The 3 R’s for dealing with workplace bullying
We’ve heard a lot recently about bullying in the classroom, but what about bullying in the boardroom? Yes, workplace bullying is a pressing problem in today’s workplaces. According to the Workplace Bullying Institute (WBI), 35 percent of the U.S. workforce report being bullied at work. That’s an estimated 53.5 million Americans being bullied right now! An additional 15 percent of people have witnessed workplace bullying. In all, half of all Americans have firsthand experience with workplace bullying in some way.
At first glance, it’s easy to brush off workplace bullying as just the way business is done. After all, haven’t we all heard such phrases as “It’s a dog eat dog world” and “Only the strong survive?” But being driven to succeed and being a bully are two completely different things.
The fact is that workplace bullying is often harmful to an organization because it impedes the organization’s growth and success. It also costs organizations dearly in terms of lost productivity, increased use of sick days, and time for management’s intervention. For example, WBI estimates that between turnover and lost productivity alone, workplace bullying could cost a Fortune 500 company $24 million each year. Add another $1.4 million for litigation and settlement costs, and this is one problem no company can afford to ignore.
Since everyone has the right to work in a safe, healthy, and bully-free workplace, what can employees and leaders do to stop workplace bullying? The key is to follow the three R’s.
- Recognize It
Say the word “bully” and most people envision a playground thug threatening the weakest kid around. In the workplace, bullying often looks much different. While screaming, yelling, and cursing at someone certainly constitutes bullying, other lesser-recognized forms of bullying include:
- Belittling employees
- Excluding people from meetings and other activities
- Denying employees the resources or assistance needed to get the job done
- Spreading nasty rumors about people
- Ignoring the employee
- Making dismissive remarks
- Dishing out unwarranted blame or criticism
Ultimately, anything that can be construed as an act of intimidation is really a form a bullying. And when people feel intimidated, they can’t get their job done effectively. Interestingly, both men and women bully. But the majority of bullying is same-gender harassment, which is a loophole often overlooked in anti-discrimination laws and workplace policies.
- Refuse It
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