by Comprehensive Staff

04/12/2017 10:23 pm

Bullying in the Workplace

While it might seem like a problem you left in your teen years, bullying is actually a fairly common problem in the workplaces, too. In fact, in a 2014 survey of more than 137 million employees, 27% admitted to having directly experienced bullying at work and another 21% have witnessed the bullying of a coworker.  That is more than 65 million employees affected by bulling, either directly or indirectly. 

So what constitutes bullying in the workplace? The Washington Department of Labor & Industries defines it as “repeated, unreasonable actions of individuals (or a group) directed towards an employee (or a group of employees), which are intended to intimidate, degrade, humiliate, or undermine; or which create a risk to the health or safety of the employee(s).” Workplace bullying is often psychological in nature, as opposed to physical, and generally includes an abuse or misuse of power.

Some examples of workplace bullying include: unwarranted or invalid criticism (often in front of others); being sworn at, shouted at, or humiliated; excessive monitoring or micromanaging; exclusion from work and social functions; being treated differently than the rest of the group; and being blamed for errors regardless of actual fault. The general effect of these kinds of bullying behaviors is to undermine the target’s self-confidence, ability to contribute effectively to the workplace, and overall right to dignity at work.

Bullying affects the targeted individuals in much the same way that other forms of harassment might; physical and mental health problems are common in both scenarios. But the negative effects of workplace bullying go beyond the individual to affect the organization as a whole. High turnover, low morale, reduced productivity, potential legal action, and degrading company reputation can all have a major impact on an organization and its finances.

So what can you do if you notice bullying behavior in your workplace? First, recognize what is and is not appropriate behavior at work. If you’re the target of someone’s bullying or if you believe a coworker is being bullied, notify your supervisor or the Human Resources Department.  It can be helpful to confront the aggressor (if you feel comfortable), but it’s also likely that the bully will deny any ill intent. In any case, it’s important to discuss your situation with someone you trust and who can advocate for you in the workplace.  Tolerating bullying in the workplace should never be your only option. 

For more information about workplace bullying, check out this resource from WA Labor & Industries: http://www.lni.wa.gov/safety/research/Files/Bullying.pdf