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Implement Anti-Bully Policies

By: Cady Barrett

Every day, thousands of Americans are harassed, intimidated, threatened, and verbally or physically attacked in their work environment. Workplace bullying damages an employee’s moral, self-confidence, productivity, and can ultimately lead to workers’ compensation claims. In many cases, bullying overlaps with unlawful harassment. In all cases, it negatively impacts the workplace, causing employees to feel disrespected and unsafe.

In a 2010 study, the Workplace Bullying Institute found that 35% of workers have experienced bullying firsthand. Company downsizings and increased economic pressure have contributed to a more stressful work environment, which is more conducive to bullying. Workplace bullying is now four times more prevalent than unlawful harassment.

Employers need to take this topic seriously, as 17 states have already introduced legislation that would provide legal support to stop the abuse. Employers can reduce the risk of bully related risks in the workplace by implementing preventive measures:

Develop an anti-bullying policy. This policy should be included in the employee handbook and broaden the definition of harassment. According to the Workplace Bullying Institute, bullying is “repeated, health-harming mistreatment of one or more persons which takes one or more of the following forms: verbal abuse; threatening, humiliating or offensive behavior/actions; and work interference (sabotage) which prevents work from getting done."

1. Enforce the policy. Adopt a no-tolerance attitude toward employees or supervisors who harass others, whether "lawful" or not.  Employees need to know what is and what is not acceptable in the workplace. By implementing these policies, and requiring that everyone follow them, employers can benefit from a safer and more productive work environment.

2. Train supervisors and employees. Employers should provide examples of what constitutes unacceptable behavior. If supervisors, managers, and employees are trained to recognize bullying, the company can create a work culture free of harassment and discrimination.

3. Let employees know the red-flags of bullying and encourage them to report. Employers should encourage employees to report their concerns immediately when problems begin to arise. A list of bullying red-flags will help employees to recognize it when it occurs:

      • Repeated verbal abuse, such as derogatory remarks or insults.

      • Excessive undermining or sabotage of the performance of another employee.

      • Verbal or physical conduct a reasonable person would consider humiliating, threatening, or intimidating.

      HR professionals should take these complaints seriously with an independent and objective investigation of the situation. If misconduct has occurred, appropriate, corrective action should be taken. If the bullying behavior constitutes unlawful harassment, all legal requirements should be followed.

      4. Know that victims of bully abuse may be reluctant to report. Victimized employees may feel that by reporting their bully, they will lose their job or respect within the company. To help alleviate this fear, employers should add bullying to its no-retaliation policy. Supervisors should be trained regarding what constitutes retaliation and they should know that they will be held accountable for ensuring that it does not occur.

       

      If you would like to learn more about the Workplace Bullying Institute, please visit their site: http://www.workplacebullying.org/freedom-week/

      If you would like more information on the study done by the Workplace Bullying Institute: http://www.workplacebullying.org/wbiresearch/2010-wbi-national-survey/

      Sources: Workplace Bullying Institute, Easy Small Business HR, Employment Law Alliance


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