Workplace Bullying Targets Don’t Always Report It (Revised: 1/16/15)

Link to this article on HuffPost

Anyone who was ever bullied will most likely convey that the bullying incident wasn’t welcomed, wanted, or willingly experienced.  Now couple a bullying incident with the responsibility of taking care of a family, others, or themselves … might the risk of a financial loss cause a workplace bullying target to remain silent about something that outside of the work environment wouldn’t be tolerated?  Unfortunately, the answer many times is ‘yes’. 

Individuals sometimes don’t report workplace bullying due to a potential of:

  • losing a job;
  • being accused of not being tough enough or having thick-skin;
  • damaging their reputation;
  • being considered a tattletale;
  • having responsibilities reduced;
  • being removed from a desired project;
  • not receiving a raise;
  • not having a time-off request approved;
  • being demoted;
  • losing a contract;
  • being retaliated against after an incident is reported;
  • receiving a bad performance review or a negative future reference;
  • being given unwanted, less desirable, or time consuming assignments;
  • experiencing other negative outcomes.

Any of these concerns can be a powerful motivator to prevent individuals from taking action(s) to protect themselves or others. Moreover, the potential for these negative outcomes are reasons that organizations must understand that confronting or combatting a workplace bully isn’t always a fair fight — especially if a bully has any input into anything a target or anyone who reports knowledge about a bullying incident considers to be of value.

Organizations must:

  1. have a zero tolerance culture relative to any harassment, intimidation, or threats;
  2. create documented policies and procedures to address any workplace bullying incidents;
  3. actively communicate that anyone who experiences bullying should report the incident(s) to a manager and/or human resources as soon as possible, which can  help to minimize the chance that a target or someone who reports knowledge about a bullying incident will experience any retaliation;
  4. demonstrate commitment and compliance to a ‘healthy work environment’ through management’s (especially executive management’s) actions and behaviors;
  5. take seriously any report(s) of unwanted encounters;
  6. provide support to anyone who reports being bullied;
  7. take immediate action to investigate any report(s) of unwanted action(s), behavior(s), or situation(s);
  8. enforce policies without any disparate treatment due to a bully’s level, tenure, knowledge, or other factors.

Organizations have a moral and fiduciary responsibility to protect its employees, contractors, partners, or other classifications from any unnecessary workplace abuse that can and should be corrected, prevented, and not tolerated. 

Additional information on workplace bullying can be obtained in Mr. Young’s solution-oriented books “Bullies… They’re In Your Office, Too: Could you be one?” and “Management Spotlight: Workplace Bullying”.