Workplace Bullying: An Epidemic Destroying the Work Culture

Going to work every day is a life necessity for many people. However, there can be a difference for employees who dread going to work instead of enjoying it. For many people, work brings home income – needed money to pay bills. But if the company's culture brings about unneeded stress, anxiety, and even bullying, working can be detrimental to employees' health.

Workplace bullying is a common threat to the health and well-being of employees that can stem from verbal abuse, threats, intimidation, or even humiliation.

According to Workplacebullying.org, workplace bullying is the only type of abuse that is not yet taboo. In most other cases of abuse, society takes offense, for instance, child abuse, spousal abuse, elder abuse, and other criminal kinds of abuse. However, workplace bullying or workplace abuse is still tolerated.

What Is Workplace Bullying?

Workplace Bullying is the abuse of other employees by one or more employees. This can be done through acts of harm, verbal threats, lies, sarcasm, humiliation, yelling, denial of rights such as needed earned time off, manipulation of employees' work, “gaslighting,” spreading false rumors, and treating one or more employees differently than the majority of employees.

Individuals getting bullied may feel dread going to work. They can't wait until the weekend is close so they can escape the harsh environment. The statistics show that 30% of Americans face Workplace bullying in the office, and another 43% of Americans face it while working from home.

Signs of workplace bullying consist of the following:

  • Criticizing others
  • Humiliating others
  • Intimidating others
  • Cyberbullying
  • Aggressive behavior towards coworkers
  • Stealing a coworker's work and credit
  • Lying to employees
  • Embarrassing coworkers
  • Excluding others
  • Threatening others
  • Workplace harassment
  • Emotional abuse and sabotage
  • Insults

These are just a few signs of bullying you can see in your workplace; that can mean it is a hostile environment.

How Can Bullying Affect Your Health?

The health of employees should be paramount for employers. As an employee, good physical and mental health can bring about the best work. When individuals get bullied by coworkers or others, it can create a negative self-image that can be detrimental to the employee.

Some of the physical health effects can be very serious. Those that are bullied can be affected with:

  • Stress
  • High Blood Pressure
  • Lack of Quality sleep
  • Anxiety
  • Low-self esteem
  • Suicidal thoughts
  • Depression
  • Feeling Unwelcomed
  • Loss of interest in work

Even if you leave a toxic environment, bullying could leave a lasting effect on someone. The bullied individual can heal with a change of environment, but some mental trauma can do lasting damage.

Bullying Affects the Production of Employees

Employees that constantly face bullying become less productive over time. Their focus becomes on how to prevent bullying, avoid the bully, cope with stress, and look for support. As these things happen, the employee loses focus and time and ultimately becomes a less productive individual.

It becomes prudent for an employer to step in before the whole workplace culture is destroyed by the abuse perpetrated by someone in the company. Malicious and undermining attacks on coworkers will create disdain towards the employer if the employer allows the bullying.

How It Affects the Workplace

A work environment full of bullying turns into a toxic environment. The workplace has many negative consequences if bullying is not addressed.

  • Lack of production
  • Job performance starts to lack.
  • People become more absent.
  • Low morale among the employees.
  • High turnover rates
  • Costly due to legal fees
  • Constant retraining of new employees

The work environment is where people spend most of their time each day. Employees that are bullied become less motivated, which leads to decreased productivity. If the work environment becomes toxic, it can be cancer or a virus that spreads.

Often, employees will seek legal actions against their employers because of workplace bullying. Unfortunately, since few laws protect employees, bullying continues to happen.

Steps To Handle Bullying Within the Workplace

Bullying can come in all shapes and sizes, and it is best to take steps to ensure you can protect yourself from unnecessary bullying.

Keep Track of All Evidence: Record every time a situation happens—document each occurrence of events that occur. Keep emails, notes, and anything threatening that can be used as evidence.

Review Employment Policies: Make sure you know what employment policies protect you.

The more evidence you have, the better you can fight off any ‘alternative facts' the bully brings.

Confront The Bully: This time, take a friend or coworker to confront the bully. Let them know how you feel and the damage they are doing. If other coworkers are there to witness, it will help if further actions are needed.

Report the Bully: Take action and report the bully to HR or upper management. If a workplace environment becomes toxic and the employer will not take action, it is time to get other people involved to help the situation. The EEOC is a federal employment agency that allows employees who are harmed or discriminated against at work. Many employees have a federally protected status such as age, race, sexual orientation, disability, and other protected statuses. Employees can contact the EEOC if they feel their rights are being abused.

Take Legal Action: If all else fails, it's best to consult a legal professional on the possibilities of legal action. Legal action may not be possible, but seeking advice from an Employment Lawyer informs the employee of their options to stop the abuse.

Legal Action for Bullying

There are no federal laws in the United States against workplace bullying. A Healthy Workplace Bill was introduced in 2019, but only 31 states have started working to adopt it.

Puerto Rico is the only place to have a law against harmful workplace bullying. The governor signed it into law in 2020.

As people seek legal action, be aware that no laws protect employees from bullying.

How Can Employers Deal With Bullying

Employers have an opportunity to create their own work culture. With bullying policies and rules in place, they can sculpt how they would like their environment to be for workers. It is like a coach and their sports team.

Workplace bullying is not only perpetrated by other employees, but also by a bullying boss. Therefore, bullying prevention is the best way to stop any adverse events from occurring within the workplace. That starts with the culture of training managers and listening to employees who make complaints about bullying.

Adequate training and hiring practices allow employers to create a safe, fun, productive environment for their staff and business.

Take Action if You Witness Bullying

Many employees do not want to speak up if they witness bullying behavior in the office. There is fear that they, too, will be bullied.

There are options and opportunities to help create a better workplace. However, as an employee that witnesses terrible acts done by other employees, you must take some action.

  • Report The Incidents: Document everything you see and hear. Then report these occurrences to the Human Resources department or upper management.
  • Support The Abused: Getting abused is not a pleasant feeling. When you see someone bullied, Support them. Listen to their problems, and be a witness when confronting the bully.

The policies at a place of employment should allow actions to be taken to help those being abused. There should not be any fear but a support system to help create a favorable environment for work.

If you witness someone being abusive to coworkers, take action to prevent more bullying from happening.

Final Thoughts:

Bullying is a significant issue in the workplace. 19% of workers have encountered some workplace bullying in their life. At least 60% of the bullying comes from supervisors or bosses. If you see bullying in the workplace, take action. Document what you see, support your coworkers, and report the negligence and abuse you witness.

Employers should want to build a sustainable environment. As a side-effect of the recent ‘Great Reset,' many employees are finding out that there are better opportunities out there. The work environment is paramount for employees to create, produce, and innovate. It is best to develop policies, laws, and cultures that build people up instead of tearing them down.

Don't let workplace bullying harm your employees and company. Everyone is impacted by workplace bullying, including the companies' customers. It is best for all to take action to prevent it.

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This article was provided to The Associated Press by the personal finance website Wealth of Geeks. Bonnie Ferrero, MSW, LSW, is a Licensed Social Worker and experienced Mental Health and Employee Assistance Counselor.

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