By Tom Gonzalez, PhD, LPC, LCPC
Have you ever encountered a bully in your workplace? If so, you are not alone.
“Workplace Bullying,” actually a term borrowed from the British and introduced to Americans in 1997 by the Workplace Bullying Institute, has been defined as malicious abusive conduct. It is a non-physical form of workplace violence. Bullying involves deliberate wrongdoing and undermines work.
A survey completed by the Workplace Bullying Institute in 2010 found that an estimated 54 million workers, 35 percent of all respondents, reported that they were either being currently bullied or had been bullied historically. A 2011 Zogby Poll found that 37% of respondents reported being bullied.
What else do we know about workplace bullying?
- Workplace bullying involves a systematic and perpetual aggressive communication, manipulation, and acts aimed at degrading individuals.
- When these behaviors occur at least once a week over a period of at least six months they may be referred to as bullying.
- The average length of a bully-target relationship is approximately two years, after which the target generally quits or is fired.
- In 70 percent of the cases, the bully is a supervisor.
- A peer or subordinate is the bully in 30% of the other cases.
- Workplace bullying is associated with increased tardiness and absenteeism, lowered productivity, and a diminished bottom line.
A recent increase in workplace bullying can be attributed to any number of issues. One publication sums it up as follows:
“…the modern work environment, with increasing demands, increasing stress, the actual type of work working with computers, and the focus on productivity leads to varying degrees of bullying in the workplace…. Bullying has been there in all ages, but more recently, financial pressures and increased demands for productivity have led to the intensification of the bullying behavior."
What can be done?
- Employers should establish a policy of being bully-free and ensure that employees are aware of the policy.
- The employer must make sure that employees know do to stop the behavior by reporting it and standing up for themselves.
- If the bully is a supervisor, the employee may have to go higher, to that person’s supervisor(s).
- Targets should document the bullying each time it occurs, what behaviors were displayed, where and when the incident occurred, and what policies were violated.
- When presenting evidence to management, targets must avoid discussing their own feelings about bullying -- instead they should focus on the consequences of the bullying and how it has impacted tangible areas such as performance, employee health and the bottom line.
If your company has issues with workplace bullying, contact BJC EAP.