How to Address and Prevent Workplace Bullying

How to Address and Prevent Workplace Bullying

Four times more common than sexual harassment or racial discrimination in the workplace, bullying should be taken seriously. While it’s non-physical, bullying can cause serious emotional harm. October is National Bullying Prevention Month. Bullying isn’t just something that happens in playgrounds and schoolyards. Adults are every bit as capable of bullying, and perhaps to an even more severe degree, than are children. Adults are also as capable as children to prevent workplace bullying and have a legal and moral responsibility to do so.


What is Workplace Bullying?

Generally, workplace bullying is defined as the use of intimidation through power, influence, tone or language to affect a person negatively. Often, bullying is intentional, but at times the bully is not aware of their hurtful actions or words.


The Staggering Cost of Workplace Bullying

Workplace bullying can cause emotional and physical damage to employees; such damage often includes feelings of inadequacy and low self-esteem, which can lead to anxiety, depression, hypertension or migraine headaches. Bullying can also cause financial damage to your company. You may end up with legal fees if a victim makes a legal claim against the bully or your company. You may need to send a victim to counseling to help with anxiety, stress or depression. Or you may need to send your employees to classes for anger management, leadership training or sensitivity training to encourage a bullying-free workplace. But bullying can cost you a lot more than legal fees or employee counseling.

At a minimum, workplace bullying affects safety, productivity, trust and the workplace culture. Being bullied not only puts a huge emotional strain on someone, but in turn could put a financial strain on the company due to unhappy or less-productive employees. The following are more ways workplace bullying can affect your company financially.

Decreased Productivity

Bullying directly affects a victim’s confidence and is likely to decrease his or her productivity at work. Victims may also experience high anxiety, which can be very distracting and debilitating.

Reduced productivity is bad for business and can lead you to discipline the employee, take away responsibilities or possibly terminate him or her. You may not realize the employee is being bullied, and therefore do not have the chance to offer any counseling or other assistance.

Increased Absenteeism

A bullied employee may go to great lengths to avoid a high-stress situation at work. Calling in sick or using a large amount of paid time off at once are common tactics used to avoid a bully.

Other employees may have to make up the extra work, possibly resulting in overtime, complaints or even more bullying behavior. An excessive number of lost working days benefits no one.

High Employee Turnover

A 2014 survey by the Workplace Bullying Institute found that for 25 percent of respondents, the best solution to stop bullying was to quit their jobs. Nineteen percent of the respondents felt forced to quit when circumstances were made deliberately worse.

Each time an employee leaves the workplace, you have to recruit, hire and train a new employee. An unstable work environment like that is expensive and time-consuming, and can be exhausting to existing employees.

Workplace bullying also causes a decline in morale for employees who are not victims of bullying. These employees may be less likely to interact with others in fear of being bullied themselves, and this may create a hostile or uncomfortable work environment. This could cause the workplace to have higher turnover rates as employees throughout the company suffer the effects of an unhappy work environment.

Negative Impact on Company’s Reputation

Victims of bullying are likely to talk to friends or family about what is going on and how they feel about it. This information can spread quickly and sour your company’s public image.

A poor public image is especially destructive to a company that depends on the public for patronage, such as a restaurant or a landscaping company. A negative image can also deter jobseekers from applying to your company, making it more difficult to recruit new employees.

 Prevent Workplace Bullying


Signs of Bullying

A few of the common signs of bullying include the following:

  • Not recognizing achievements or efforts
  • Not providing an employee with opportunities for development
  • Changing workplace rules regularly
  • Reprimanding or humiliating an employee publicly
  • Name-calling or insults
  • Monitoring an employee’s work more than is normal for your organization
  • Spreading rumors
  • Ignoring or excluding
  • Setting someone up for failure


What Can Be Done?

If you feel that you or a co-worker is being bullied, do something. Some ways to take a stand on workplace bullying include:

  • Report the bullying to your supervisor—if the bully is your supervisor, report the behavior to another manager or HR
  • Confront the bully professionally, letting him or her know how their actions make you feel
  • Report to management on your work or projects—bullies sometimes try to make it seem like others are not pulling their weight
  • Try to maintain a positive outlook on the situation and your job


Bullying Prevention

You can control the risk of bullying in your workplace by following these tips:

Develop a workplace bullying policy and follow it. Use clear language to define what behavior your company considers to be bullying:

  • Provide clear job descriptions that include an outline of the specific roles and responsibilities for each position within the workplace.
  • Include information on how to report bullying.
  • Document, investigate and follow up on every report of bullying.
  • Make it clear that employees will not be retaliated against for reporting bullying.
  • Establish expectations of appropriate behavior and the consequences for employees who fail to comply with those expectations.
  • Provide training, education, information and awareness on workplace bullying and on appropriate workplace behavior for all employees.
  • Offer confidential counseling or referrals to anger-management and anti-bullying programs for employees who may need it.


We Can Help

Roper Insurance & Financial Services is your resource for handling workplace bullying and minimizing the effects it can have on your business. For helps and resources to prevent workplace bullying, email us today at [email protected] or call us at (303) 721-1145 to learn more.