Let’s address workplace bullying

Bullies suck. 

That kid at school who steals your lunch money. Or the one who calls you names. Or the teacher who shames you in front of the class… Yeah, bullies come in all shapes and sizes.

But what about bullies in the workplace?

Over the past week, multiple people told me they’re being bullied at work. They used phrases like someone is ‘challenging to work with’ or ‘has strong opinions’. But let’s be honest, in many cases it’s plain and simple bullying.

Let's be honest, in many cases it's plain and simple workplace bullying. Click To Tweet

A guy I know works for someone who uses their position of power to disparage him in front of colleagues and prohibits him from expanding his personal network (eg tying him to the job). To me this is bullying.

A woman I know had an employee ‘make friends’ with a senior colleague, then convinced this friend to spread rumors that she wasn’t a capable manager. To me this is bullying.

Another friend told me they felt obliged by superiors to stay out late drinking night after night while traveling for work. To me this is bullying.

Most recently, someone said their boss pokes fun of how they dress. To me this is bullying.

Child bullying both at school and online has been a hot topic in recent years. It feels like the public acknowledges the problem and has put solutions in place both to suss out bullies and support those affected.

Why hasn’t workplace bullying been addressed?

Don’t bully parents lead to bully children? Could we stop this vicious cycle at the source? Yet, how many companies even define what workplace bullying is, no less have a procedure to take action against bullying?

Don't bully parents lead to bully children? Could we stop this vicious cycle at the source? Click To Tweet

HR policies mainly focus on sexual harassment, bribery, etc – slightly more cut and dry situations. The subtle tactics bullies take to exert power, intimidate, or humiliate are difficult to report, but lay the groundwork for a toxic culture. They also often directly lead to more serious infractions.

Companies should have a plan in place to ensure their culture doesn’t accept bullying. Add an anti-bullying policy to your handbook. Include a question in your 360 reviews for bullying feedback. Highlight examples of unacceptable subtle bullying behavior during onboarding.

Most importantly, don’t treat bullying as two colleagues simply not getting along. Someone being bullied doesn’t want to directly ‘face’ their bully – that’s the problem… bullies are HARD to face! HR needs to directly address the bully, communicate the unacceptable behaviors, and set immediate corrective actions that if not followed will lead to termination.

Nobody should begin their day worried about being bullied. We seem to acknowledge this for children, now it’s time to move to the workplace.

Nobody should begin their day worried about being bullied. We seem to acknowledge this for children, now it's time to move to the workplace. Click To Tweet

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