When we talk about bullying, it’s typically about bullying on the playground or in the classroom, involving children. But bullying happens everywhere. Unfortunately, when it involves adults in the workplace, it is often ignored or dismissed with the victims toughing it out in silence.

According to the Workplace Bullying Institute, estimates suggest that nearly 30% of adult workers have been bullied in the workforce, affecting more than 76 million people in the U.S.

When it is tolerated, bullying can have a detrimental impact on the victim’s mental and physical health, contributing to higher stress, low self-esteem, anxiety and depression. Beyond the victims, workplace bullying can create a toxic work environment that impacts morale, absenteeism, employee turnover, productivity and ultimately the bottom line.

How can workplaces address bullying?

  1. A commitment to making the workplace both physically and psychologically safe for everyone starts at the top. Take care to ensure that all employees are afforded equal treatment, consideration, training and advancement opportunities. This takes a self-examination and a willingness to review workplace practices and culture.

  2. Learn what bullying is and what it looks like. It’s important to distinguish bullying from ordinary workplace conflicts. The experts define bullying as intentional, and usually repeated, verbal or nonverbal mistreatment that causes documentable physical and mental harm. Workplace bullies are often managers or supervisors, but can also be co-workers.
  3. Show a commitment to open communication, where employees can feel comfortable reporting any type of workplace harassment. Take all reports of bullying or harassment seriously and investigate.

  4. Bullying can sometimes be overlooked because high-performing individuals are the source. Make sure you do not reward bullying behavior. Instead, show that you value strong people skills and kindness in the workplace.

  5. Develop clear policies concerning harassment and discrimination. All employees should know about these and receive appropriate resources and education to help them comply.

  6. Consider making harassment training a requirement for employees. TSS’s online harassment Training offers a clear and concise understanding of what constitutes harassment, how to report it and when to take action. The course provides:
    • an overview of harassment in the workplace,
    • explanations of types of harassment,
    • information about the law and your responsibility as the employer,
    • and strategies for preventing harassment in the workplace.