Nobody Likes a Bully

Business Conflict.jpgTammeron Trujillo, Human Resource Services

We may think that bullying is left behind when we grow up and join the workforce.  Unfortunately, that is not always the case. At work, bullying can be between employees, from a supervisor to an employee, or from an employee to someone else. A recent example that hit the news was the case of the Rutgers basketball coach, who was filmed repeatedly yelling at and striking players.  Although this situation seems extreme, as many as half of organizations report some type of workplace bullying.

What does bullying look like? Work place bullying is ongoing, offensive, abusive, threatening, or insulting behavior or unreasonable actions directed at another individual, causing the recipient to feel endangered, abused, humiliated, or helpless, and potentially preventing the target from performing his or her job. An employee who won’t move to allow others to pass by in a hall way; a supervisor who shouts at employees; as well as acts of physical intimidation may all be examples of bullying in the workplace.

Any type of physical violence may be covered under the federal Occupational Safety and Health Act (OSHA). Additionally, there could be both civil and criminal liability if someone were to be harmed. More typically, workplace bullying is verbal and is not expressly against the law in the United States. Verbal bullying can be disruptive and creates negative consequences for productivity, morale, and the overall environment. Employers should look into any allegations of bullying like they would investigate allegations of harassment and consider behavior’s impact not perpetrator’s intent. Does an alleged victim feel they have been bullied; have witnesses seen ridiculing, maligning, or negative comments such as name calling; and what about non-verbal gestures? Other bullying behavior includes pushing, shoving, or damaging personal property.  Even excluding individuals from work-related activities could be intimidating when decisions are made or relationships are created. 

Whatever the behavior, nobody likes a bully on the playground or in the workplace.