The classic schoolyard scenario: a shy, smaller child contends with a big mean bully during a school lunch break in front of the swing set – or bullying’s updated online counterpart: cyberbullying.
Many of us have memories of bullies from our school years, and bullying often is perceived as a problem that only children face from one another. However, 37% of adult American employees have experienced bullying at work.
Bullying remains a significant challenge even after graduating from the playground to the break room.
Workplace Bullying Policies Up to Each Employer
While European nations (like Sweden way back in 1994), Australia, and Canada have codified federal prohibitions against workplace bullying, the U.S. still has no federal legislation defining and prohibiting workplace bullying.
Legal efforts to curb bullying in the U.S. focus on the playgrounds and classrooms. Forty-nine states in the U.S. now have passed school anti-bullying legislation (every state except Montana). Sioux City Community School District in Iowa led the nation in 2009 by expanding its anti-bullying policies from only protecting students to protecting District employees from bullying in the workplace.
This leaves to individual employers to take initiative to institute workplace bullying policies that integrate with a company’s anti-harassment policies until legislation like the Healthy Workplace Bill passes.
What is Workplace Bullying?
Dr. Gary Namie, Director of the Workplace Bullying Institute calls workplace bullying a “systematic, laser-focused campaign of interpersonal destruction” with the intent of undermining the careers of coworkers whom the workplace bully perceives as a threat.
Dr. Namie stated that conflict resolution is ineffective in dealing with workplace bullies.
“It’s not conflict,” Namie said. He claimed the bully’s world view affects behavior, and, therefore, bullies will not change from a conflict resolution process. “Solutions have to involve making a person healthy.”
Workplace bullying includes the repeated practice by one or more coworkers of behaviors such as:
- Verbal abuse.
- Offensive conduct/behaviors (including nonverbal) which are threatening, humiliating or intimidating
- Work interference – sabotage – which prevents work from getting done.