According to a recent article in Forbes magazine, workplace bullying is “frighteningly common,” with 75% of all workers reporting that they have been the target of abusive behavior at work.
Workplace bullying is defined by the Workplace Bullying Institute (WBI) as “repeated, health-harming mistreatment of one or more persons (the targets) by one or more perpetrators.” It is “abusive” conduct that is either (a) threatening, humiliating, or intimidating, or (b) work-interfering. in that it prevents work from getting done.
Compared to schoolyard bullying, workplace bullying is typically less physical and more verbal and psychological. Interestingly, according to the WBI, the targets of workplace bullying are often the strongest team members, not the weakest. Often, the boss of the bully knows about the bully’s behavior, but the boss mistakenly thinks that the company cannot do without the bully. So the boss makes “allowances” and excuses that allows the bullying behavior to continue.
What’s the solution? According to Forbes, the first step is to confront the bully. Then, outline specific performance, behavioral, and attitudinal changes that must occur. Then, implement organizational structures that emphasize problem solving and teamwork, such as:
(a) Reward ideas and innovations
(b) Reward people for bringing safety or other problems to management’s attention
(c) Utilize management structures that reduce finger-pointing and blame
(d) Implement an intranet where team members can give each other praise and recognize contribution
(e) Ensure that performance measurement systems are fair, objective, and actually rewarding those skills and behaviors that you want to incentivize
Workplace bullying is not, by itself, illegal in California; however, if the bullying is happening because of the target’s race, gender, sexual orientation, disability, religion, or membership in some other protected category, then the target may have a claim under California’s Fair Employment & Housing Act (FEHA) or Title VII. In addition, California employers should know that California law requires employers with more than 50 employees to include “abusive conduct” prevention training in their mandatory sexual harassment training.
You can read the article from Forbes here.
You can read AB 2053, the California law that requires employers to include workplace bullying training in their sexual harassment training, here.