Published on SafeOpedia: https://www.safeopedia.com/workplace-bullying-an-act-of-war-threatening-the-health-and-safety-of-your-employees/2/5691
Takeaway: Workplace bullying can have serious health and safety implications. Employers and safety professionals should treat it as a serious hazard and respond accordingly.
Source: Katarzyna Bialasiewicz / Dreamstime.com
The Bully / Victim Profile
When conceptualizing bullies, the childhood schoolyard bully often comes to mind. However, in cases of workplace bullying, physical bullying tactics have given way to mental games and subtle messages that carry with them the implication of a threat rather than an explicit one. Often the target is highly creative, has a higher level of competence than the bully, and is perceived as a career threat to the bully. When it relates to position power, the majority (56%) of bullies are their targets’ bosses rather than just their co-workers. Men are more likely to bully than women, with the rate of 69% male bullies to 31% female bullies. However, women who bully are bullying other women in 68% of the cases. Men bully female targets in 57% of reported cases and bully male targets in 43% of reported cases.
Why It’s Essential to Intervene
Even if the bully is not their boss and has no position power over the victim, the systematic erosion of reputation disempowers and depreciates the victim as a valued team member. Unless human resources are savvy to the psychological tactics the bully has initiated, they’ll regard the situation as an interpersonal conflict rather than abuse and will be negligent in their inaction. This not only leaves the organization open to lawsuits, it also erodes a culture of collaboration, creativity, and safety.
Seven Actions to Protect the Work Culture from Bullying Behaviors
- Create a Zero Tolerance to Bullying rule and explicitly publish it in employee handbooks. Follow up with regular internal newsletters. List actions that qualify as bullying behavior (see the list below to learn what these are).
- Use progressive discipline as a way to root out bullies and stamp out bullying culture.
- Encourage witnesses to support victims and come forward if they see bullying behavior. Peer intervention is one of the most effective ways to stop a bully. After all, if everyone remains silent, it sends the message that bullying is acceptable.
- Use safety meetings to educate employees on the mental health risks workplace bullying engenders. Aim to get buy-in for the fact that a no-bullying workplace ensures the health and safety for everyone.
- Engage in regular multicultural training sessions to encourage mutual respect and a recognition of a diversity of ideas and values.
- Institute a mentoring program to support new employees. Targets who have strong allies in an organization are more likely to have greater resilience in spite of being bullied (learn more about Enhancing Safety Culture through Mentorship Programs).
- View statements such as “s/he’s too sensitive” as red flags of a bully unwilling to accept responsibility for their own behavior. Take action by creating a supportive space to allow the victim to report without fear of repercussion.
Is There a Bully in Your Workplace?
Here is a list of bullying behaviors to be aware of:
- Unwarranted or invalid criticism
- Blame without factual justification
- Treating certain individuals differently than the rest of your work group
- Swearing at others
- Exclusion or social isolation
- Humiliation or shouting at others
- Excessive monitoring or micro-managing
- Spreading vicious gossip