From the meek child on the playground tormented by a bully, to the workplace where a co-worker or supervisor targets and harasses an employee, there is no place for bullying. The laws are changing to address this, and so too must the policies in the workplace. Any workplace policies should be geared towards defining, identifying and deterring such “abusive conduct” in order to bring an end to bullying in the workplace.
Recently, California has passed a law requiring training in supervisors to prevent “abusive conduct” in the workplace. While actual anti-bullying laws have yet to be enacted, one who is in a protected category (such as age, gender, race, etc.) does have the law on their side. Bullying or targeted misconduct at a person based upon their protected status IS grounds for action under the law. However, this still leaves unprotected those who are bullied but who do not stand in a special category.
As of January 1, 2015, the new law in California for employers with 50 or more employees require anti-bullying as part of the mandated sexual harassment training. California Government Code 12950.1. Regardless, workplace policies must reflect the new legislation effective January 1, 2015 requiring employers with 50 or more employees to train supervisors regarding prevention of abusive conduct: For purposes of this section, “abusive conduct” means conduct of an employer or employee in the workplace, with malice, that a reasonable person would find hostile, offensive, and unrelated to an employer’s legitimate business interests. Abusive conduct may include repeated infliction of verbal abuse, such as the use of derogatory remarks, insults, and epithets, verbal or physical conduct that a reasonable person would find threatening, intimidating, or humiliating, or the gratuitous sabotage or undermining of a person’s work performance. A single act shall not constitute abusive conduct, unless especially severe and egregious.
There are now entire organizations, websites and programs dedicated to ending bullying in the workplace such as: http://www.workplacebullying.org/tag/california-healthy-workplace-advocates/, the Workplace Bullying Institute. There are now even many government resources dedicated to ending bullying: https://www.stopbullying.gov/laws/california/index.html.
Bullying is not limited to the supervisor-employee relationship. Due to poor interpersonal problems, competition, and expected team collaboration, co-workers are just as likely if not more to be a bully. This can take the form of gossiping, making up rumors, taking credit for others’ work, excluding/ignoring, and teasing through sarcasm. These often covert behaviors make it difficult to have quality work experiences and can often keep one excelling in job performance. Work supports are critical for motivation. Tattling to the boss just makes one look like a complainer and not a problem solver. What is needed is more solution focused communication training at all levels of the hierarchy.
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