Question – “What is workplace bullying, and what can I do if I am subjected to it?”

Workplace bullying is interpersonal mistreatment, psychological harassment, or abusive antisocial behavior directed at another person.  It is not a personality clash, misunderstanding, or miscommunication.  Rather, it is a deliberate pattern of hurtful and menacing activities that occurs repeatedly and over a period of time.

Bullying encompasses a variety of actions, including humiliating publicly, making verbal insults, encouraging co-workers to shun the target, spreading rumors, assigning tasks beyond the target’s capabilities, denying access to training opportunities, withholding information, making impossible workload or deadline demands, stealing credit for the target’s work, using the silent treatment, threatening job loss or demotion, or boasting about owning a weapon.

If you are a target of workplace bullying, here are some steps you can take to protect yourself.

  • Model professional behavior and alert the manager or human resources to the bullying behavior
  • Keep a record of the behavior by reporting when and where it occurred, what was said, how it made you feel, who was there to witness it, and names of people willing to support the claim
  • Review company policy for workplace bullying and follow set procedures
  • Utilize employee assistance program services
  • Do not retaliate

There is no law against being a jerk at work, and the American legal system is hesitant to mandate civility in the workplace.  However, many organizations are aware of the costs of workplace bullying, and they are setting policies and providing training to help alleviate this unprofessional and mean-spirited behavior.