Bullying in the Workplace

April 04, 2020

Bullying in the Workplace

Everyone is entitled to the basic right of human dignity in the workplace.  Yet every day, there are instances of workplace bullying. Bullying occurs when individuals or a group intimidate, shame, embarrass, or undercut another employee, causing harm to the employee.   This behavior can be a combination of aggressive acts over a period of time; presenting a risk to the employee’s health, work performance, and safety.  

When people are given power they can be tempted to misuse it, making others feel helpless.  Employers aren’t the only ones who bully.  Most workplace bullying is peer-to-peer, rather than supervisor-to-employee.  Coworkers, consultants, and labor representatives can also intimidate; and sometimes a group of employees will target another in a behavior known as “mobbing.”  Some examples of workplace bullying include:

  • Excessive criticism
  • Blaming people without gathering facts
  • Being singled out in or excluded from group or activities
  • Unfair deadlines or amounts of work
  • Being the subject of humiliation
  • Use of foul or offensive language and shouting

Bullying Versus Harassment

Though bullying and harassment both take place in the workplace, they are very different.  Harassment is the illegal discrimination of a person’s protected class, such as their gender, race, disability status, etc.  Workplace bullying is not considered illegal; and it’s important to be clear about what bullying is and is not.  An employer or boss can be tough, while still respecting the rights and thoughts of others.  Being firm does not equal bullying in the workplace.   


Corporate Bullying

There are times when bullying is embedded and accepted in the workplace culture.  This is known as institutional, or corporate, bullying.  In these instances, employers will have unrealistic expectations and deadlines for employees.  They might ignore employee complaints of stress due to workload.  Also, rewards or encouragement are given to bullying coworkers.  This behavior is unacceptable and should be reported to human resources, because when you fail to address the problem, you might be contributing to it. 


Negative Effects of Bullying

Workplace bullying hurts both the individual and the entire organization, and there can be negative physical, emotional, and social effects.  Individuals might face increased sick days, changes in sleeping and eating patterns, low self-esteem, depression symptoms, and problems with finances and family life.  The company as a whole can also experience negative side effects to bullying, such as a marred reputation, legal costs, low morale, staff changes, a loss of productivity, and replacement and training costs to bring in new staff.


Workplace Bullying Solutions

What can you do to help solve and prevent bullying in your workplace?  The following suggestions for the individual and the employer offer helpful tools to promote a safe working environment for all:


For the bullied individual:

  • Check your handbook- Be aware of any policies against bullying in your employee manual or handbook. There might be steps outlined for you to take should the need arise. 
  • Talk to your bully- If you feel comfortable, have a conversation with the person bullying you. Let them know their behavior is unacceptable and unprofessional.  This communication can be written or verbal.  It might be helpful to have a witness or third party with you, as the bully might deny their behavior. 
  • Take notes- Keep a log detailing the offensive behaviors. Make special note of the times, dates, who was present, what was said, and what was done to you.  If you’re the target, be sure to keep accurate records of your work (timesheets, work orders, etc.) to defend yourself.
  • Seek help- If you’re unable to solve the problem with your peer, consider going to a higher-level employee, your supervisor or employer, or human resources personnel for help.

For the employer or supervisor:

  • Make a policy- Send a clear message in your workplace by establishing a zero-tolerance policy for bullying. Handle offenders swiftly and by the pre-determined rules.
  • Raise awareness- Promote an anti-bullying campaign. People will feel more comfortable speaking up if there’s an atmosphere of awareness and they know they won’t be punished for being honest.
  • Establish a contact person- Designate a human resources person who is unbiased and independent of the situation in question. Make sure he or she can listen objectively to all employee concerns regarding bullying and connect people to proper resources if they need counseling or support.
  • Conduct focus groups- Consider sending out anonymous surveys or holding focus groups with your employees to gain information about potential bullying in the workplace. Hearing others’ concerns often gives employees the courage to speak up about their own experiences.

Workplace bullying is an avoidable situation.  Having good standards in place can help eradicate or prevent its occurrence, as well as provide a safe environment for the workers and employers.  If you or someone you know is dealing with the negative effects of workplace bullying, consider seeking help.  Many businesses have human resources personnel or a recommended counselor to assist.  If additional support is needed, contact your medical or mental health professional.


Want to talk to a counselor today about this? 

Call Amplified Life at 800-453-7733 and ask for your “Free 15 Minute Phone Consultation" with one of our licensed counselors. We’ll listen, answer questions you may have, and help you plan next steps.







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