Bullies in the workplace

Bullies: Not Just In The School Yard

Many of us assume that when we wave goodbye to middle school we also leave behind our encounters with bullies. We assume that with our growing maturity, comes a more harmonious existence with our peers. Unfortunately, this is not the case for some. Indeed, teenage bullies do grow up, but sometimes they continue to torment and intimidate, even when they transition into the workplace. However, when these individuals harass co-workers, they should bear in mind that their employers may not tolerate such actions.

The last few years have seen the launch of dozens of ‘anti-bullying’ campaigns: celebrities stand on their soapboxes to preach about the harm bullying can cause. Employers are left wondering how to handle this threat.  Bullying is sometimes excluded from the list when considering real threats or crimes. However, one cannot deny that tragedies have occurred because authorities have turned a blind-eye to bullies. With recent publicity though, we can hope for change.

Negative Effects On The Workplace

Bullying in the workplace is not only hurtful to the employee, but it is also detrimental to the employer. Harassed employees might be targeted for their weight, performance, or for a myriad of other reasons. The resulting spiral is not a good one:  the persecuted employee may dread his or her workday, thus causing a drop in productivity, and he or she might become unfocused and depressed.

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Why would someone want to go to a job where their work is unappreciated and they are tormented over their hairstyle or outfit choice? Having a job that you are not fond of is bad enough, but this is nothing in comparison to the thought of dealing with endless mocking, hurtful emails or a boss that turned his or her back on the bullying (or worse, engaged in it him or herself).

The good news is that many companies are investigating ways to implement stricter guidelines on bullying, but with few laws to back them, changes may take time. Should companies enforce open door policies? Would bullied employees feel comfortable in coming forward? As an employee, have you ever taken action against a bully? Who did you approach? What was your company’s policy on bullying? Did they enforce it?

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