Bullying is no longer something that takes place in the schoolyard. But you aren’t alone. Workplace bullying is more common than you think; more than one-third of employees in the United States report having an issue with a bully. While there is no federal law enacted to address workplace bullying, it’s important to stand your ground.
What Defines a Workplace Bully
A workplace bully employs tactics to undermine you at your place of employment. These tactics can range from verbal abuse to sabotage. Bullying can also occur through the use of computers. This tactic is referred to as cyberbullying. According to The Healthy Workplace Campaign, an initiative to pass laws against bullying, 37 percent of employees report they are dealing or have dealt with a workplace bully. This can be anything from harassing emails to insults and intimidation at work.
What is Being Done
Initiatives such as The Healthy Workplace Bill have been introduced in the legislature, but to date have failed to pass. That’s not to say a law against workplace bullying won’t pass in the future or that your state isn’t considering one. The United States is currently the only country in the Western world not to have a federal law addressing bullying in place. Sioux City, Iowa, was the first school district in the country to address the issue on its own. The district voluntarily enacted its own policies against workplace bullying, recognizing it is a problem that needs to be addressed. Many other companies have followed Iowa’s example, but bullying policies vary from place to place and are not currently subject to any regulation.
How to Cope
Workplace bullying can lead to symptoms of post-traumatic stress disorder, anxiety and depression. What’s important to remember in a bullying situation is that you aren’t alone or at fault. You also need to stand up for yourself and let the bully know you aren’t going to take the abuse. If you feel the situation is undermining your performance at work it’s important to voice your concerns to your employer. If you feel overwhelmed by the situation, seek out the help of a counselor, and keep in mind you are not the problem, you are the victim.
It’s paramount to address the bullying where it begins — at your place of employment. If management responds to the situation with negative consequences, such as a loss of a promotion or disciplinary action, people are less likely to bully. You should also document what is going on and how you are being treated. If you have received harassing emails, save them. Make notes of any confrontations you may have with the bully, documenting time, place and exactly what occurred. Employers are likely to respond proactively to reports of workplace bullying in order to avoid litigation reports the Insurance Journal. Having documentation on hand will support your case with your boss or human resources department. Consult the regulations of the organization you work for, and encourage them to put anti-bullying policies in place. If you seek out medical help to deal with the stress of being harassed by a workplace bully you are eligible to file a claim for worker’s compensation. However, without medical treatment, your compensation claim is limited, as are your alternatives until laws dealing with workplace bullying are put in place.
Shannon Jones is a news editor and writer based in Michigan. Her work has received several writing awards, including the Richard Lacourse Award for investigative journalism. Jones holds master's degrees in both administration and marketing.