Are You Being Bullied at Your Office?

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Express support for co-workers. This is not a problem limited solely to the nearly 40% of workers who say they've been targets of bullying; this is a significant workplace challenge that all of us should care about. None of us should sit in silence. If you see something, say something. That doesn't mean gossiping or getting confrontational. Let someone know that you see what they're going through and you'll support them any way you can.

Talk to management. When it's feasible, speak up to management about what you've witnessed. If you're concerned about pointing fingers, show them articles on the costs of bully-related absenteeism, high turnover and productivity loss. Since bullying is costly to the company's bottom line, that may cause them to take note. You can also suggest the introduction of company policies that support a healthy workplace.

Contact lawmakers. Contact your state lawmakers where bills may be pending on anti-bullying/healthy workplace legislation. If no such proposal has been introduced, make your opinions known if you feel strongly about the need for such laws.

March 26, 2008

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Nearly 40 percent of American workers say they have experienced workplace bullying, according to a new study by research firm Zogby International.

A University of Minnesota report released earlier this month found the emotional toll associated with workplace bullying can be more severe than that of sexual harassment.

While sexual harassment is illegal, workplace bullying currently is not. But new legislation aimed at changing that has been introduced in several states .

Bullying in the workplace takes so many forms. Among them:

Humiliating comments or actions: Making comments or taking action desired to humiliate you is a form of bullying. In a meeting or at the water cooler, you offer what you think is a good idea. A bully smirks and calls you a moron. A bully laughs at you or mocks you in public.

Excessive yelling: A boss can disapprove of your performance. A boss can be upset if you're repeatedly late. But none of that is an excuse to be a screamer -- in private or in front of others. Yelling repeatedly is a bully tactic.

Undermining your status at work: This includes withholding key information from you. Excluding you from an e-mail distribution once could be an oversight. Doing it consistently, or always intentionally leaving you out of meetings when you ought to be in the loop, is the pattern of a bully.

Failing to give credit: Just as damaging is failing to give you the credit you're due. If you're working diligently and producing results but the boss or a colleague refuses to acknowledge you or your contribution on an ongoing basis -- as if you simply don't exist -- that's bullying.

There are steps workers can take to stop bullies from continuing to target them.

Stop it on the spot: If you can, nip it on the spot. People who bully do it because they can, and they won't stop until someone stops them. So if you're feeling strong, tell them firmly and directly, "Don't speak to me that way. I'm professional and cordial to you, and I expect the same in return."

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