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Workplace bullying a costly epidemic in the enterprise

Sharon Florentine | Nov. 10, 2014
Workplace bullying opens your organization up to poor productivity, lower retention rates and possible legal action. And it's not an isolated issue - the workplace statistics are shocking. Is your culture cultivating a bully mentality?

"It's true more often than not in the workplace that bullies 'fail up.' The challenge in a workplace is that a lot of times, the same qualities that make aggressive, nasty bullies also make them quite good at their job. If they're high performers, great salespeople, major earners, that's all the company's looking at. And, so, the victim's fighting an uphill battle to get the company to see past that person's performance," Moriarity says.

How to Address the Bullying Issue
One way to address the problem is through a corporate ethics and compliance officer, or a team dedicated to that function. However, this position or team must report either to the CEO, the highest echelons of leadership, or to a board of directors to ensure it's operating apolitically, fairly and objectively, according to Moriarity.

"An ethics officer, or a team of ethics and compliance specialists, must be an independent body; they have to be able to make hard, objective decisions - like firing or disciplining a bully - and have those enforced without being overruled or dismissed because of office politics or financial concerns," says Moriarity.

Organizations should have a reporting process in place, too, and be prepared to offer anonymity for victims. However, doing so can make investigating claims of bullying more difficult.

"Most organizations would prefer you go to your manager, but if that's not possible - sometimes, they are the bully - then, to Human Resources. Public companies often have a hotline or a reporting structure in place so they can track complaints and work to address them," says Moriarity.

If those options aren't available, or aren't effective, there may be legal recourse victims can take outside of the corporate structure, Namie says.

Laws Compel Action to Protect Victims
Namie and WBI have introduced legislation in many states to help victims take legal action against businesses who turn a blind eye to bullying. For example, WBI has introduced the Healthy Workplace Bill, which sets out a clear definition of workplace bullying and protects both employers and employees. Here are some more details on the Healthy Workplace Bill.

What the HWB Does for Employers

  • Precisely defines an "abusive work environment" -- it is a high standard for misconduct
  • Requires proof of health harm by licensed health or mental health professionals
  • Protects conscientious employers from vicarious liability risk when internal correction and prevention mechanisms are in effect
  • Gives employers the reason to terminate or sanction offenders
  • Requires plaintiffs to use private attorneys
  • Plugs the gaps in current state and federal civil rights protections

What the HWB Does for Workers

  • Provides an avenue for legal redress for health harming cruelty at work
  • Allows you to sue the bully as an individual
  • Holds the employer accountable
  • Seeks restoration of lost wages and benefits
  • Compels employers to prevent and correct future instances


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