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Identify a workplace bully

How bullying is detrimental to every employee within your workplace.

Bullying. It’s at every stage of life External Site. From the big kid on the playground, high school and college bullies peer pressuring, social media trolls, and now the workplace. It can seem almost inescapable for your employees.

We all saw it in classic movies and television shows — especially in the era where employees could openly smoke and drink in the workplace. It was a time where employees would go through the ringer to prove their worth to more seasoned employees.

It hasn’t been until recently that individuals and companies have started taking a stand against bullying External Site. Especially since it can be extremely traumatic — both physically, emotionally, or both for anyone who has experienced bullying in their lifetime.

What is workplace bullying?

The Workplace Bullying Institute External Site defines bullying as repeated, health-harming mistreatment of one or more persons by one or more initiators that takes one (or more) of the following forms: verbal abuse, offensive conduct/behaviors, humiliation, intimidation, or sabotage.

How can I identify a bully within my workplace?

There are many kinds of bullies in (and out of) the workplace. It can be difficult in any setting to determine who a bully is, or when it’s happening. It can make it even more difficult when there are subtle signs that you might be missing. It’s important to know that bullying can happen at any level within your workplace — not just the individual contributor. It can stem from your low and mid-level management — even all the way up to your executive team.

We broke down the various ways you can determine if bullying is happening within your workplace — both subtle and obvious forms.

Subtle forms of bullying to look out for:

  1. Deceit. Repeatedly lies, deceives, or manipulates others to get their way. Creates false hopes (such as promotions, completing a task, etc.) with no plans to fulfil them.
  2. Intimidation. Evokes fear-inducing communication or behavior. Can go as far as threatening employees.
  3. Ignoring and exclusion. Purposefully ignoring, avoiding, or not paying attention to someone. Could “forget” to invite someone to a meeting, exclude them from decisions, conversations, and work-related events, or selectively greet or interact with others instead of the victim.
  4. Minimization. Discounting, or failing to address someone’s legitimate concerns or feelings. Using terminology like, “You need to calm down,” or “Why would you worry about something like that?”
  5. Diversion. Dodging issues, acting aloof or oblivious, changing the subject to distract away from the issue, cancelling meetings, or avoiding people.
  6. Undermining work. Delaying and blocking an employee’s work (e.g., not responding to emails, reviewing materials).
  7. Igniting competition. Promising employees’ projects, and then giving them to others. Driving competition, creating conflict, establishing “winners and losers” and encouraging employees to turn against one another.

Obvious types of bullies to look out for:

  1. The aggressor. An employee who showcases anger or aggression toward their victim in either a non-verbal, or verbal way.
  2. The personal space invader. Someone who tampers with someone’s personal belongings, stalking, spying or pestering someone.
  3. The blackmailer. Aggressively forcing or encouraging someone to say or do things against their will or better judgment.
  4. The punisher. Punishing an employee with physical discipline, passive aggression, or isolation.
  5. The revenge-ist. Seeking out unfair revenge when a mistake happens or retaliating against someone.

Will bullying impact my business?

Absolutely. If bullying isn’t addressed head on and corrected, you can expect to lose talent — even prospective talent. Word of mouth is a powerful tool, and your employees have a voice. If an employee(s) experienced bullying within your workplace, they will share their experience with other people in their network, or even share online through sites like Glassdoor External Site or LinkedIn External Site.

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The impact of bullying in the workplace

  • 30% of American adults are bullied at work
  • 76.3 million workers are affected by bullying
  • 61% of bullying is same-gendered
  • 43% of remote workers are bullied

Source: 2021 WBI U.S. Workplace Bullying Survey

4 tips for stopping bullying in your workplace

With bullying being such a sensitive topic, it doesn’t mean you should shy away from addressing it within your workplace. It’s extremely important to educate your workforce on the implications of bullying — both mentally or physically. Consider our four tips to get started.

  1. Review current policies and procedures. Look at current policies and procedures in place to ensure you are providing clear expectations regarding interactions between coworkers, core values, and what reporting or action looks like when addressing bullying situations.
  2. Document, document, document. Place a standard investigation process in place to evaluate any reported incidents. Consider providing a toll-free hotline where employees can report incidents anonymously. Additionally, encourage your employees to document instances when bullying has occurred, what time it occurred, and include anyone who may have been around.
  3. Offer all-employee trainings. Provide training for all employees External Site regarding protocols and consequences for not adhering to them. Your organization can take it a step further by bringing in speakers or providing individualized training to prevent bullying, educate, help determine various examples of bullying, and tips for responding to incidents of incivility, aggression, and bullying.
  4. Address it right away. If you see or hear of an employee who is experiencing bullying in the workplace, the best thing to do is address it right away. This window of opportunity will nip things in the bud before an employee becomes subject to long-term workplace bullying.

Learn more about your growing millennial population

While bullying can take an emotional (and physical) toll on each employee within your workplace, your millennial employees are already cause for concern. Did you know six of the top-10 conditions impacting millennials are behavioral health related?

When you download your free copy of the Millennials in Your Workplace e-book External Site, you can take advantage of extensive research, in-house data and subject matter experts to create sustainable, long-term changes in your workplace today.

Questions? Contact your authorized Wellmark account representative, or email us at Send Email.