Friedman Group

Preventing workplace bullying

October 17, 2018

Did you know that 60.3 million U.S. workers are affected by workplace bullying? A 2017 survey conducted by the Workplace Bullying Institute found:

  • 70% of perpetrators of abusive conduct are men
  • 61% of bullies are bosses
  • 66% of all targeted workers are women
  • Male perpetrators target females 65% of the time
  • Female perpetrators target females 67% of the time
  • 40% of targets are believed to suffer adverse health consequences from bullying
  • 29% of targets remain silent about their abusive conduct; only 17% seek formal resolution

Bullying is generally defined as the use of intimidation through power, influence, tone or language to affect a person negatively. It is often intentional; however, sometimes the bully is not aware of his or her hurtful actions or words.

Common signs of workplace bullying include:

  • Abusive or offensive language
  • Unwelcome behavior
  • Unreasonable insults or criticism
  • Teasing and spreading rumors
  • Trivializing work achievements
  • Exclusion or isolation

Prevent workplace bullying

Bullying in the workplace not only affects safety, trust, and workplace culture, it can lead to reduced productivity, increased turnover, and sometimes legal problems. While clear anti-harassment procedures are a good start, these measures may not be enough to protect employees from bullying.

The following tips can help employers to take more specific measures to counter bullying and create a more positive work environment:

  • Understand what bullying is and what it looks like.
  • Be on the lookout for workers that could be targeted by workplace bullies.
  • Focus on job performance and train managers on appropriate ways to provide constructive feedback.
  • Promote a positive workplace culture.
  • Investigate complaints promptly.
  • Provide training on workplace policies.
  • Encourage a zero-tolerance environment.
  • Don’t use euphemisms, call bullying what it is.

Following policies, responding to complaints, offering counseling or referrals to an employee assistance program, and promoting an overall positive workplace will help control unwanted behavior and prevent unfair treatment.


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