immune system, increase the risk of heart attack and stroke, and speed up the aging process.

 

It has been found that a low level of stress can cause people to voice their concern. Conversely, studies have shown that severe levels of stress can cause irrational behavior and decision-making. In other words, people dealing with severe levels of stress are less likely to report their problems.

HOW YOU CAN HELP STOP WORKPLACE BULLYING

The first thing you need to conquer is your fear. Fear of losing your job, being stymied in your career path, or simply being ignored are all real concerns that plague workplace bullying victims. Remember, the definition of workplace bullying — mistreatment that causes harm. So it needs to be understood that you are within your rights to take action.

If you feel you are honestly being harmed, then you not only have a right to speak up, but an obligation. Workplace bullying should not be tolerated in any situation or business culture. Most of our waking lives will be spent at the office, so to permit people to be harmed by greedy, power-hungry, or dysfunctional people should evoke moral indignation in any adult.

Here are some steps you can take to help stop workplace bullying:

Document all actions you deem to be unethical and harmful

Consult with HR your concerns. Let them know that you are not seeking revenge,

but simply want the bullying to stop

Talk with your boss if you feel it is appropriate. Discuss the matter in a calm

and non-threatening manner

Contact an attorney to discuss the matter if the situation does not improve

FOR HR PROFESSIONALS

 

HUMAN RESOURCE RESPONSIBILITIES

As a human resources professional or office authority, it is important to meet with all employees regularly, including supervisors, management, or leadership, to ensure that everyone’s comfort level in the office is maintained. If employees come to you with issues, listen closely to what they are saying and how they are feeling. Developing a plan of action with them will make them feel empowered and heard.

 

As an HR professional, it's important to keep an accurate record of all complaints, even if they don't seem too serious. Over time, a pattern of harassment may emerge and your notes could be crucial in compiling a case.

Above all, document all complaints. While you may think a situation is minor, at a later time those small issues may join together to create a pattern of harassment of an individual.

THE LAW SAYS

 

YOU HAVE LEGAL OPTIONS

Workspace bullying can be a confusing matter when it comes to knowing if your rights have been violated. Company policies and regulations need to be examined. Rest assured, there is no acceptable company policy that will inhibit legal action if you are being harmed in any manner.

In the past, employees could sue companies for creating a "hostile work environment," but the harassment generally needed to be tied to race, sex, religion, or national origin discrimination. Today, however, anti-bullying laws are more encompassing, giving the employee more avenues through which to file their compliants.

There are two actionable criminal offenses that may relate to bullying:

The offense of actual harassment

The offense of placing people "in fear of violence"

Companies have a responsibility to thwart bullying and ensure the safety of all employees. Victims should document any threatening behavior. This is often enough to stop the bullying. If not, it may be time to start a legal discussion with an attorney in order to begin better understanding your rights.

RESOURCES AND HELP

 

PUBLIC RESOURCES

Bullying should never be ignored. Use the resources below to learn more about how and when to seek additional or professional help.

American Psychological Association International Association on Workplace Bullying and Harassment Society for Occupational Health Psychology Society for Human Resource Management CDC Podcasts: Bullying Prevention for Kids Teen Health and Wellness

HOTLINES

Help is only a phone call away. If you or anyone you know is experiencing a medical emergency, in immediate danger, or might harm themselves or others, pick up the phone.

CRISIS CALL CENTER

800-273-8255
or text "ANSWER" to 839863

twenty-four hours a day,
seven days a week

CrisisCallCenter.org/CrisisServices

CYBER TIPLINE

800-843-5678
or text "ANSWER" to 839863

twenty-four hours a day,
seven days a week

CyberTipline.com

THE TREVOR LIFELINE

(U.S. only)
866-4-U-TREVOR (488-7386)

twenty-four hours a day,
seven days a week

TheTrevorProject.org

NATIONAL SUICIDE PREVENTION LIFELINE

800-273-TALK (8255)

twenty-four hours a day, seven days a weeks

SuicidePreventionLifeline.org

 
 

NATIONAL HOPELINE
NETWORK

800-SUICIDE (784-2433)
800-442-HOPE (4673)

twenty-four hours a day,
seven days a week

Hopeline.com

 

SPEAK UP

866-SPEAK-UP (773-2587)

twenty-four hours a day,
seven days a week

cpyv.org

THURSDAY's CHILD
NATIONAL YOUTH
ADVOCACY HOTLINE

800-USA-KIDS (872-5437)

twenty-four hours a day,
seven days a week

ThursdaysChild.org

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