Bullies in the Workplace – Flight, Fight or Sue?by Danialle Riggins (Riggins Law Firm, PA)
The bullies that roamed your childhood playgrounds now sit in the cubicle to your left or even worse in the big corner office. They just have grownup. Even though time has passed, the teasing has not changed. It can still range from not allowing you into “the group” to humiliating physical attacks. Oh yes, there are people in professional offices are being called idiotic rhyming names or being shoved into garbage cans. The disheartening fact is that over seventy percent of the taunting is perpetrated by those who sign your paycheck.
There has been an increase in the aggressive culture and bullying in the workplace. It is becoming much more socially acceptable to be mean and nasty to others. It is becoming a national epidemic. The problem is so serious that eleven states (Connecticut, Oregon, Illinois, Kansas, Hawaii, Massachusetts, Missouri, Oklahoma, New York, Montana, and New Jersey) are all considering legislation that would grant protection and damages employees who are the victims of taunting and yelling. A recent poll found the majority of Americans want the right to be able to sue their mean boss who taunts and bullies them. Currently, Florida does not have any laws that protect workers from being ridiculed in the workplace. Even if no laws are passed, this should be at least a wake up call to corporate America that something has to be done.
Employers have to take into consideration that bullies in the workplace are obviously bad for business. For those ignoring the troublemakers, it is affecting the bottom line. Typically, valuable and excelling employees will often resign from great positions to avoid the harassing treatment. Those who stay at the company are the bullies and others who do not have any other options.
One of the problems for the tormented employee is describing and proving the torture. It is more politically masked and subtle. Hence, bullies rarely attack their bosses or overtly taunt in front of others. Yet, there are signs for employers to watch out for that help indicate the presence of a workplace bully.
There are some telltale signs for employers which may signify that there is a troublemaker in the office. Look for signs of people quick to show frustration. Employers should also be aware of workers who mumble obscenities or tell inappropriate jokes. There are tons of seminars and materials to help employers with workplace bullies.
The solution also lies with the employees. Try to get the support of co-workers and collectively resist to gain the attention of management. The bullied workers need to write and document everything: incidences, evidence of the bullying and potential cause of behavior. Management is much more likely to pay attention and take action if they have a basis to. Things to document also are turnovers, loss of talented workers, and loss of productivity. At times, confrontation of the bullies is a must. Some employees truly enjoy their job but cannot sustain anymore torment.