Bullying in the workplace is one of the most significant challenges facing companies today. According to the Waitt Institute for Violence Prevention nearly half (49%) of all workers in the United States have been a victim or witnessed abusive behavior towards an employee (www.workplacebullying.org). Bullying in the workplace is similar to childhood bullying, but workplace bullies often operate within established policies of their companies. They commit deliberate acts against employees or co-workers disrupting the workplace. Bullies undermine the goals of the organization and create a hostile work environment for all employees. During my career I have crossed paths with several bullies in the workplace. I have been a victim and a witness to these attacks several times. Being exposed to these situations negatively impacted my ability to perform my assigned tasks. One of the biggest regrets of my career was not reporting this harassment and exposing this individual and their actions. It is the responsibility of management to eliminate these incidents and provide a healthy work environment for all employees. It is also the responsibility of the employees to report these forms of harassment through the proper channels in their organization. That being said several companies do not have a formal structure for dealing with bullies in the workplace. It is the responsibility of the organization to develop a work environment free of bullying in the workplace.
Defining bullying in the workplace is difficult. Some experts feel that any harmful activities or behavior by management should be considered a type of bullying. Workplace bullying can be defined “any disrespectful and harmful behavior towards a co-worker or subordinate.” (www.bullyonline.org) The Project for Wellness and Worklife defines workplace bullying as “a combination of tactics in which numerous types of hostile communication and behavior are used.” (www.humancommunication.clas.asu.edu) Gary and Ruth Namie founders of the Workplace Bullying Institute, define it as “repeated health-harming mistreatment, verbal abuse, or conduct which is threatening, humiliating, intimidating, or sabotage that interferes with work.” (www.bullyinginstitute.org) The lack of clear definition or legislation regarding this type of harassment increased the difficulty for organizations to control this phenomenon. Despite the difficulties for companies in defining this type of harassment it is still incumbent on them to have a defined policy to eliminate it from its organizational culture. A bully typically uses aggressive and unreasonable behavior to embarrass or belittle their target. All employees of any gender, race or creed are potential victims. Woman in the workplace are the most likely targets for this form of harassment. According to the Workplace Bullying Institute, 58 percent of the reported cases involving bully in the workplace were attacks against women (www.bullyinginstitute.org). Bullies do not have to be in a position of power in the company to act out against other employees. Victims can be co-workers, managers and directors. All levels of employees are potential victims of harassment in the workplace. The actions of bullies create a hostile work environment for the target of the attacks and other members of the organization that are exposed to these incidents. There are several different types of bullying in the workplace. They include psychological, physical abuse and humiliation, being rude or belligerent, screaming, cursing, destruction of property and physical assault. Verbally abusing an employee is one of the most prevalent forms of harassment in the workplace. However, bullying is not limited to verbal communication. Disapproving looks or glaring at a co-worker are common examples of non-verbal harassment. Stealing another employee’s work and claiming it as your own is an example of bullying in the workplace. Spreading false or...
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