Recognize Workplace Bullying
In spite of all we know about bullying today, the term “bully” still carries playground overtones that suggest physically threatening or violent behavior. Managers and HR professionals often ignore or fail to notice acts of workplace bullying unless, or until, they cross a line from psychological aggression to physical violence. By that time, the situation has often reached crisis proportions and has become too serious for anything but extreme intervention.
But the workplace is not the playground. Bullying can damage productivity, ruin careers, and lead to the loss of valuable employees, but grown-up aggression can be subtle, and an atmosphere of decorum can hide or lend legitimacy to sinister acts of manipulation and cruelty. As we make our way in adult society, most of us learn to tolerate a certain level of general rudeness. And in most corporate cultures, a degree of grace and flexibility are called for when employees believe they’ve been treated unkindly. But employees need to understand the difference between real-world rudeness and bullying. One is a natural part of adult life, and the other is unacceptable. If you’re an HR professional, you may be called upon to distinguish between the two, which can be a heavy responsibility.
An employee has been asked to stay late at the office. Is this bullying? HR professionals need to be ready with the right follow-up questions. Asked by whom? Under what circumstances? And with what implied consequences for non-compliance?
If you aren’t sure you can define unacceptable behavior or describe it to an employee in your workplace, get the training you need, so your managers and employees can count on you. Learn to recognize bullying language and identify the telltale signs that let you know when something isn’t right.