Two middle age business workers working together. Man bullying woman at the office
  • Posted By Sirmabekian
  • 2022

Workplace bullying consists of behaviors like threats, disrespectful comments, continual criticism, and intentional insults. Other forms include deliberate exclusion, overworking employees, and failing to communicate with colleagues.

Subtle Examples of Bullying in the Workplace

Bullying within the workplace isn’t always overt or direct. It can be subtle, consisting of things like sabotaging projects or intentionally providing incorrect or false information to disrupt an employee’s workflow. Another example would be a hardworking and dependable employee being passed up for a promotion or raise just because their superior doesn’t like them.  One of the most common is expecting employees to work longer than necessary without incentive, or giving instructions that are unclear and then becoming upset when the employee doesn’t get them right.

How Does Bullying in the Workplace Differ From Harassment?

Harassment and bullying are very similar, and some use the two terms synonymously. While both actions involve specific actions and behaviors which harm other people, there are some distinctions between them. Bullying that is directed at a specific group of people or type of person is referred to as harassment. For example, a boss that treats all his employees badly would be considered a bully, whereas a boss that treats only female employees badly or those of a certain sexual orientation would be considered harassing them.

Is Employee Bullying or Harassment Illegal?

Not in a general sense. The legal system doesn’t require bosses to be fair or kind. However, it does not allow them to treat you a certain way because of your gender, disability, national origin, religion, or race. For instance, if a workplace primarily consists of men, with only a few female employees, and one or more of the female workers allege the manager harasses or belittles them as well as the male workers, they don’t have grounds for litigation.

This is because the manager equally abuses everyone, and a court that examines the situation would probably conclude that there isn’t sufficient evidence to prove that the behavior was based on gender. No matter how severe a personality conflict may be, it cannot be used in a hostile employment environment claim just because it occurs between a female and male.

However, an example of a situation where litigation can be pursued is when a specific employee has proof of multiple incidents of harassment that are directed at them specifically, or where an employee has raised ethical concerns regarding the company or its operations which has led to retaliation from their superiors which grants them protection due to whistleblower statutes.

How Can Employee Bullying Be Prevented?

The only real way to discourage bullying among employees or their superiors is for initiatives to come from within the organization itself. Even though bullying may not be technically illegal, if employers begin treating it as such, it will discourage those who are prone to doing it.

In short, companies must create an employment culture that has zero tolerance for bullying or harassment, where those who do it can lose their jobs. However, office politics can make this easier said than done.

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