In a survey of U.S. workers released last fall by the Workplace Bullying Institute (WBI), nearly half of those surveyed said they had been bullied at work or seen other employees bullied. The survey goes on to note that an estimated 54 million people have been bullied at work at some point. Workplace bullying, defined by WBI as "repeated, health harming abusive conduct committed by bosses and co-workers," is a real issue for managers and organizations and can lead to a toxic and unproductive work environment if ignored. 

Manager Makeover: Handling the office bully

In a survey of U.S. workers released last fall by the Workplace Bullying Institute (WBI), nearly half of those surveyed said they had been bullied at work or seen other employees bullied. The survey goes on to note that an estimated 54 million people have been bullied at work at some point. Workplace bullying, defined by WBI as "repeated, health harming abusive conduct committed by bosses and co-workers," is a real issue for managers and organizations and can lead to a toxic and unproductive work environment if ignored.

 

Identifying the bully
As a manager, it can be difficult to identify workplace bullying. Targets of bullying often remain silent due to feelings of shame or humiliation. Alternately, they may not know where to turn for help or feel there is nothing they can do to stop the bullying. Employees who witness bullying may do nothing to stop it because they fear for their own jobs. And bullies aren't likely to stop on their own. Bullying is a form of emotional or psychological harassment. It happens in the workplace and may also take the form of cyber-bullying -- on websites, blogs, chat rooms or social-networking sites.

It's important for managers to be familiar with the signs of bullying behaviors and to be able to recognize them. The signs include:

  • Shouting, yelling, cursing, insults -- language that is meant to intimidate an individual and make him or her feel uncomfortable.
  • Obvious and not-so-obvious personal attacks in the form of sarcasm, rumors, gossip, unfounded or unreasonable criticism or spreading lies or false accusations. It can take place with or without the employee being present.
  • Undermining an employee by unreasonably taking away job responsibilities or, conversely, by overloading an employee with an unreasonable amount of work or setting impossible deadlines.
  • Undermining an employee by purposefully ignoring or excluding him or her from work-related activities, by intentionally withholding vital information or providing inaccurate information.
  • Isolating the victim by excluding him or her from meetings, lunches or other social events and group activities.
  • Sabotaging the employee by changing job specifications at the last minute, withholding needed information, or insisting on unreasonable deadlines.

 

How to handle the workplace bully
Once a bully has been identified, appropriate action should be taken to immediately stop the bullying and provide support to affected employees. Gary Namie, a leading authority on workplace bullying and author of the book The Bully Free Workplace, appearing this spring, offers tips on how to recognize and prevent bullying in your workplace in a new podcast for Ceridian LifeWorks. A summary of these tips are listed below. If you are current Ceridian LifeWorks customer you can listen to the full podcast on lifeworks.com.

  1. Part of your role as a manager is to manage and stop workplace bullying. Your job is to:
    • Provide safety and support for the bullied individual.
    • Investigate the matter, providing paid time-off to the bullied individual if need be.
    • Understand that both the target of the bullying as well as witnesses in the workplace may fear retaliation.
    • Understand that bullies often deny they have done anything wrong when confronted.
  2. Establish a timeline and document as you manage and investigate the situation.
    • Review the performance of the victim or target of the bullying prior to the alleged bullying.
    • Review the performance of the victim or target of the bullying after the alleged bullying.
    • Identify and document the changes in the person's performance as a result of the bullying.
  3. Meet with the bully.
    • Meet with the bully in a private place. Let the person know that their conduct is unacceptable and will not be tolerated. Explain that the harassment must stop immediately.
    • Inform the bully that you will be monitoring his or her behavior. Explain that if there is any retaliation or repeated harassment to co-workers, he or she will be terminated.
  4. Refer the person who has been bullied to your Employee Assistance Program (EAP). Bullying may cause physical or emotional symptoms such as anxiety, depression, headaches, sleep disturbances, and affect job performance.

Ceridian offers employee assistance programs that support employees and managers on a wide range of issues, including bullying in the workplace. To learn more about how we can help your organization, contact a Ceridian representative today.