Workplace Bullying Violates Ethical Standards
In my last blog I looked at the growing trend of creating cyber-bullying legislation to control bullying in the workplace. Bullying at work is the repeated, health or career endangering mistreatment of one employee, by one or more employees. The mistreatment is a form of psychological violence that can create a hostile work environment. According to the Wall Street Journal, New York State’s Senate recently passed a bill “that would allow workers who’ve been physically, psychologically or economically abused while on the job to file charges against their employers in civil court.”
There are steps that can be taken to stop bullying in the workplace but first the nature of bullying and signs that bullying may be occurring must be understood.
1. Understand the bully:
Chronic bullies – people who identify that bullying is a part of their nature, and do not perceive a need to change their actions
Opportunist bullies – competitive people who are interested in making career gains even though it may involve stepping on other people
Accidental bullies – bullying caused by social ineptness and lack of awareness.
Substance abusing bullies – people whose social interactions are impaired by their dependence on artificial stimulants
2. Identify the type of bullying
- Unrealistic job demands
- Unreasonable criticism
- Creating an inconsistent or unfair work environment
- Not giving credit where it is due
- Insults, putdowns, yelling, screaming, and other abusive behavior
3. Document the instances of bullying in detail
- Document specifics, time and date
- Identify allies
- Determine code violations
4. Determine a plan to resolve the bullying
- Request a meeting time where you can confront the bully in a professional setting
- Seek assistance from senior management
- Seek third party mediation
- Seek legal advice
- Get medical attention
- Establish and protect boundaries
- Do not blame yourself
- Solicit witness statements
- Follow internal complaint processes
5. Communicate the problems with the bully or two levels of management higher than the bully
- Taking the bully on directly at work may have undesired or unpredictable consequences for the target
- In many cases, the bully may be seen by management as “getting the job done”
- Complaining about the bullying may draw repercussions against the target rather than the bully.
Here is what survey data from the Workplace Bullying Institute shows have been the response to bullying:
38% left voluntarily
44% were terminated
In only 7% of those cases, was the bully censored, transferred or terminated.
When communicating with either the bully about their actions or with management, it may be best to remain anonymous so that you have a greater sense of the outcome without needing to endanger your position.
- Communicate anonymously to the bully at AnonymousEmployee.com
- Communicate anonymously with the bully’s boss at AnonymousEmployee.com to determine how much support they may be willing to offer
- Suggest better employment practices
- Determine cost to company of downtime/turnover
Bullying in the workplace threatens to create a toxic environment that can bring others into the conflict and, ultimately, destroy the spirit de corps that is so essential to workplace harmony and productivity. Organizations must proactively take steps to prevent bullying and take remedial action against the offenders. Policies must be established early on and clearly communicated. The ethics code must address bullying from the perspective of the ethical virtues of carrying and compassion. The tone at the top must be that bullying in any form will not be tolerated. Finally, training is necessary to demonstrate to employees just what constitutes workplace bullying.
Blog posted by Steven Mintz, aka Ethics Sage, on September 26, 2011