What is it? Bullying and harassment at work may be defined as repeated behavior, actions and practices directed at one or more workers, which may be carried out deliberately or unconsciously, but which are unwanted targets causing humiliation, offence, and distress, and which may interfere with job performance and/or cause an unpleasant working environment.
Who does it impact? Bullying impacts everyone within an organization, not just those people who are being targeted. It also impacts the families and friend of those being bullied. People who witness bullying are also impacted by this behavior
Who does it effect (continued) The Workplace Bullying Institute did a survey in 2010 on bullying in the workplace and had the following findings: 35% of workers have been bullied 62% of bullies are men; 58% of targets are women Women bullies target women in 80% of the cases Bullying is 4 times more prevalent than illegal harassment The majority (68%) of bullying is same-gender harassment
Who does it? Anyone can be a bully, however managers are reported to be the number one perpetrators from the point of view of those being bullied. Bullying is a widespread problem and can be found at all levels of an organization.
Why does it happen? There are mixed opinions on why workplace bullying occurs. Possible reasons are: Power imbalance (victim/perpetrator dimension) Personality traits of parties Deficiencies in work environment Scapegoat syndrome Interaction between individual and situational factors
Why does it happen (continued) Researchers are mostly in agreement about workplace bullying being based on more than just one of the factors listed. Multiple reasons may underlie the actions. Explanations and Factors can be broken down into three groups. Enabling structures and processes Motivating structures and processes Precipitating processes (triggering events)
Why does it happen (continued) ENABLING STRUCTURES AND PROCESSES Conditions within an organization have been established that allow this type of behavior to exist. These conditions can be related to traditional gender roles and minority status. Bullying is also more prevalent in structures such as the army and prisons where power imbalance is part of the culture.
Why does it happen (continued) MOTIVATING STRUCTURES AND PROCESSES Individuals are of the mindset that they can actually benefit in someway by partaking in bullying other people. The benefits may be related to promotions, increased compensation, bonuses, or just to make themselves stand out more within the organization as a superior employee.
Why does it happen (continued) PRECIPITATING PROCESSES What are some of the triggers that can cause the act of bullying to happen? Examples are: Changes in work environment Downsizing of organization Change in leadership New employees Change in personal situation
Examples An employee is constantly criticized, ridiculed, and excluded from work related activities, but is fearful of reporting the bullying due to fear of retaliation
Examples An employee is picked on for his/her manner of dress or unwillingness to go to lunch with coworkers
Examples The structure of the organization results in some groups of employees being inferior to other groups. The stronger group takes advantage of the situation.
Examples A manager views bullying as a legitimate style of managing within an organization. The management style is allowed to exist.
Prevention There are many ways that can help to prevent and manage workplace bullying from occurring. These include a five phase model (prevention, uncovering, support, intervention, and aftercare), training, counseling and consultation, a no bullying policy, an identified contact person within the organization to discuss situations with, and coping skills.
Prevention (continued) Prevention should start with the employer. Strong policies and procedures should be put into place that stop workplace bullying from happening. There should be a no-tolerance policy that supports immediate termination of an employee who is found to have engaged in workplace bullying.
Prevention (continued) Training for all employees, this would include the top management as well as the Board of Directors, should include workplace bullying awareness as well as interpersonal skills training and should be mandatory. Interpersonal skills training will help support communications, conflict resolution, and goal setting which may help employees deal with experiences of bullying.
Prevention (continued) Campaigns can be started in order make people within the organization more aware of the issue. Posters, flyers, and handouts can be circulated to create more knowledge about bullying. Brown bag sessions regarding workplace bullying can be held in the office. Human resources can be an informational conduit for the multitude of data that exists relating to this epidemic.
Healthy Workplace Bill A statutory proposal filed in 2003 with the basic cause stating that it shall be an unlawful employment practice to subject an employee to an abusive work environment as defined under the law. As of 2010, 18 States have introduced the Bill in the legislature.
Healthy Workplace Bill (continued) Support for the Healthy Workplace Bill continues to grow. Individuals who have experienced bullying first hand and those who have witnessed it are launching groups that will help spread the word. Larger organizations such as civil rights groups, women’s rights groups and the NAACP have all began supporting lobbying for current enactment of the legislation.
Conclusion Bullying is not just in the schoolyard anymore. Workplace bullying is real and is impacting employees and employers on a daily basis. There are reasons why people engage in this type of behavior and it is the responsibility of the employer to protect employees from this behavior. All employers should have strong policies in place to deter bullies from preying on others.
Conclusion (continued) Awareness campaigns and supported trainings are ways in which employers can provide information to employees on recognizing bullying, how to handle bullies, and how to make the organization bully proof. Passage of the Healthy Workplace Bill would hold employers liable for the actions of workplace bullies. Support of this Bill should become a priority of everyone in order to provide protection within our work environment.
Resources www.workplacebullying.org Namie, G., &Namie, R., (2009, Sept). U.S. Workplace Bullying: Some Basic Considerations and Consultation Interventions, Consulting Psychology Journal. Salin, D., Ways of Explaining Workplace Bullying: A Review of Enabling, Motivating, and Precipitating Structures and Processes in the Work Environment, Human Relations. Hoel, H., Glaso, L., Hetland, J., Cooper, C., & Einarsen, S., (2010). Leadership Styles as Predictors of Self-reported and Observed Workplace Bullying, British Journal of Management, 453-468. LaVan, H., & Martin, W., (2008). Bullying in the U.S. Workplace: Normative and Process-Oriented Ethical Approaches, Journal of Business Ethics, 147-165. Branch, S., & Murray, J., Building Relationships and Resilience in the Workplace: Construction of a Workplace Bullying Training Program. Yamada, D., (2009, Nov). Workplace Bullying and American Employment Law: A Ten-Year Progress Report and Assessment (Draft), Comparative Labor Law & Policy Journal, 1-23.