Effective Ways to Manage Workplace Bullies

Most of us assumed, if not hoped, that bullies would vanish from our everyday lives as we left our school days behind us and entered adulthood. Yet, during the course of our careers many of us have discovered that bullies are still very much present in the workplace.

The very existence of workplace bullies can be a human resources nightmare because of their negative impact on coworkers’ quality of life and ability to maintain high-quality productivity. In severe cases, workplace bullying could even lead to costly legal consequences that may ruin a company’s reputation.

According to the Healthy Workforce Campaign, workplace bullying is defined as a situation where one or more employees is made to feel intimidated or unsafe in their personal expression of self. The most common examples of workplace bullying include:

  • Verbally abusive language
  • Verbal and nonverbal behavior that is threatening, intimidating or humiliating
  • The purposeful interference of another’s efforts to accomplish professional goals

Working in the field of human resources, it is not just important to recognize the presence of workplace bullying but also its pervasiveness. A national survey conducted by the Workplace Bullying Institute in 2014 revealed:

  • 27% are currently or have previously experienced workplace bullying
  • 72% of the American public acknowledge the occurrence of workplace bullying
  • Bosses are the biggest source of workplace bullying
  • 72% of employers defend, deny, disregard, support, and/or justify workplace bullying
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So what solutions can HR departments provide to minimalize workplace bullying? In an article published by the Society for Human Resource Management, Catherine Mattice, SHRM-SCP suggested the following tips:

  • Installing a performance management system using employee auditing
  • Educating both workers and managers about workplace bullying
  • Suggesting ways that victims can confront bullies
  • Encouraging witnesses to disclose instances of bullying
  • Training bullies to communicate in less aggressive ways
  • Prompting leaders to become more assertive towards bullies