A current and hot topic in corporate America these days is that of workplace bullying. Workplace bullying has become a serious problem, affecting a large number of employees across the country. In fact, it not only affects the employees themselves who are on the receiving end of the bullying, but it also naturally affects morale within a company as well as the efficiency of an office.
What is Bullying?
Before attempting to solve the problem, a prerequisite and difficult challenge is to specifically define what exactly “bullying” is.
According to The Workplace Bullying Institute, bullying is a systematic campaign of interpersonal destruction that jeopardizes an employee’s health, career and the job the employee once loved. Bullying is a non-physical, non-homicidal form of violence and, because it is violence and abusive, emotional harm frequently results.
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To date, there are no federal laws that make the act of bullying illegal. Some states, for example, New Jersey, may have laws prohibiting bullying in schools, but have yet to apply a similar law to the workplace.
Individuals on various sides of the issue might admit that creating laws and legislating may not be the solution, but it could be a step in the right direction. That being said, if there are no laws currently protecting workers against bullying in the workplace, how can it be stopped?
Certain companies prohibit bullying by including provisions in their employee handbooks and/or having stand-alone policies that specifically prohibit bullying in the workplace. These policies carry penalties ranging from a warning or minor discipline up to and including termination.
One of the keys to addressing and potentially eradicating workplace bullying is to not only have a policy in place prohibiting bullying, but to train managers and supervisors on how to:
- identify the inappropriate behavior even before an employee complains, which oftentimes he or she may not
- receive and process compliants and enforce the policy uniformly
Should such a policy not be consistently enforced, a company could find itself exposed to even greater liability from a discrimination or breach of contract standpoint.