Bullying is a phenomenon that has expanded beyond the school yard. It's an issue at which employers have begun to take a much more serious look, as the impact of workplace bullying on an organization and its employees can be quite serious. To better understand the problem, we need to deﬁne workplace bullying and identify the most likely perpetrators and victims.
Workplace bullying, like schoolyard bullying, occurs when one or more individuals use persistent aggressive or unfair behavior against a peer. Workplace bullying can include such tactics as verbal, nonverbal, psychological, and physical abuse and humiliation. Bullying in the workplace takes a wide variety of forms, including:
According to the Canada Safety Council, "Over 72 percent of bullies are bosses, some are co-workers and a minority bully [their] higher-ups. A bully is equally likely to be a man or a woman."2 Research by the Workplace Bullying Institute indicates that bullies often desire control, especially in highly-competitive and stressful environment, and harass others because of insecurities. In fact, their targets are often people who are more skilled and likeable.3
Not surprisingly, bullying behavior can have a major impact on a victim's job satisfaction. Bullied workers become stressed at the thought of going to work, and if they do come, their concentration level and productivity suffers. And if this incentive isn't enough to compel managers to stop workplace bullying, the fact that the company ends up bearing the direct cost of employee sickness, absenteeism, and lost work due to bullying stress should spur them into action.
Leaders and managers play a crucial rule in the identification of both bullies and targets, and can be very instrumental in decreasing and preventing bullying behaviors. The problem is, when leaders or managers are bullies themselves, targets feel there is no other recourse than to fight back or to find another job - although most end up opting for the latter.
In view of its long-term psychological and financial costs for both employees and the organizations they work for, bullying behavior should be dealt with immediately. Many leaders and managers either fail to recognize the problem, take a dismissive attitude or are themselves the problem.
"Leaders are responsible for the employees in their organizations and they must learn to identify and extinguish abusive behavior at an early stage before it suppresses their employees' innovation and productivity, drives out their best workers, or turns into workplace violence" (Fisher-Blando, 2008).4
Below are guidelines from Canada's National Centre for Occupational Health on how to deal with workplace bullying. These guidelines are adapted from the "Violence in the Workplace Prevention Guide" (2001) and the "Workplace Health and Wellness Guide" (2002).
If you feel that you are being bullied, discriminated against, victimized or subjected to any form of harassment:
KEEP a factual journal or diary of daily events. Remember, it is not just the character of the incidents - the frequency and pattern are also important. Make sure to record:
The most important component of any workplace prevention program is management commitment. Management commitment is best communicated in a written policy. Since bullying is a form of violence in the workplace, employers may wish to write a comprehensive, zero-tolerance policy that covers a range of incidents, from bullying and harassment to physical violence.
A workplace violence prevention program must:
General tips for the workplace
The ability to recognize perpetrators or victims of workplace bullying isn't always clear-cut. One preventative measure that mangers can take is to use personality assessments during the hiring process to learn more about candidates. PsychTests' AMPM (Advanced Multi-Dimensional Personality Matrix) and MEIQ (Multi-dimensional Emotional Intelligence Quotient) can offer valuable insight into a person's character and motivations.
1 Workplace bullying, Wikipedia. The Free Encyclopedia.
2 Bullying in the Workplace, Canada Safety Council, Canada's Voice and Resource for Safety. Safety Canada (September 2000).
3 Bullying Contrasted With Other Phenomena. Workplace Bullying Institute.
4 Workplace Bullying: Aggressive Behavior and its Effect on Job Satisfaction and Productivity, Judith Lynn Fisher-Blando, February 2008.