Bullying is no longer performed by children at schools and on playgrounds. It has now found itself in the workplace where both the tormentor and its victim are adults. Last year’s survey from the Workplace Bullying Institute found that 27% of those in the workforce have or had direct experience with abusive conduct at work; 72% of the American public are aware of workplace bullying; bosses are still the majority of workplace bullies; and when confronted with the problem, 72% of the employers either deny it exists, encourage it, rationalize it or defend it.
How do you know if someone at work is being bullied? The first sign is that one employee is being verbally and/or physically abused by his/her supervisor while that person’s co-workers are not subjected to the same treatment. Second, the boss gives the employee a disproportionate amount of work and expects the person to finish it before the end of the day, without any assistance or guidance. Third, the worker is called into an emergency meeting, in which the boss called it for no other reason, other than to humiliate him/her.
Some of the bullying need not be physical or verbal abuse. For example, the worker requests a transfer to another department, but is mysteriously denied. The person’s co-workers are being instructed not to interact with him/her. His/her fellow employees agree they do not like the bully but when they are asked to go on the record to report the employee’s tormentor, the co-workers deny that they said that.
Here are some red flags to see if someone has been bullied: the worker is experiencing “panic disorders,” has put in for numerous sick days and has an abnormal fear of entering the office each day. Eventually, the worker resigns from his position.
Here is what an employee should do if he/she is a victim of workplace bullying: the worker should meet with someone from the personnel or HR department and request that the abuse stop; write the company a letter protesting such abuse (however, the employee may be fired for making such a complaint and the law may not be able to help the employee in that area). If the harassment continues, he/she should meet with an experienced employment law attorney. The attorney will ask the worker to consult with a physician, take prescribed medication or institute other steps without delay so the employee can prove the extent of his/her injuries and enforce a claim.
Those who are bullied should know it is not their fault and they did nothing to bring it upon themselves. If they are constantly victimized at work and all their options to resolve this problem have been exhausted, they should immediately consult a lawyer. You might want to see an attorney, especially if you are over 40, a person of color, pregnant, possess a disability protected under the ADA or in a protected class.