Allevity Blog

Putting an End to the Workplace Bully

May 18, 2015

Bullying. If you have kids between the ages of 5 and 15, you know that this is currently the buzzword being routinely uttered and discussed by all parents. Bullying is a big deal, and protecting our kids from bullies (or ensuring they don’t become the bullies) is a hot topic.

But what about protecting your employees?

Wait… what? Are we talking about grown adults, being bullied like grade-schoolers? 

Well, yes. And no. Workplace bullying isn’t exactly the same as what you might expect to find on the playground – there is hopefully no shoving going on behind the slide – but sometimes what the adults come up with to manipulate and overpower can be far more pervasive. And damaging. 

The Down and Dirty

So what is workplace bullying? Well, it can come in a lot of forms – unjustified criticism, demeaning behaviors, character attacks, patronizing – really anything that is psychologically damaging and potentially humiliating. Most of us know it if we see it, though plenty of employees feel uncomfortable identifying workplace bullying as being just that. The three consistent threads with all workplace bullying, however, is that it is always: deliberate, disrespectful and repeated over and over. 

Who knows what motivates workplace bullying. The reasons are likely as varied as the motivators behind junior high cyber bullying. Personality conflicts, poor management and an unstable work environment could all be contributing factors. But one thing is for sure: nearly all of us have witnessed workplace bullying at some point. 

In fact, recent statistics show that while 37 percent of the workplace has been bullied, as much as 77 percent of workers have witnessed or experienced bullying.  Which means that it is likely an issue occurring somewhere within your organization today. 

Why You Should Care

Still, these are adults we’re talking about, right? So how is it your responsibility to protect them from bullying?

Well, legally… it probably isn’t. Workplace bullying doesn’t fall in line with illegal discrimination or harassment.  It isn’t prohibited by any federal or state laws. But that doesn’t mean you shouldn’t care.  

Workers who are being bullied are more likely to suffer from stress disorders, clinical depression and high blood pressure, among other issues. All of these drawbacks threaten your bottom line, affecting turnover, absenteeism and productivity.

But even beyond that, basic human compassion should have us all caring about fostering a positive work environment. If you would lecture your kids about how to treat others, you should be willing to place the same expectations upon your employees. 

Being the Bully Police

Addressing and preventing workplace bullying isn’t as difficult as it might seem. First, create policies that demand a respectful and threat free environment. Promote a safe and positive workplace through regular trainings and seminars, and educate managers on how to recognize and address any deterrents to that space. Finally, encourage employees to approach their managers and HR support staff with any concerns they may have.

Open communication and making expectations clear is key to preventing workplace bullying in order to protect both your employees and your bottom line. Because if bullying isn’t acceptable on the playground, it certainly shouldn’t be in the workplace. 

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