For the past several months I’ve been on the road traveling for various conferences and conducting presentations. Across the board, one of our most popular presentations is on Workplace Bullying (psychological harassment).
Workplace bullying can affect any discipline, any title, any gender, and any race. During my travels I noticed stark contrasts of people affected by bullying, from the petite professional woman in Human Resources to the big strapping union man in Manufacturing. As widespread as bullying is, it’s still a wonder to me why there are no legislative protections in place here in the US.
Certainly some states try. Recently Kansas attempted to get KS HB2720 through, but it died in the Appropriations Committee last month. This bill would have affected only state employees, but it was a step in the direction of protecting people and giving employers tangible recourse against bullying behavior. Right now in Illinois, SB2943, the Workplace Bullying Prohibition Act, is going through the legislative process. If it passes, it will require employers who have two or more employees to establish a policy regarding workplace bullying and to file the policy with the Department of Labor. If addendums are incorporated into this bill, I hope that one of them is workplace bullying prevention training.
Workplace bullying training is important because of the complexity of the issue. Bullying doesn’t always look like what the stereotype in the media says. Bosses aren’t always the bullies. In fact, bosses can be targets of bullies too, so it’s important to define not only what bullying is, but also to provide training on how to identify the behaviors, respond to the behaviors, and what follow-up steps to take if bullying is identified through the investigative process.
Workplace bullying is violence. It is psychologically and emotionally damaging. It can even have physical effects on the target. And all of this can cause an employee to miss days from work. However, the target is not the only one affected. Those who witness bullying can also be adversely affected as their stress and anxiety over whether they’ll be the next target increases. It’s time that we stand up as employers, as employees, and within our government and say, “Workplace bullying will no longer be tolerated.”
It perplexes me that we’ve so far been unable to put protections in place for our employees when physical violence is not tolerated. Why do we allow psychological violence to occur? Why do we continue to turn a blind eye to the damaging effects that workplace bullying has on our employees, morale, reputation, and ultimately, our bottom line? Please comment below if you have strategies or success stories about reducing workplace bullying. You can help other organizations learn from your success.