Don’t Let the Mean Girls Ruin Your Office

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Legion Logistics is a small, fun-loving company, and as such, there is probably more flexibility in what we accept as appropriate behavior. But even in our open-minded office, bullying is not something that would be tolerated. What exactly is workplace bullying and what can be done about it?

 

What is bullying?

Bullying can take many forms, but the desired end result is the same. Bullies want to intimidate their victims, cut down their self-esteem, and otherwise degrade them. Their mean-spiritedness could stem from the fact that they were bullied at one time or they are insecure or feel threatened by their victims’ intelligence or abilities. They torment their victims by spreading rumors, doling out undue criticism, threatening their jobs, and even threating physical harm. Thanks to technology, bullying can continue long after office hours are over. Cell phone calls, texts, and jabs over social media can make bullying never-ending emotional torture.

Victims of bullying are most frequently women, and some surveys show that most bullies are women as well.

 

What laws are in place to protect people from workplace bullying?

Workplace bullying is much more prevalent than its evil twin – discrimination – yet no state or federal laws exist that specifically protect victims or give them any recourse. The Healthy Workplace Bill is a piece of federal legislation that has been introduced to protect employees from bullying, but it has yet to be enacted. The most likely reason for this is that employers do not want to open themselves up to frivolous lawsuits from disgruntled employees just trying to settle a score.

Some employers may not think bullying laws are necessary because they don’t realize bullying is an issue. Many victims don’t bother reporting bullying incidents figuring either nothing will be done to stop it, they will be retaliated against by the bully, or both. Those who witness bullies in action are also hesitant to say anything for fear of becoming the next victims.

Disturbing as this may sound, employers may actually condone bullying in some ways. According to a study by Joseph Grenny and David Maxfield, in many cases when bullying was reported, “the person most likely to remain in his or her job was the bully.” Bullies can be seen as strong employees who assert themselves and don’t back down from a challenge, an attribute that some employers want. They may not realize what effect they are having on other employees.

Why aren’t bullying victims covered under federal discrimination laws?

Actually some are. If the victim is a member of a class that is protected under Title VII of the Civil Rights Act of 1964, he or she may be able to take legal action against the offender. Employers who do nothing to stop the bullying can be liable as well. According to the U.S. Equal Employment Opportunity Commission (EEOC), protected classes are those employees who are of a certain “race, color, religion, sex (including pregnancy), national origin, age (40 or older), or [have a] disability.” If people in these classes are bullied, it may also classify as harassment under this act. However, if the victim is not part of a protected class, or if they perpetrator is a member of the same class, Title VII could not be applied.

What can a bullied employee do?

The first thing employees in this situation need to do is find out if their company has a bullying policy. If there is one in place, they should follow the steps given. Those who don’t have any guidelines still need to take a logical approach to solving the problem. Documenting every incident is very important. Include details such as date, time, location, and exactly what happened. Approach your supervisor first, unless he or she is the bully, of course. An article posted by the Society for Human Resource Management says, “Top management will be more likely to listen to you If you present business case for the bottom-line costs of bullying. These costs generally fall into three categories: the cost of replacing staff; the cost of lost productivity as staff copes with the bullying; and the costs associated with investigations, potential legal action and loss of the company’s reputation. Instead of being a tattletale or a complainer, you are looking out for the company’s bottom line.

 

Today bullying seems to be starting at a younger age and lasting through adulthood in ways that our grandparents couldn’t have imagined when the word simply meant beating up a kid on the playground for his lunch money. Those who are being bullied need to take a stand; those who witness bullying need to make it known; and those who manage the victims need to do everything in their power to put these tyrants in their place, both for the psychological well-being of their employees and the financial stability of the company.