Bullying Can Continue in Adulthood

When the topic of bullying arises, many think back to those days as a youth where some nasty kid on the playground made life miserable for passive children who wanted no part of an altercation. The yellow-eyed villain Scut Farkus in the 1983 film “A Christmas Story” is the prototypical bully. In fact, his role was so iconic that the actor who played him, Zack Ward, now spearheads an anti-bullying campaign, using his role in the movie to create awareness about what bullying is and how to stop it.

These days, the subject of bullying has become somewhat of a school administrator crusade as most no longer view it as “kids being kids” and bullying is taken very seriously.

But surprising to some, bullying exists well beyond the confines of the schoolyard and happens to people of all ages and in all walks of life — including the workplace.

According to a study by the Workplace Bullying Institute, 19-percent of U.S. employees have admitted to being bullied at their place of employment. 

Employees Are Dreading Work Due to Bullying

Every single day, men and women go to work in this country with feelings of dread at the thought of facing their workplace bully or bullies. Sometimes people don’t even realize that this demoralizing workplace environment is indeed bullying. It can occur in a variety of ways including having a co-worker start rumors, dispense unfair blame, sabotage work, cyberbully, use profanity, dish-out undeserved punishment, implement unfair or changing deadlines, display physical or verbal intimidation, publicly ridicule a co-worker, and more.

These are not normal workplace behaviors and should not be tolerated.

How Can Employers Prevent These Behaviors?

It is vital for employers to establish rules on how people are to be treated in the workplace and educate the staff on what is appropriate and what is not. Having written guidelines and taking the proper steps when bullying is reported is crucial.

But without follow-through from owners, management and the human relations department, the behavior will almost always continue.

Beyond it being a moral issue, bullying has financial ramifications. Employers must take this seriously because it can hamper a business significantly as affected employees have a tendency for missed days of work, can be anxious or even depressed which can lead to decreased productivity. These factors can result in high employee turnover, and can even have multimillion-dollar legal ramifications.

Making supervisors and the HR department aware of bullying is key, but some are afraid to say anything, especially if the bullying is coming from a supervisor. Due to the fear of being out of work, some employees simply endure bullying from the boss. The angst of being without a job is a very real factor in people just accepting the treatment as part of their work life. 

Standing Up for Yourself is Your Right

It’s never easy to confront a bully. All bullies, no matter what age, rely on people backing down. But that old adage of not wanting to be a tattletale is an archaic philosophy because nobody has the right to expose you to negativity and ridicule, particularly while you are trying to make a living for yourself and your family.

The key is to stand up for yourself in a calm manner. There is no need to sink to another person’s level. If, after calmly asking your bully to stop the inappropriate behavior, it continues, then your conscience can be clear and it is time to report the situation to the supervisor and/or the HR department.

Curb Conflict; Avoid Bullying

Most employers recognize that a hostile work environment will affect a company negatively. That’s why they need to take steps to curb conflict among employees that goes beyond a normal, working environment. People can disagree without it descending into something ugly. When it crosses that line, all complaints must be addressed and recorded. Workers need to understand what is expected and that there are consequences to bullying or harassment. A policy needs to be in place to not only protect employees but also the company. Employers unsure how to proceed should seek outside help to educate themselves on this subject. Consulting an employment attorney is a great first step to sustaining a healthy and productive work environment.

Businesses put great effort into making sure workers are free from physical harm. It’s equally important that employees are free from emotional harm as well.

OSHA provides many resources and prevention measures on its website regarding bullying and workplace violence.  If you’re experiencing this in your own workplace, call us today at 888-403-6026 for more information!

Receive Immediate OSHA News & Hot Topics!