A 2008 poll on workplace bullying found that 75% of workers reported being affected either as the target or as a witness. More disturbing was a 2019 survey of 2081 workers with a staggering 94% claiming to have been bullied at work! More than half said they were bullied by their immediate boss.
Causes of bullying were reported to be aggressive emails (23%), co-workers negative gossip (20%), and someone yelling at them (18%).
Just because getting bullied seems to now be the norm does not make it right. There are plenty of businesses that respect their employees and have zero tolerance for bullying and other forms of harassment.
When management gets to hear of bullying claims, you can usually expect the claimant has been putting up with a negative environment for quite some time before taking this problem to the management level. Therefore, any bullying claims should be treated seriously and be fully investigated.
A workplace bully who management support by ignoring their behavior can cost a business thousands of dollars due to high staff turnover. Be aware that the bully is unlikely to admit there is anything wrong with their behavior and is even less likely to display it in front of management.
Here are six signs that bullying is occurring in your workplace.
Temper tantrums – shouting, name-calling, and other types of verbal abuse, undermining comments about co-workers, blaming others for mistakes but quick to take credit for any successes. When you observe the suspected bully do they interrupt the target, belittle them, make inappropriate comments or spread rumors and negative gossip?
Subtle signs of bullying – the bully may seem fine in your presence but behave in a much more sinister way to the target in private. Watch for unreasonable demands, sabotaging a subordinate, constant questioning, and generally making life more difficult than for others.
Observe the behavior of the suspected victim – it may be easier to identify bullying from the change in behavior of the targeted victim. Are there sudden changes in their behavior? An employee who becomes increasingly withdrawn has increasing error rates or suffers stress-related illnesses and absences from work are displaying signs of being bullied.
Is an individual being isolated or left out of important communications? – If a particular individual never copies a co-worker into emails or invites them to important meetings, there could be a problem. Other obvious signs include refusing to speak to the target and forgetting to return their messages.
Investigate any allegations of bullying immediately – sometimes you may not be aware that bullying is taking place until you are specifically informed. Remain neutral, ask the victim for physical evidence like emails and ask both for witnesses to any incidents.
Examine your organizational culture – competitive workplaces tend to ridicule underperformers and this kind of behavior can become normalized. Top management also has a direct influence on bullying. Are bullies being rewarded with promotions that encourage them to continue with their behavior, perhaps even taking it to greater extremes? If one bully has been allowed to operate for some time, others will likely copy their behavior.
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