The term “bullying” has been a dominant topic in the news and media in recent years. Because of the focus on bullies in schools or similar settings, it is easy to overlook the fact that bullying comes in many forms and can pop up in a variety of locations, such as the workplace. 

In a work setting, bullying can manifest in a number of ways, including:

  • Creating an environment in which the employee is meant to feel humiliated, isolated, or alienated
  • Harassing or intimidating the employee
  • Providing the employee with unreasonable or impossible work tasks and assignments
  • Verbal abuse of any kind, such as name calling

Bullying can have a detrimental effect on an organization including lowered employee morale, a decrease in productivity, stress to employees, and increased absenteeism and potential turnover.

Though there are no laws or legislation governing bullying, if the situation is escalated to the point where the behavior can be considered threatening and hostile, there is a potential that claims of a hostile work environment may be considered. As a manager, it is your responsibility to identify and prevent such abuse by not allowing bullying to occur in your workplace or department.

If you witness behavior that constitutes bullying, or if an employee comes to you with a complaint of bullying by a co-worker or manager, address the matter immediately by initiating a confidential investigation to determine the facts. Clearly communicate harassment and/or anti-bullying policies that your company has in place to ensure that employees know what behaviors will not be tolerated, as well as what disciplinary action will be administered to those who violate the policy.

Prevention is key. By communicating workplace policies and expectations, you can help make certain that behaviors promote a harmonious and peaceful environment, can minimize potential risk, and can help ensure that your employees feel safe, are comfortable, motivated, productive.