How to Stop Workplace Bullying

Instructor: Beth Hendricks

Beth holds a master's degree in integrated marketing communications, and has worked in journalism and marketing throughout her career.

Workplace bullying can create problems on-the-job and at home. In this lesson, you'll learn more about how individuals and businesses can stop workplace bullies in their tracks through a few simple steps.

Stopping a Workplace Bully

For six months, Tom has been causing real problems for Jim at work. In meetings, Tom talks over Jim and then openly mocks Jim's ideas and downplays his opinions. When the two have to interact to address a problem with a client, Tom raises his voice angrily and pounds his desk in an attempt to intimidate Jim. Lately, Jim has been made aware of rumors and gossip being spread by Jim to try to ostracize and undermine Jim among their fellow co-workers.

What's happening here? Unfortunately, Jim has found himself the victim of a workplace bully. Workplace bullying has occurred to nearly 30 percent of American workers, through tactics such as threats, spreading rumors, intimidation, and ignoring or ostracizing the victims.

Tom's behaviors are similar to the teen bullies we remember from our high school days. Trying to demean and control Jim, Tom has resorted to inappropriate and uncalled for behaviors in the workplace. The bullying is causing Jim to feel unwell, his job productivity to drop and even created problems for Jim when he's at home.

How can Jim put a stop to Tom's bullying ways? Let's find some solutions.

What an Employee Should Do

According to the Workplace Bullying Institute, Jim should implement a three-step action plan in order to thwart Tom's bad behavior.

1. Call it bullying by name. Until you identify the problem and make it real in your own mind, it may not have legitimacy. For example, if you don't acknowledge you need to make some life changes, you'll probably never commit to doing it. Name the problem, even if only in your own mind to give it a face so you can start dealing with it appropriately.

2. Take a vacation and plan your strategy. Check your physical and mental health by giving yourself a few days off to recover. Stress-related conditions, like those that occur in the wake of workplace bullying, can cloud your mind and make you physically sick. Once your mind is clear, begin examining your options for addressing the bullying situation. That may include examining internal policies and procedures, formally reporting the bully to Human Resources, or researching legal options if necessary.

3. Expose the bully. Hopefully, you have done your homework and documented situations and instances when the bullying has occurred. The Workplace Bullying Institute recommends taking your case to the highest person available in the organization, and not necessarily the Human Resources department.

In addition to the steps suggested by the Institute, an individual should:

  • Present his/her case intellectually rather than emotionally. Victims are sometimes discredited if the reasons for revealing the bully are deemed 'too emotional.'
  • Give the employer an opportunity to fix the situation. If they do not, you may have to leave the job to protect yourself mentally, physically, and emotionally.
  • Document the bully's bad behavior. Be specific and detailed and include times, dates, locations, and descriptions. If you have witnesses, be prepared to name them.

What a Business Should Do

Bullying employees can sometimes be difficult to spot, and bullying victims may be hesitant to speak up due to fear of retaliation or a business's unwillingness to remedy their situation. With that in mind, here are some ways that businesses can mitigate workplace bullying:

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