Workplace bullying can affect an employee’s health, well-being and job performance, and it can have adverse effects on the business, its bottom line and its reputation. There is no state or federal law on the issue, so it is up to the business owner to protect his or her employees’ rights and address cases of bullying.
Small businesses are not immune from workplace bullying, according to the Society for Human Resource Management, a worldwide HR professional society that provides resources to human resource professionals.
In SHRM’s Workplace Bullying survey, 38 percent of small businesses — those with one to 99 employees — experienced some type of bullying, which is defined as persistent, offensive, abusive, intimidating or insulting behavior or unfair actions directed toward another individual, causing the recipient to feel threatened, abused, humiliated or vulnerable. Workplace bullies and targets may be employees, clients or vendors of the affected
organizations, according to SHRM.
This could include spreading rumors that are intended to ridicule or humiliate a co-worker, insulting colleagues or managers via social media, unfairly denying training opportunities or promotions or misusing authority or excluding an employee or co-worker.
According to SHRM’s Workplace Bullying survey, 73 percent of respondents experienced verbal abuse, 62 percent malicious gossiping or spreading lies/rumors about co-workers, and 50 percent threats or intimidation.
An employee who is bullied will likely miss more work, which means the business could be short staffed, and the employer could have to pay for time off (if the employee is eligible).
The first anti-bullying laws for the workplace, the Healthy Workplace Bill, were written in 2001. Since then, 29 states and two territories have introduced the bill, which defines an abusive workplace environment and gives employers a reason to terminate or discipline an offender, and provides an avenue for employees to seek legal action against the bully without harming the business if internal correction and prevention methods were in place.
Conflict and disagreement can happen in the workplace, but it’s important businesses have a procedure in place to resolve it, according to Paychex, a company that provides human resources, payroll, retirement and insurance services for companies with one to 1,000 employees.
Here are some steps to take:
• Establish a culture where employees are encouraged to report instances of bullying and know their job will be protected through a written nonharassment policy that is shared with all employees.
• Create an outlet for employees who have been bullied to come forward and report the situation to their supervisors, a human resources representative or another level of management.
• Educate all employees about bullying, how to prevent it and how to watch for signs.
• Take all accusations seriously and consult a human resources professional or labor and employment attorney for advice on how to proceed. ♦