Bullying is not only unkind and insensitive, it is also unproductive. Bullying behaviors can decrease the well-being of employees, which in turn can decrease productivity and increase employee turnover. Let’s talk about how to recognize bullying behaviors, how to report them, and how to respond to bullying behaviors in others. We'll also learn how to recognize if we are engaging in bullying behaviors ourselves, and how to change those behaviors.
What is Bullying?
Bullying is unwanted aggressive behavior, usually repeated. It often happens when there is an actual or perceived imbalance of power between the aggressor and the target. But you might wonder what the difference is between workplace bullying and harassment. There is a key difference, but first, let’s look at the similarities.
Harassment and bullying are unwelcome or harmful behaviors that affect a target emotionally or physically. They often involve a power imbalance between the aggressor and the target. Bullying becomes harassment when the unwelcome or harmful behaviors are based on protected characteristics, such as race, gender, and disability. This is the key difference. For example, an aggressor who taunts a person because they are disabled would be engaging in harassment.
What are the Effects of Workplace Bullying?
Some people may think that bullying behaviors are effective tools for workplace management, but research has shown that just isn't true. Bullying has a lot of negative impacts on the workplace. Targets of bullying often suffer from anxiety or depression. Their fear of the bully may impact their work performance or increase their rates of absenteeism, which impacts everyone in the workplace. In fact, a recent survey found that 39% of employees have experienced bullying in the workplace, while another 22% have witnessed it. That's a total of 61% of employees who have been impacted by bullying at work.
Identifying Bullying in the Workplace
There are several different types of bullying Perhaps the most obvious example of bullying is when the bully yells at the target in front of other people–this behavior is overt because it happens in front of others, and it is direct because it happens directly from the bully to the target, when they are face-to-face.
What about more subtle forms of bullying? The bully might withhold important information from the target, like the time and location of an important meeting, causing the target’s work performance to suffer. This is an example of bullying that is covert and indirect. It’s covert because it doesn’t happen in front of others, and it’s indirect because it doesn’t involve a direct confrontation between the bully and the target.
Many different behaviors can be considered bullying if they constitute a pattern. These behaviors can include using abusive or insulting language, yelling or shouting, teasing and practical jokes, unwarranted blame for problems the target did not cause, taking credit for the target's work, spreading rumors, sabotaging the target's work, gaslighting, or negative comments about the target’s appearance, family, or culture.
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How to Report Workplace Bullying
One of the most effective mechanisms for dealing with bullies in the workplace is reporting. Whether you are the target or you witness someone else being bullied, talking to a supervisor or your human resources department is a good idea. When you report, give as many details about each bullying incident as you can, including the date, time, and location of each incident, the name of the bully, the names of any witnesses, and details of what happened. If the bullying took place over email or messaging, bring copies of the messages. A culture of reporting will help stop bullying behaviors before they become a recurring problem, and can also prevent future bullying. Employees should always be encouraged to report bullying behaviors.
But what happens if you are the bully? Recognizing that you might be a bully means you must acknowledge that other people may see you differently than you see yourself. If you realize you are engaging in bullying behaviors, the first step in stopping those behaviors is to recognize when they happen. When you realize you are about to engage in bullying behavior, pause for a moment to self-reflect and engage in mindfulness. Take a few breaths to regulate whatever emotions you might be feeling — anger, frustration, even guilt. Think about why you have the urge to engage in this behavior, and remember that it is not likely to be effective. Finally, think through alternative behaviors you can engage in that will be more effective.
Preventing Bullying with Workplace Training
A key tool in preventing workplace bullying is an anti-bullying policy. The policy should include examples of bullying behavior and describe processes for reporting, investigating, and correcting bullying behaviors. Once anti-bullying policies and procedures are in place, they should be applied consistently and fairly across the workplace. Organizations can also take a systematic approach to workplace bullying prevention through training — and not just anti-bullying training. Courses on diversity and inclusion, leadership, and communication can help employees distinguish healthy and effective communication practices from bullying behaviors.
Are you ready to implement anti-bullying workplace training for your organization? EasyLlama’s Workplace Bullying Prevention course teaches employees to recognize and report bullying when they experience it. It also provides instruction on how to intervene as a bystander when employees witness bullying and how to recognize and stop bullying behaviors they may be engaging in themselves. EasyLlama’s 100% online training is the best in the biz because it utilizes engaging real-life scenarios and interactive knowledge checks to improve retention of the course material. If you are ready to experience our courses for yourself, access your free preview to learn more today!