When you think of bullying do you think of high school kids dealing with social media taunts? Or the pre-digital age platform of choice of graffiti on a bathroom stall? Regardless of what format comes to mind, you still likely thought of bullying as a tragic problem teenagers are dealing with. The problem with bullying, though, is it doesn’t stop after high school and it’s a prevalent problem in today’s workplace. It’s also considered a form of harassment and is therefore illegal.
What does it look like when bullying doesn’t stay in school? How does bullying happen in the workplace far away from the emotional gauntlet of puberty and self-discovery? According to the Workplace Bullying Institute, more than 60 million workers in the US are affected by workplace bullying. This bullying takes the form of verbal abuse, humiliation, alienation, intimidation, unfair evaluation and criticism, sexual advances and more.
In a 2016 study on the state of the workplace performed by a task force from the EEOC, they found that harassment is a persistent problem in the workplace. Not a surprise. Part of the surprise was that 60% of the workers surveyed reported some form of race or ethnicity-based harassment in the workplace. After seeing the results of their study, the EEOC recommended that colleges and high schools should incorporate a component on workplace harassment in their school-based anti-bullying and anti-sexual assault efforts.
Stopbullying.gov says there are two things that need to be in place for a behavior to be considered bullying. First, there must be an imbalance of power and, second, the behavior must be repeated. There are three types of bullying:
Verbal bullying is saying or writing mean things. Verbal bullying includes:
- Inappropriate sexual comments
- Threatening to cause harm
Social bullying, sometimes referred to as relational bullying, involves hurting someone’s reputation or relationships. Social bullying includes:
- Leaving someone out on purpose
- Spreading rumors about someone
- Embarrassing someone in public
Physical bullying involves hurting a person’s body or possessions.
If you’ve ever been around bullying – either at work or way back when in school – you know that it can lead to a toxic culture that affects victims and bystanders. In the workplace this can lead to a lack of motivation, lack of collaboration, or even bad online reviews that can affect recruiting.
Even worse, studies have been recently published linking the stress caused by workplace bullying to a host of serious health problems. In a large study involving nearly 80,000 employees in Denmark and Sweden, they found that 9 percent of participants said they were bullied at work and 13 percent reported they experienced violence or threats within the past year. Workplace bullying and experiencing violence were linked to a a 59% and 25% higher risk of cardiovascular disease, respectively, after adjustments for age, sex, education, marital status, and country of birth.
In fact, according to the study, bullying and violence at work were as bad on your health as diabetes and risky drinking.
These are behaviors that need to be stopped – at school and in the workplace. Findings from the American Physiological Association 2018 Work and Wellbeing Survey show only 32 percent of US workers say their employer has taken new steps to prevent harassment in the workplace. With the wide prevalence of bullying and harassment in the workplace, more needs to be done. Has your workplace done enough to protect itself and create a safe environment for its employees?