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Bullying: Not Just For Kids

Many people believe that "bullying" stops with maturity from child to adult. But this is simply not the case. According to a study conducted by the National Institute for Occupational Safety and Health, 25 percent of companies who participated reported some degree of bullying in the preceding year. Conservative estimates from the Workplace Bullying Institute state that bullying occurs in up to 25 percent of all workplaces. More liberal estimates put that number at 40 to 50 percent.

 Workplace bullying is hard to manage and even identify and is a problem at every level. According to the Crisis Prevention Institute (CPI), bullying can be defined as: 

  •     Harassment
  •     Mobbing
  •     Incivility
  •     Teasing
  •     Gossiping
  •     Purposely withholding business information
  •     Overruling decisions without a rationale
  •     Sabotaging team efforts
  •     Online harassment via social networks

The effects of workplace bullying can be detrimental to a company of any size. According to a 2012 study by the Social for Human Resources Management, bullying on the job can mean increased employee turnover, absenteeism, reduced productivity, and employee morale and more incidents of stress-related health conditions.

Unfortunately, New Jersey does not have a Workplace Bullying law. But because more and more instances are being reported, prevention of workplace bullying in NJ is the subject of proposed legislation. Some business groups are concerned because they believe it will open the doors to false allegations and frivolous lawsuits.

Even with no law on the books, steps should be taken to help companies manage and prevent bullying by and against their employees. The CPI suggests that interactive, skill-based training can go a long way to help educate employees and prevent further incidents from happening.  According to WikiHow (and us), there are also steps to prevent incidents in your workplace:

  • Define what a bully is and what he or she does:  Workplace bullies use the same tactics of intimidation as their younger schoolyard counterparts. But just because co-workers don't get along with everyone at work however, does not mean that they are being bullied.
  • Keep an "open door" to employees who may be victims.
  • Confront the bully.
  • Keep a record of all bullying incidents.
  • Do not wait, confront incidents immediately.
  • Reduce, if possible, intense competition in the workplace. Some workplace bullying incidents result from employees who are jealous of their coworkers' talents and skills. 
  • Encourage positive staff and management interaction.
  • Add anti-bullying-training to your anti-harassment training which should already be in place.

Bullying is not just limited to schoolyards and lunchrooms and it's essential to recognize it and take real steps to prevent it in the workplace. With the assitance of Elizabeth Smith, Montclair State University BA in English and Social Media Coordinator for Kates Nussman Rapone Ellis and Farhi LLP

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