Ten ways to stop workplace bullying

When people talk to me about workplace bullying, they often ask, what can I do to help? The following list is hardly exhaustive, but it’s a starting place:

1. Don’t — Don’t be a workplace bully. It starts with each of us.

2. Stand up — Stand up for someone who is being bullied. Silence equals permission.

3. Support — Similarly, support friends, colleagues, and family members who are experiencing bullying at work. Validate their concerns and, where appropriate, guide them to coaching, counseling, and legal assistance. (For some resources, go here.)

4. Ask — Ask your employer to educate employees about workplace bullying and to include an anti-bullying policy in the employee handbook.

5. Post — If you read an article on workplace bullying, post a comment to it online, voicing your support for taking this problem seriously. Help to generate momentum for the anti-bullying movement.

6. Talk — Yes, just talk about it with others. Without making a pest of yourself to your friends, family, and associates, discuss bullying as part of the workplace experience for many employees.

7. Law reform — Support anti-bullying legislation. For readers in the U.S., get active in the grassroots campaign to enact the Healthy Workplace Bill in states around the nation (link here). (Full disclosure: I’m the author of the Healthy Workplace Bill, so I do have an interest in seeing it enacted!)

8. Unions — If you are a member of a union, lobby your union leaders to educate members about workplace bullying and to negotiate an abusive supervision clause in the collective bargaining agreement, as discussed here.

9. Faith — If you are a member of a church, synagogue, or mosque, encourage your congregational leaders and fellow members to include workplace bullying among their social action concerns.

10. Connect — We must connect workplace bullying to other forms of interpersonal abuse, such as school bullying, cyber bullying, and domestic abuse. There are many unfortunate similarities between them, and helping others to understand this will serve as a powerful consciousness raising mechanism.

Words of caution

Some of these actions carry personal risks. There is something very threatening about this topic to certain individuals and organizations. Furthermore, when someone is suffering due to workplace bullying, they may be in a difficult place psychologically. Thus, please consider:

1. Those who stand up for bullying targets may find themselves next on the firing line. This is a very real possibility.

2. A bad employer may consider you a troublemaker simply for asking that the organization oppose these behaviors.

3. Posting a comment online about workplace bullying may lead to some people to ridicule your concerns.

4. Providing homebrewed psychological counseling or legal advice is not only unwise, but also illegal if you are not licensed to provide such assistance.

11 responses

  1. Dear David, this is almost like a prayer itself, a version of Desiderata. A dignified, caring and powerful philosophy. Thank you for not making us feel like freaks but giving us an empathic and, realistic course of action. I don’t need you to legitimise the terrible experience of being a workplace abuse target for me, but I sincerely appreciate the relevance of your concise 10 point plan and pray it will reach the broader community of targets suffering in isolated fear and despair. Thank you David Yamada, you rock!!

  2. I am an enthusiastic reader of your blog and enjoy following progress on Healthy Workplace legislation in various states. I am currently compiling a report on legislation covering workplace bullying, violence, discrimination, and stress in over 60 countries for The Isosceles Group, an international regulatory consulting firm in Boston. It is interesting to note that a number of European countries, including Sweden, France, and most recently, Serbia, have enacted workplace bullying legislation.

    • Ellen, good luck with your report. I recently contributed a chapter on int’l legal responses to workplace bullying in an anthology of international research on bullying at work. We’re certainly starting to see more countries get into the game here.

  3. And again a wonderful post, thank you David!
    Educating employers and employess is the best thing that can be done as a preventative measure.
    However, it needs to start much earlier in schools and preschools. I am a strong believer in eduaction and involving compassion and ethics in it.
    Many employers (in my own experience) hide behind intro sessions on bullying “to cover their backs” and then do nothing if bullying occurs.
    There should be an independent (outside the employer’s influence) body specifically designated to fight bullying with the power of prosecuting and fining companies that “look away”. These fines could then be used to pay for admin costs and go towards (independent) organisations that specialise in counselling bullying victims without the victims having to pay.

  4. Dear David, I learned about workplace bullying through personal experience, which was eye opening for me. Since my return to the workforce, and now informed on what are bullying behaviors, I find that I am repeatedly reflecting on how others may interpret what I say and do, and how I could improve in the way that I respond in situations that would require speaking up! I would like to tell you that I truly enjoy reading, and hope that you will continue sharing, your very insightful, informative, thought provoking, and inspirational, ideas on this very important issue of workplace bullying.

  5. Bullies learn this habit from growing up with it themselves. Education is key to changing a bully nation into a more gentle and fair generation. Let’s educate adults. Let’s protect the children. Let’s pass legislation that targets adult bullies: politicians, film-makers, teachers and others of influence.

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