We don’t typically associate the word “bully” with a professional workplace populated by adults. Unfortunately, bullies are present in the professional world with approximately 75% of employees experiencing its effects to some degree. 

What is bullying?

According to ACAS, bullying is, “offensive, intimidating, malicious or insulting behavior, an abuse or misuse of power through means that undermine, humiliate, denigrate or injure the person being bullied.” These actions are carried out against the victim repeatedly and continuously, not in one isolated event. 

Additionally, bullying is intentional, purposely targeting a person in order to dominate, make a show of power or cause fear in the individual. Workplace bullying may manifest in “verbal bullying, physical bullying, relational aggression, cyberbullying, sexual bullying and sexual harassment, and prejudicial bullying.” It can happen between manager and employee, but it more often occurs between employee and employee and tends to be more covert than overt.

Overt bullying falls into the stereotype of bullying we might have in our minds already – loud yelling, slamming or throwing items in the room, threatening verbally or physically and public humiliation. While this can, and does, happen in the workplace at times, bullying in the office more frequently manifests in covert actions. Examples here would be withholding information that lets an employee do their job properly or complete a project effectively, not letting an employee know about a mandatory meeting or making repeated, rude or cruel remarks about another publicly.

How to prevent workplace bullying

Bullying isn’t always easy to identify. Especially, for example, if many people find themselves working remotely and are at the receiving end of numerous nasty emails. No one, aside from the victim, is going to know that bullying is happening. Even in instances of virtual bullying, there are expectations and procedures that, when put in place by the office/workplace, professional bullying can be eliminated. 

  1. Be a good example

Healthy workplace culture primarily begins with the manager or supervisor, the higher-ups who employees look to as an example of conduct. If the manager themself is subjecting his employees to poor treatment, cruel remarks and public humiliation, it’s only a matter of time until other employees adopt this code of conduct as well.

For this reason, it’s important as a manager to emulate the behavior you expect to see from your employees. They primarily look to you to define through your actions, your way of addressing employees and your behavior in moments of tension, what it means to behave kindly, professionally and fairly. The majority of workplace bullying problems can be eliminated simply by showing that you, as a manager, expect more. 

  1. Say something

It doesn’t matter if you’re a bystander, a manager or the victim of bullying yourself – if you witness bullying say something immediately. 

Bullying is defined in part by its repeated occurrence, so one act of bullying is connected with more. Managers have the responsibility to look after their employees by listening to and taking action when presented with reports of bullying. It is also their responsibility of stopping it right when they witness it, such as in a meeting or email thread. 

Coworkers are additionally responsible for saying something when they see it. While it may not be wise for them to confront the bully themselves, they can check in with the targeted individual and encourage them to report the behavior, or they can report the incident themselves.

Lastly, the victims of bullying, though they may find it difficult to report it out of fear or causing trouble, need to say something. Not only should they be encouraged to stand up for themselves and demand a peaceful workplace due to them, they might also be helping others who’ve experienced bullying from the same individual.

  1. Foster a healthy workplace culture

Workplace culture typically starts at the top and funnels down through the rest of the company. It begins with the expectations and code of conduct laid down by the company which in turn is exemplified by the managers and ultimately expected from the employees.

A healthy workplace has numerous benefits, from reducing absences due to stress-related illnesses to boosting productivity by over 80% to increasing the quality of life for all employees. If there is a zero-tolerance policy already put into place, workplace bullying has very little room to become a problem from the start. A company that fosters a culture of respect, hard work and kindness to all sets the tone and eliminates the chances of bullying almost entirely. 

Dealing with office bullying

If, however, you do find yourself in a place where there is hardly any zero-tolerance policy, where the managers don’t demand or help create a healthy working culture or you have reported bullying and nothing has been done to handle the problem, it might be time to consider switching jobs. No job is so important that it needs to come between you and your mental health or put you in the path of disrespect from other people. 

If you have found yourself the victim of bullying, you can confidently reach out for help and counseling services today by contacting Silvermist Recovery at 724-268-4858.