How to stop bullying in the workplace

by Evil HR Lady on March 19, 2014

Like most people, you may have thought that bullying would no longer be an issue once you left high school.

Not so, finds a recent 2014 Work Place Bullying Institute (WBI) survey that found that 27 percent of adults have experienced bullying in the workplace. The group defines bulling as “repeated abusive conduct that is threatening, intimidating, humiliating, work sabotage or work abuse.”

Human resources firm Xpert HR says employers need a concerted policy to prevent such conduct. Concludes the firm in a offering what it describes as a “toolkit” to prevent bullying:

To keep reading, click here: How to stop bullying in the workplace

{ 17 comments… read them below or add one }

BethRA March 19, 2014 at 4:54 pm

I also think that those who receive reports of bullying should remember, as stated in the “My HR Department Bullies Employees” post, that “like the school aged bully, office bullies are good at sucking up to the boss and keeping their bad behavior under the radar. ” I’d say it’s important to pay attention to the buzz, if you hear it, and not just rely on your own observations.

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Evil HR Lady March 20, 2014 at 11:32 am

I totally agree. Bosses should be on the lookout. And, the person complaining my just be the actual bully!

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Charles March 21, 2014 at 4:30 pm

“And, the person complaining may just be the actual bully.”

Yep, this. So often it is this. Poor managers don’t see how bullies are actually manipulating them.

Sometimes the bully’s way is to complain about a co-worker knowing that the boss is an idiot that takes such complaints at face value without realizing the hidden agenda the bully has. Next thing you know the boss is chewing out the coworker based upon, often false, information that the bully fed to the boss.

And before you know it the workplace is a toxic environment. Good workers with other options leave; and then the workplace is left with bullies and their victims with the poor managers scratching their heads wondering what they can do to improve production and employee morale.

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Northern HR March 19, 2014 at 5:13 pm

I agree. And just like school bullying, the victim doesn’t always want to come forward. Everyone needs to get trained that the bully behavior is not tolerated & these are the steps to take if you see it or if it is happening to you. It has happened where myself (HR) & management don’t hear of a problem until 2 weeks after the fact. I can still speak to everyone who was involved, but it is more difficult to discipline the bully when so much time has passed and there are no longer clear stories to go on. It really turns it into a ‘he-said-she-said’ ‘your word against mine’ situation. And I try really hard to eliminate the name ‘tattle tale’ (I hate that word) because it prevents people from coming forward when they are having issues with another person.

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Evil HR Lady March 20, 2014 at 11:34 am

Another problem with bullying is that it’s not necessarily one incident. And each little incident, on it’s own, is nothing. But put them altogether and…

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Jean August 31, 2014 at 6:11 am

…it becomes sabotage 🙂

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Kate March 19, 2014 at 6:33 pm

I did leave a work place last year due to bullying. The owner did not want to take care of it despite being able to see it. After I left the bully moved on to another target who then left. It is a little silly to admit I was bullied as an adult by another adult, but it made the working environment intolerable.

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Evil HR Lady March 20, 2014 at 11:35 am

I think you’re smart to get out! No point in staying somewhere miserable.

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David Ross March 19, 2014 at 6:33 pm

I am sure I will offend people but I don’t think you can label every person in an office who acts aggressively or with poor manners or insensitively as bullies.

Just like you can’t label all women who act pro-actively or aggressively as B – – -hes or men as B – – tards….

This Google woman who wants to eliminate the word bossy from describing aggressive female leadership professionals is just going to do more harm than good.

Bad manners and insensitivity should never be allowed but ones aggressive “Hunter” in the workplace is another persons “Farmer”.

The oversimplification of labeling people because we want to have a nice neat little package to rationalize as bullying people not treating us nicely is damaging in an ever more competitive world.

Admittedly a very thin line, but a line nonetheless and not one I have ever seen anyone able to define.

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Northern HR March 19, 2014 at 6:54 pm

Yes true… From my standpoint at my workplace, when someone comes to me with a complaint I really have to try to weed out what happened and ask a lot of questions. I can’t solve every personality clash, but I can first offer advice to the ‘victim’ on how to handle the situation on their own. I can also mediate. I will also tell all people involved that they do not have to like each other but when they are at work they are to be civil, work together, get along, be professional. They are adults, but really they still have to be taught how to work or deal with new situations. Even if it is for bad habits, poor manners, etc.

If one of them chooses not to be civil/professional/get along with others, etc. and they still wish to throw stones or stir the pot to upset the other person, they WILL get disciplined for it.

Some complaints are just a result of a personality clash or misunderstanding or miscommunication… However, when the complaints are related to someone hiding another persons quote for a customer, taking their phone calls and deliberately not passing on the message or giving the caller mis-information, hiding tools, etc. – well then, these are definite bully tactics. they are vindictive and effect the ‘victim’s’ ability to work and do their job. The ‘bully’ has complete control over what they are doing and chooses to interfere in another person’s work.

And for the ‘bossy’ label goes, if my 5 year old tries to be mean, rude, tell others what to do without saying her Ps & Qs, she is bossy and it is not a good trait. It does NOT give her leadership skills!

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Jean August 31, 2014 at 6:09 am

I’m not a fan of the term “bully” either, but you did use the phrase “acting aggressively” which I like better than that label. Aggression in the workplace shouldn’t be tolerated. Aggressive behavior has nothing to do with the workload, it’s more about someone’s personality issues and abuse of their position over another. It seems strange though that laws would be made to prevent such things, I would think the company could connect the dots as to how aggression towards their words affects the bottom line.

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EzraB March 21, 2014 at 3:44 am

Something that people often do not seem to realize is bullying may not be overt. It is often passive aggressive. All bullies are not loud and outwardly mean. Some are psychological bullies. They do all sorts of things to undermine their target. Gaslighting is frequent. And if you think other employees will stand with you to report these bullying bosses you are sadly mistaken. I have been the victim of this and people turn the other way and pretend it isn’t happening because they are too afraid of making waves or losing their jobs. I got to the point that I was considering a medical leave from the emotional abuse because I was becoming physically ill from stress. (This was if I was not able to find another job which I did as soon as possible).

People will also say “Well leave then!” When you are the victim of this behavior the bully cuts your self esteem completely down to the point you start wondering if you are even competent at your job. You feel like a complete failure and like you can’t do anything right. Not the attitude that you want to carry into a job interview to sell yourself. Amazingly after leaving the bullying atmosphere you often realize you are more than competent at your job and probably why the bully felt threatened in the first place.

Going on a bit. Sorry. Just something that has tainted my professional career and become a topic for which I have passion. In my experience unless someone is downright abusive in an overt manner in front of others you have no recourse. (And I have experienced that and still had people not support me as a victim). It’s disgusting and a sad state of affairs in companies nowadays. And you feel totally powerless when you know you need your paycheck.

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Dave L March 22, 2014 at 10:36 am

As I read through your posts, there is one consistent voice missing. That is, HR is there to manage the organisation’s human resources. Employees are seen as Human Assets. They are the assets of the organisation, and NOT the assets of individual managers. The issue many in the workforce have is that HR sees itself as having to align with managers, and not the organisational objective. Most of the problems in the workplace are caused by cultural issues. The responsibility for the cultural issues at a particular department is the responsibility of the individual manager. If there are cultural issues, the manager is not doing their job correctly. And HR should be ensuring that the manager is performance managed until they do better.

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A reader March 25, 2014 at 9:53 pm

“If you’ve been a victim of bullying in the office, make sure you document what has happened to you and report it to either your boss or HR.”

From experience with a bullying boss – Yes, document everything but don’t go to HR unless you are ready to leave your job. A formal complaint with HR might put the situation on the table; however, unless you know action will be taken, doing so can be risky. In our situation there was a choice of saying nothing or reporting the situation and facing retribution. If the boss is the bully, HR may decide it is easier to replace lower level employees than the supervisor.

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meck01 March 31, 2014 at 3:14 am

The only course of action I’ve found that works (for me anyway) is to leave and not look back.

I have been bullied before, h.r didn’t want to know and their boss was not in the same state – so good luck.

In the end sanity prevails and finding a job with a better boss, better conditions and better money is therapy enough.

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07k April 12, 2014 at 10:07 pm

It’s the hardest when your boss is the bully and there is no one higher in the chain of command other than HR.
With my experience, I had a boss that was terrible. She was everything that makes working a living hell. And because I sent HR an email about what was going on, in hopes of something being either investigated or fixed, I was fired instead. And I was not the only one. There were two others fired as well. A lot of states are employment at will. And bullying and harassment is not illegal. So instead of doing the right thing and making positive changes for multiple employees, including myself, they chose to simply let me go for speaking up. I guess that was less effort than actually looking into the problem.

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S.T. February 9, 2018 at 5:31 pm

I am HR and I am the one being bullied. My boss is the President of the company and he is the one who hired the “bully.” He adores her and when I told him about the bullying, he asked me, “What did you do to piss her off?” He also said I should go back to her office and try to make things better. The exact opposite of what you are to do when an employee complains to you about being bullied. I have recorded her being ugly to me. I had my phone recorder on when she cruised into my office and very quickly made some nasty remarks. I did this because she would pop up behind me in the kitchen or hallway and say something ugly and trot off. I have no other resource to go to.Any suggestions?

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