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