Research into the consequences of bullying in the workplace has shown that exposure to this type of negative behavior may have devastating effects on the health and well-being of workers. According to the Workplace Bullying Institute (WBI), workplace bullying is abusive conduct that is threatening, humiliating, or intimidating. While bullying most commonly takes the form of verbal abuse, it is any action by the perpetrator that causes work interference and prevents the target from being productive in the workplace.
There are several factors that contribute to workplace bullying. In highly stressful, competitive work environments, employees may attack one another to simply survive in the workplace. Bullying behavior is perpetuated when employees are not reprimanded or if their harmful actions or words are free of consequences. Bullying differs from aggressive behavior in that while aggression may involve a single act, bullying involves repeated attacks against the target.
Workplace Bullying is an Act of Negligence
Acts of workplace bullying are not always committed by those in positions of power. “Tough” or “demanding” bosses are not necessarily bullies as long as their actions are fair and respectful and their primary motivation is to set high yet reasonable expectations in order to obtain the best performance from their employees. Some bullying situations involve peer-to-peer attacks. Mobbing, a form of bullying, occurs when a group of coworkers target another worker.
Examples of bullying include;
- Exclusion or social isolation;
- Being treated differently from the rest of the work group;
- Unwarranted or invalid criticism;
- Excessive monitoring or micromanaging;
- Being sworn at, shouted at, or humiliated;
- Blame without factual justification; and
- Being given unrealistic work deadlines.
Bullying is considered institutional when it is entrenched in an organization and is accepted as part of the workplace. Factors that increase the risk for bullying behavior include worker characteristics, such as age, gender, or appearance, and significant organizational change, such as frequent or major restructuring or employee turnover. Workplace relationships also increase the risk of bullying when there is an inadequate flow of information between organizational levels and lack of employee participation in workplace decision-making.
Workplace Bullying Has Harmful Effects
The consequences of bullying can be devastating for both the victim and the organization. Targets of bullying often experience significant physical and psychological problems, including;
- Musculoskeletal problems;
- Sleep disturbances;
- Gastrointestinal disturbances;
- Post-traumatic stress disorder;
- Family tension and stress;
- Reduced self-esteem;
- Frequent absences from work, leading to financial problems due to absence; and
- Feelings of depression.
Bullying in the workplace incurs significant costs for an employer. These costs fall into three main categories: the cost of replacing staff members that leave as a result of bullying, the cost of lost productivity when work effort is displaced while staff members cope with bullying incidents, and costs associated with investigations of mistreatment, potential litigation, and loss of company reputation.
It is important to note that bullying is different from harassment. Harassment is a type of illegal discrimination defined as offensive and unwelcome conduct toward an individual’s protected class. Protected classes in employment include race, religion, national origin, sexual orientation/gender identification, marital status, disability, honorably discharged veteran, and military status.
Are YOU a Victim of Workplace Bullying?
At the first sign of bullying in the workplace, an employee should check if the company has a code of conduct or workplace violence program that addresses psychological intimidation and aggression not based on a protected characteristic. Recognition of bullying behavior is the first step to controlling it. An employee who is being bullied should keep a diary detailing the nature of the bullying and obtain copies of paper trails that contradict the bully’s accusations. If the victim is comfortable doing so, he or she should confront the bully or talk with a trusted individual in the workplace. The victim should always remember that bullying is about control and has nothing to do with his or her performance.
Employers should create a zero tolerance anti-bullying policy that is part of a wider commitment to providing a safe, healthful work environment. Bullying behavior should be addressed and any incidents should be investigated. The most successful organizations promote professionalism, address disruptive behaviors, and adopt a framework for understanding and approaches for taking action. Strong policies that clearly define issues and provide guidelines for action to address bullying behaviors are essential for the health and well-being of an organization and its workers.
New Jersey and Philadelphia Personal Injury Attorneys
The Philadelphia personal injury lawyers at Messa & Associates are experienced at handling personal injury cases involving all forms of employment discrimination. If you have been the victim of employment discrimination or workplace bullying, contact the personal injury lawyers of Messa & Associates for a free consultation. Call toll free at 1-877-MessaLaw, or submit a free online inquiry.