Workplace bullying is unwelcome behavior that humiliates or intimidates a co-worker or otherwise sabotages his or her performance. Because bullying often affects employee morale, productivity and retention, reduces bottom-line revenue and creates exposure to legal risks, no organization can afford to ignore it.
Bullying can take many forms, including hostile behavior, abuse (e.g., harassment, humiliation and violence), abuse of power, deception and sabotage. Several forms - such as assault and battery, retaliation, discrimination and harassment based on legally protected characteristics - are illegal in the U.S. Other forms, such as harassment not based on a protected characteristic, are not yet illegal in most places. Organizations should prohibit all forms of bullying, regardless of legality of the behavior. Further, organizations should inform employees that they are expected to treat all others - subordinates, superiors, co-workers, customers, vendors and business associates - with civility, dignity and respect.
An organization's anti-bullying policy should specifically prohibit the following:
- Intimidating others through verbal or other expressions of hostility;
- Belittling or demeaning others through ridicule, spiteful remarks or other disdainful behavior;
- Engaging in behavior intended to torment, isolate or otherwise mistreat another;
- Using one's position to mistreat others through inappropriate punishments, unfair assignments, unreasonable expectations, etc.;
- Using deception to defame or discredit another's performance; and
- Otherwise taking pleasure in, or disregarding, the negative effects that one's behavior may have on others.
Organizations should also (1) encourage all employees to report all bullying, regardless of the source, and (2) take disciplinary measures against employees who bully, up to and including termination, as appropriate.
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