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Workplace Bullying: Do You Know It When You See It?

Although workplace bullying may be a new concern for some employers,

others are all too familiar with the effect it can have on an

organization. Before we discuss facts of bullying, let’s look at its

role in the workplace today.

While bullying is not only a company culture issue, it is also a major

liability concern for employers. Several states have litigation

pending or already enacted that would make bullying unlawful; California

leads the way with its passage of


2053. This Assembly Bill requires covered employers to include

prevention of “abusive conduct” in their mandated harassment prevention

programs for supervisors. Paycor’s


Support Center team expects to see many states follow California’s

lead in the coming years, so while prevention of abusive conduct may not

currently be required in your state, it is a best practice to prepare

and implement anti-bullying programs in your organization.

Bullying is not isolated to a select few industries, nor is it a rare

occurrence in the workplace. In fact, according to a survey by the

Workplace Bullying Institute (WBI), 27% of employees reported they

were currently being bullied, or had been bullied at some point in their


In addition to exposing your organization to legal risks, bullying also

causes a serious drain on workplace morale and ultimately employee

productivity, which, of course, can negatively impact your bottom line.

Employees who feel bullied are more likely to miss work, for fear of

being in the environment with the bully, and are also more likely to

leave their jobs, leading to high turnover rates and the loss of good

talent. So, what can your organization do to stop bullying and abusive

conduct in the workplace? The first step is to learn the signs of

workplace bullying and implement a policy to prevent it.

What does bullying look like?

It may surprise you to hear that workplace bullying doesn’t usually

include shouting or other overt actions. It is typically done on a

softer, but equally demoralizing scale. Bullying typically includes the

following behaviors:

* Unwarranted or invalid criticism.

* Blame without factual justification.

* Treating the bullied employee differently than the rest of the

employees in a work group.

* Making the bullied employee the target of exclusion, social

isolation, rumors and/or gossip.

Many employees may not understand that these behaviors are abusive, and

therefore do not realize that something is wrong. And then, bullied

employees may feel these behaviors are part of the workplace culture and

may try to deal with the behaviors on their own. However, bullying

behavior rarely resolves itself without management intervention. While

workplace culture is important, you will want to be aware of the

difference between simple, good-natured teasing, and what crosses the

line into abusive conduct. It is best to make an honest analysis of your

organization and consider these questions about your culture:

* Does it encourage and support camaraderie, or does it create an

environment that feeds on heavy competition?

* Does it welcome the opinions of staff-level employees, or does it

make them feel hesitant to speak up and offer different viewpoints,

favoring only the opinions of management?

* Does it give weight to complaints and then quickly investigate those

internal complaints?

* Does it lead by example from the top down and consistently

demonstrate appreciation for all employees? Is there an expectation that

everyone will be treated fairly and with dignity?

Once you’ve analyzed your workplace culture, we recommend you take some

steps to correct any current concerns you uncover, as well as

implement a future zero-tolerance policy for abusive conduct in the

workplace. This policy will be best communicated to employees via your

employee handbook. An affordable yearly subscription to Paycor’s HR

Support Center includes a fully completed policy that you can download

and easily customize for your organization.

That said, simply having a policy is not enough. You will want to

ensure that employees understand the issue and the consequences for

violation of your policy. The best way to generate awareness is to be

sure employees are trained to recognize bullying behavior and know who

to turn to for help if they feel they are being treated in a way that

violates the policy. Since employees are more likely to turn to their

immediate supervisors for help, we would recommend that once a policy is

implemented, the organization trains all managers and supervisors on the

parameters of the policy. Making sure leaders understand the policy and

can communicate it to employees is crucial. Supervisors should also be

trained on the need to immediately notify a Human Resources

representative or other management figure about any reports of

harassment, bullying, or inappropriate behavior.

Finally, once a complaint has been made, it’s important that the

organization takes the allegations seriously and completes a thorough

investigation. Doing so not only sends the message to other employees

that such behavior will not be tolerated, but a complete and thoroughly

documented investigation can be a useful tool in demonstrating that the

organization operated in good faith toward its employees. This

documentation will show that the organization took immediate steps to

address abusive conduct, and it will prove vital if your organization

were ever challenged regarding any of its actions.

Is your organization equipped to handle bullying in the workplace?

Paycor’s HR Support Center offers a customizable handbook and other

documents you can use to help prevent this type of conduct. Looking to

make a difference at your organization?


how. Plus,


more about the impact Paycor’s dedicated HR resource can have on

your business.