Bullying Isn’t Just a Playground Problem

Even Lady GaGa has weighed in on it, so you know it must be an important issue. And it is hard to not see the YouTube videos of kids with their index cards, even when you don’t follow YouTube trends. If you somehow missed it from one of those ways, though, you probably saw something about it on your favorite crime stopper TV show.

What am I talking about?


It’s everywhere, and the workplace is not an exception.

When I think of workplace bullying, I remember an episode of Will and Grace where Will Truman’s high school bully started working in the same law firm as Will and quickly began making Will “Woman” do his work for him. In turn, Will began faking sick and staying home from work just to avoid the issue until Jack made him stand up for his rights.

As is the case in all half-hour sitcoms, there was a humorous, tidy ending to the whole problem.

If only our real workplace bullying concerns could be wrapped up just as easily.

What Is Workplace Bullying?

Workplace bullying occurs when an employee, often times (but not always) a boss, uses his or her power, whether that power is gained through a higher position in the workplace or through actual strength, to intimidate another employee.

It can be done through making vindictive or condescending comments, embarrassing or humiliating the other employee or employees in front of their peers, or any other unethical mean that makes the employee feel reasonably uncomfortable in the work setting.

Is Workplace Bullying Really a Problem?

According to the Workplace Bullying Institute, 35% of the US workforce say they have been bullied, and that equates to over 50 million workers.

Still, though, there are no current laws that ban workplace bullying, unless the bullying is the result of the victim’s membership to a protected class.

In other words, it is not illegal to bully someone just because you do not like them.

While many states are considering a Healthy Workplace Bill that would address these issues, right now it is up to you as the employer to stop this harmful trend.

There are many reasons you should want to do this as well, even outside of basic humanitarian reasons:

  • Stop violence. Stopping this harmful behavior before it reaches potentially devastating levels is the best approach.
  • Create a positive work environment. Employees who feel safe, and even valued, at work are employees who are going to do their best for their employer. Not only this, but there will be fewer absences of scared employees not willing to face their daily tormenters.
  • Weed out the bad seeds. Bullying tendencies in and of themselves should be avoided at all costs, but an employee who is a bully might also tend to have other unsavory characteristics that you want to keep out of your workplace. Getting rid of the mean employee or offering training to help eliminate the bad traits can clear your workplace of more than just bullying.
  • Reduce liability. Even though bullying is not illegal, it can lead to other claims that could create liability for the employer, such as harassment or hostile work environments.

Stopping Workplace Bullying

October is National Bully Prevention Month, and this week (October 14 through October 20) is Freedom from Workplace Bullying week. To help recognize this week, take a moment and examine what your workplace is doing to help stop bullying.

There are many things that you as the employer can do to stop bullying in your workplace and one is to support the Healthy Workplace Bill if there is one being considered in your state. In addition, look at your current safeguards. Do you have any or all of the following?

  • An anti-bullying policy?
  • Training for all levels in topics such as tolerance, ethics and correct workplace behaviors?
  • A reporting method that is both well publicized and offers anonymity?
  • A discipline procedure that is both effective and consistently used?

These are just a few of the ways you can stop bullying from terrorizing your workplace.

If you want to learn more about this important topic, XpertHR can help.