Types of Workplace Bullying: How to Identify and Address It

Last Updated on January 14, 2024 by Milton Campbell

Want to learn more about workplace bullying and how to tackle it? This article delves deep into the different types of bullying in the workplace and empowers you with the knowledge to identify and address bullying behavior. Read on to understand the signs of workplace bullying and strategies for effectively resolving the issue.

Introduction to Bullying in the Workplace

Bullying in the workplace, a disheartening but common phenomenon, occurs when an employee experiences a persistent pattern of mistreatment from others in the workplace, often resulting in a power imbalance. Workplace bullying can include tactics such as verbal, nonverbal, psychological, physical abuse, and humiliation. According to the Workplace Bullying Institute, this type of behavior creates feelings of defenselessness and injustice in the employee and undermines their right to dignity at work.

One might ask – why is it essential to address bullying? Undeniably, the impact of workplace bullying can go beyond emotional distress and can cause significant issues regarding workers’ health, well-being, and job performance. It can contribute to increased absenteeism, increased turnover, decreased job satisfaction, and reduced productivity in the workplace. Therefore, tackling and preventing bullying in the workplace is crucial to maintaining a healthy work environment and encouraging employee productivity.

Types of Workplace Bullying

Workplace bullying can come in many forms, and understanding these is key to identify bullying and deal with it effectively. Some of the common types of bullying include physical bullying, gaslighting, cyberbullying, and exclusion.

  1. Physical bullying: Although less common in many workplaces, it involves harmful physical actions directed towards an individual. Examples include hitting, pushing, or other aggressive physical contact.
  2. Gaslighting: This psychological form of bullying involves manipulating a person into questioning their own sanity. A workplace bully may use this tactic to present themselves as superior while belittling their victim.
  3. Cyberbullying: This form of bullying occurs online, often through professional platforms or email, and encompasses anything from spreading malicious rumors to public humiliation.
  4. Exclusion: This happens when an employee is intentionally isolated from work teams, conversations, or workplace activities.

Each type of bullying presents unique characteristics but can cause severe harm to the bullied employee. Retaliation or fighting back may seem like a solution but doesn’t stop the bullying or address the core issues.

What are the Signs of Workplace Bullying?

Identifying workplace bullying isn’t always straightforward, but there are signs that can indicate if you or others are being bullied at work. Understanding these can help prevent bullying and create a workplace environment that is safe and healthy for all employees.

Here are some possible signs of workplace bullying:

  • Persistent unjustified criticism or trivial fault-finding
  • Exclusion from work-related social events
  • Being the subject of practical jokes or gossip
  • Unreasonable work demands or withholding of information necessary for productive work
  • Belittling or humiliating comments
  • Threats about job security without a foundation

If anyone exhibits these signs, they might be experiencing bullying. It takes courage to deal with bullying, and guidance and support from the human resources department, managers, or an employee assistance program may be necessary. Prevention remains an essential aspect, and addressing bullying in the workplace requires understanding and action from everyone involved.

Are You Being Bullied at Work? How to Know for Sure

Bullying in the workplace can sometimes be subtle and difficult to recognise. But understanding and identifying bullying at work is the first step toward addressing and ending the behavior. When you’re constantly overlooked for promotion, subjected to humiliation, or intentionally excluded, you might be experiencing workplace bullying.

Assess your feelings and work atmosphere. Are you anxious about going to work more than usual? Do you dread interaction with a particular colleague or supervisor? Are your ideas or achievements being credited to someone else? Withholding information, sabotage, and constantly belittling your work are other signs. These instances of bullying, if unaddressed, are likely to create unnecessary stress and impact your productivity and mental health.

While it’s essential to confront the reality of being bullied, it’s equally important to do so wisely without escalating the situation. Trusting your instincts is key, but also look for established signs of workplace bullying and seek help when necessary.

The Impact of Bullying on Employees and the Workplace

Workplace bullying impacts more than just the bullied employee; it can have significant implications for the entire work environment and the company. The victims of bullying can suffer from a wide range of mental health concerns like depression and anxiety. They might notice a decline in job performance and productivity due to increased stress and decreased motivation.

On a larger scale, unchecked bullying harms the company culture, leading to a toxic work environment and lower employee morale. It might lead to increased absenteeism and high staff turnover, which, in turn, incurs significant costs for businesses when replacing and training new staff.

Moreover, a company known for allowing bullying can experience damage to its reputation, making it less attractive to prospective talent and possibly impacting relationships with clients or customers.

Strategies for Addressing Bullying in the Workplace

To address workplace bullying:

  1. Start by documenting each act of bullying: Keeping a record of dates, times, locations, and details of each incident, along with any witnesses and responses, can be of immense help, especially when you decide to report the situation.
  2. Speak with the bully: In some cases, it might be helpful to ask the bully to stop their behavior directly. However, this approach requires careful consideration.
  3. Contact human resources or a trusted manager: They can provide guidance and help navigate through company protocols to address the situation.
  4. Seek support from trusted colleagues: Support from allies in your workplace can comfort you emotionally and validate your experiences.
  5. Utilize employment assistance programs, if available: They can provide resources, support, and solutions.

Employers are also responsible for addressing bullying in the workplace. Employers should have clearly outlined policies and procedures against bullying, promote a healthy workplace culture, provide training to help employees identify bullying, and maintain a secure reporting system. It is important for employers to acknowledge the harmful effects of bullying and lead efforts to create a safe, respectful, and healthy work environment.

Bystander Actions Against Bullying at Work

As an observer of workplace bullying, your actions can be instrumental in reducing its incidence. Here’s how you can play a part:

  1. Offer Emotional Support: Reach out to the bullied colleague privately. Let them know that you observed the bullying, and it was not their fault. Your support can provide much-needed comfort and strength.
  2. Speak Up in the Moment: If you feel confident and safe, tell the bully calmly that their behavior is inappropriate. Sometimes, the surprise of being called out can make the bully reconsider their actions.
  3. Keep a Record: Write down the details of incidents you observe, including the date, time, location, who was involved, what happened, and if there were any other witnesses. This record can be valuable if the bullied employee decides to report the bullying.
  4. Report the Behavior: If the bullying continues, report it to someone in a position of authority, like a supervisor or human resources. Your statement can lend credibility to the victim’s claims and may help encourage appropriate action.

Addressing Personal Bullying Behavior

Acknowledging personal misconduct is challenging but crucial. If you’ve realized that your behavior might be perceived as bullying, here are steps toward improvement:

  1. Introspect: Reflect on specific instances where your words or actions might have been hurtful or intimidating. Recognize these instances as inappropriate and requiring change.
  2. Request Feedback: Ask colleagues or subordinates to provide honest feedback about your behavior. This will help you understand exactly where the problems lie and what impact they’ve had on others.
  3. Learn and Grow: Read about bullying and its effects on individuals and the workplace. Education can foster empathy for victims of bullying and discourage such behavior.
  4. Implement Change: Based on your reflection and feedback, pinpoint specific behaviors you need to change and work on them consistently. Seek professional help if needed. The aim is to not only to stop bullying, but to become a better colleague and leader.

Proactive Measures for Bullying Prevention

The best way to handle workplace bullying is to prevent it from happening in the first place. Here’s how an organization can foster a bully-free environment:

  1. Clear Policies: Establish an anti-bullying policy that includes a definition of bullying, examples of what constitutes bullying behavior, and clear consequences for violations.
  2. Regular Training: Implement regular training for all employees on the company’s anti-bullying policy. The training should also include how to identify bullying, how to report it, and how to support victims of bullying.
  3. Promote Open Discussion: Encourage employees to openly discuss issues related to bullying. This can be achieved through regular meetings, anonymous surveys, or a suggestion box.
  4. Employee Support: Equip your workplace with resources for employees dealing with bullying. This could include counseling services, stress management programs, or confidential hotlines.
  5. Management’s Role: Each management member should set a positive example for behavior at work, promptly respond to bullying reports, and regularly follow up to check if the bullying has stopped.

Practicing these measures can help establish a healthy work culture where employees are valued, respected, and feel safe.

Where to Find Resources and Support

Experiencing or witnessing workplace bullying can be distressing, but you’re not alone. Many resources and forms of support are available that can comfort and aid both victims and observers of bullying.

Available Resources to Combat Workplace Bullying:

  1. Look to Internal Resources: Your own company or organization is a vital first resource. Familiarize yourself with your HR department’s policies on bullying and harassment, and find out what steps they have in place to address these issues.
  2. Online Information and Advice: Websites such as StopBullying.gov and the Workplace Bullying Institute offer a wealth of information on understanding, preventing, and tackling workplace bullying.
  3. Employee Assistance Programs (EAPs): Many employers provide EAPs that can help their employees handle all kinds of personal issues, including workplace bullying.

Seeking Professional Help in Addressing the Issue

If the bullying has caused severe distress, you may need professional help.

  1. Mental Health Counseling: Therapists and counselors can provide techniques to deal with stress and rebuild self-esteem damaged by bullying. They can also help strategize ways to deal with the bully.
  2. Legal Consultation: In severe cases, or when your workplace fails to address bullying issues appropriately, you might need to seek legal advice. Some lawyers specialize in workplace bullying and harassment.
  3. Career Coaches: In some cases, it might be best to consider looking for a new job. A career coach can help navigate this process smoothly, potentially aiding significantly in resume building, interviewing skills, and job searching strategies.

Remember, it’s important to seek help and take care of your mental health throughout this process. You deserve to work in an environment that’s respectful and safe.

In Conclusion: Key Takeaways

Workplace bullying can severely impact employees, overall company performance, and company reputation. It’s crucial to understand the different types of workplace bullying and be aware of the signs to identify and address such behavior. Combatting workplace bullying requires a collective effort from employers and employees, along with fostering a supportive environment that encourages open communication.