The Workplace Bully: Bringing a Company Down

As surprising as it sounds, bullying has become a major problem in the workplace. Bullying can take the form of threats, sexual and racial harassment, intimidations, and even physical violence. Bullying is not only harmful to the targeted employee. It also brings down a company's overall morale and profitability. Employers should be aware of the problem and then make it clear that bullying has no place in their business.

For the most part, bullying is a form of psychological violence. However, if left
unchecked, workplace bullying can ultimately result in extreme physical violence. In Canada, in 1999, a man went on a shooting spree at his workplace, killing four employees before taking his own life. Investigators later learned he was a victim of workplace harassment. The incident raised awareness about the effects of psychological violence such as bullying.

Profiling the Bully
Typically, workplace bullies are insecure people with few social skills and little empathy. Their insecurity compels them to try and control others by attacking and belittling them. Bullies tend to target the capable, hard-working employees who they perceive as threats. The more capable the employee, the more determined the bully is to cut them down. Bullies also like to target employees who are cooperative, non-confrontational and well liked.

The bullied employees endure unjustified criticism. They're often humiliated in front of co-workers. Eventually, they may find themselves ignored and isolated.

When the Bully is a Boss. While a bully can be a man or woman, studies show that most bullies are bosses (80 percent). The others are co-workers. On rare occasions, workers bully their superiors. If a boss is a bully, he or she may:

* Set the target up for failure by setting unrealistic goals or deadlines.
* Deny the necessary information and resources the victimized employee needs to perform his or her job.
* Either overload the victim with work or take all the work away
* Force the victim to do demeaning tasks

The Cost of Bullying
Ultimately, a workplace bully is a financial burden to a company. A bully's target tends to become unproductive because he or she spends a great deal of time defending themselves or seeking support from peers. They become highly stressed and unmotivated. Often, they lose time at work due to stress-related illnesses.

But the bully's negative influence extends beyond the target. A bully can poison an entire workplace environment by causing low morale, fear, and anger. This, in turn, leads to high absenteeism and turnover. Efficiency suffers, and the employer foots the bill. In extreme cases, bullying can lead to physical violence and lawsuits.

Bully Prevention
Every company's employee handbook should make it perfectly clear that workplace bullying is unacceptable behavior and will lead to termination. In addition, employers should establish processes for investigating, recording, and dealing with the issue. Complaints should be investigated quickly.

Employers will benefit by having a happier, more productive, and profitable place of business.

-- Dan Harvey

External Links:
Workplace Harrassment OSHA Safety Training
Workplace Violence OSHA Safety Training

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