Researchers: Workplace bullying impact reaches beyond the victims
- Researchers at the University of North Texas (UNT) found that bullying in the workplace negatively affects bystanders as well as victims, reports NBCDFW. In the study, 300 people viewed a video on bullying and were later polled on how bullying affected them as bystanders. Results showed that workplace culture is at risk when bullying is observed, not just when it is experienced first hand.
- The UNT study found that witnesses to bullying may believe they'll be the next victim, empathetic bystanders tend to identify with the victim and employees who observe bullying disassociate from the perpetrator, particularly if they are the same gender as the victim.
- Dr. Michele Medina, an adjunct professor at UNT, told NBCDFW, that bullies often look for an audience and bystanders who remain silent after witnessing bullying reinforce the bully versus those who come to the victim's aid.
Bullying is described as ongoing mean or hostile behavior by one person towards another. A workplace bully tries to undermine a co-worker's professional status through a variety of tactics that can include everything from threats and intimidation to constant criticism or sabotage. Bullying is harassment, and verbal or physical bullying that's abusive is considered unlawful. Studies show that women are more often the victims of bullying than men, even at the hands of other women. Cyberbullying is a problem in the workplace, just as it is in society as a whole. HR can lead their organizations in the battle against cyberbullying by enforcing anti-harassment policies.
All 50 states passed anti-bullying laws in for schools, but few have addressed the issue in the workplace. California is one state that did outlaw workplace bullying. An anti-bullying law took effect in California in 2015 requiring employers with 50 or more employees to add training for supervisors focused on preventing abusive workplace behavior.
Verbal and physical attacks are easy to call out and shut down. But subtle intimidating behavior often goes undetected. Employers must train managers to look out for subtle bullying and have reporting procedures that encourage victims and witnesses to file complaints.
Bullying, like all bad behavior in the workplace, can demoralize staff and lower productivity. Employers must have zero-tolerance policies for workplace bullying and follow up with enforcement procedures, if necessary.