Bullying In The Workplace


Asheville, NC (CompNewsNetwork) - While the term “bullying” is receiving widespread attention, it is most commonly associated with schools and students. The suicide this summer of the Managing Editor of the award-winning Virginia Quarterly Review and the allegations of a bullying boss is a painful reminder that bullying is also a very real threat in the workplace. A 2007 study by Zogby International, commissioned by the Workplace Bullying Institute, found that 37% of workers had been bullied at one time or another. A recent University of Phoenix study claims that the recession has given "serial bullies" an excuse to mistreat employees, while more managers feel that "bearing down on people" is the best way to do more with less.

While economic conditions demand tighter reins, bullying crosses the line with outright aggressive behavior or a subtle psychological torture that makes the workplace intolerable. Workplace bullying tactics include threats to an individual's work status; personal attacks such as name-calling, belittlement; isolation or silent treatments; sabotage of work; work-related harassment such as unrealistic deadlines and rumor spreading.

In the book, Stop Bullying at Work: Strategies and Tools for HR & Legal Professionals, Teresa Daniel offers advice on distinguishing between a tough boss and a workplace bully:

Actions of a workplace bully

  - Frequent misuse of power and authority
  - Focus on personal self-interest, as opposed to the good of the organization
  - Prone to emotional outbursts
  - Often inconsistent and unfair in the treatment of employees

Actions of a tough boss

  - Objective, fair and professional
  - Self controlled and unemotional
  - Performance-focused – insistent upon meeting high standards and holding employees accountable for their actions
  - Organizationally focused – consistently operating to achieve the best interests of the company

While conflict can occur when there is a tough boss, it differs from bullying because there is no malice, according to Ms. Daniel's research. If it appears from the facts that malice might be present, this should serve as a signal that a thorough investigation is required.

It's a difficult issue and many companies don't know what to do; by default they do nothing. In fact, most employees (79%) either were not sure or were certain employers do little to nothing to address workplace bullying.

This material is provided as general information and is not a substitute for legal or other professional advice.

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Preston Diamond is Executive Director and Co-Founder of the Institute of WorkComp Professionals, based in Asheville, NC. It trains, tests and certifies select insurance professionals to alert employers about the hidden costs and overcharges in the Workers' Compensation insurance system. He can be contacted at 828-274-0959 or preston@workcompprofessionals.com, www.workcompprofessionals.com

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