Recognize And Prevent Workplace Bullying With A 3-Prong Plan

workplace bullying


Bullying is an adolescent phase isolated to playgrounds and school yards that most people outgrow by the time they enter the real world, Right? Wrong! Bullying and incivility can take place anywhere, and bullying in the workplace is more common than you might think.

Nearly one-third of workers in America say they have been victims of workplace bullying and harassment. If left unchecked, this behavior can lead to  lost productivity, high worker turnover, and significant legal headaches. According to a Workplace Institute Study, the number one reason why respondents believe bullying happens is because bullies are not punished but are allowed to thrive.

Don’t be an enabler! According to HR pro Judi Clements, change needs to come from the top and requires role models who will be held accountable for keeping the peace. 

Who’s Being A Bully?

Bullying creates an unpleasant work environment for the target employee. The Workplace Bullying Institute defines bullying as “repeated, health-harming mistreatment of one or more persons (the targets) by one or more perpetrators.” The abusive conduct displayed by the bully:

  • Is threatening, humiliating, or intimidating
  • Sabotages, interferes with, or prevents work from getting done
  • Is verbally abusive

Bullying Statistics cites the different forms that bullying takes, including:

  • Shouting or swearing at an employee or otherwise verbally abusing him or her
  • One employee being singled out for unjustified criticism or blame
  • An employee being excluded from company activities or having his or her work or contributions purposefully ignored
  • Using language or actions that embarrass or humiliate another employee
  • Playing practical jokes, especially repeatedly, to the same person

You can’t afford to let bullying prevail in your organization. According to Workplace Bullying, the costs of bullying range from productivity losses and employee retention problems to employer lawsuits and workers comp and disability insurance claims.

Create A Bully Free Workplace

Recognizing workplace bullying isn’t always easy, however, especially when employees fear coming forward or maybe don’t even realize they are victims. offers 3 easy ways to combat workplace bullying:

  1. Encourage communication. Managers should take the lead and discuss their views against bullying. Offer employees avenues to share their experiences, including anonymously or openly. Get to know employees and observe their interactions.
  2. Offer Training. Hire a consultant/trainer to offer a workshop that explores personality traits. Train your employees to recognize that certain behaviors—such as challenging others; being motivated by power; or being forceful, impatient, and insensitive—may actually come across as bullying.
  3. Enforce Policies. Consult with an attorney to construct an anti-bullying policy that promotes an inclusive workplace. Put the policies in your handbook and enforce them with a three-step disciplinary process to manage bullying issues.

Empower Your Employees

The good news is that even if you know that negative behaviors are a current problem in your workplace, there are techniques you can master to reverse them. In her webinar, Clements outlines these techniques, explains the difference between incivility and bullying, presents the scope of workplace harassment, and teaches you how to empower your employees and managers to create an inclusive climate. Get the tools you need to make your business a model of civility!

(This post first appeared in a ProfEd blog)

By Amy P on 3rd May 2018

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