We envision a future where workers are assured their right to dignity at work,
where workplace bullying is an unlawful act,
and where employers have taken effective steps
to prevent, detect and remedy acts of workplace bullying.
What workplace bullying is
Preferred definitions of two of our Board Members that reflect the different perspectives of academics, lawyers, and practitioners:
"Systematic aggressive communication, manipulation of work, and acts aimed at humiliating or degrading one or more individual that create an unhealthy and unprofessional power imbalance between bully and target(s), result in psychological consequences for targets and co-workers, and cost enormous monetary damage to an organization’s bottom line."
[NWBC Board Member Catherine Mattice and colleague Karen Garman]
"The unwanted, unwelcome abuse of any source of power that has the effect of or intent to intimidate, control or otherwise strip a target of their right to esteem, growth, dignity, voice or other human rights in the workplace."
[NWBC Board Member Jerry Carbo, Esq.]
Proposed definition for anti-bullying legislation:
"Abusive conduct" means conduct of an employer or employee in the workplace that a reasonable person would find hostile. Abusive conduct includes, but is not limited to: verbal or physical conduct that a reasonable person would find threatening, intimidating, or humiliating; the gratuitous sabotage or undermining of an employee's work performance; attempts to exploit an employee's known psychological or physical vulnerability; or repeated infliction of verbal abuse, such as the use of derogatory remarks, insults, and epithets. The determination of whether abusive conduct is present shall include the severity, nature and frequency of the conduct, and, where applicable, the continuation of the conduct after the employee requests that it cease or demonstrates outward signs of emotional or physical distress in the face of the conduct. A single act shall not constitute abusive conduct unless it is especially severe. Conduct shall not be regarded as abusive conduct if an employer provides clear and convincing proof that the conduct is necessary for the furtherance of the employer's legitimate and lawful business interest.
Is there someone at your workplace who makes you feel anxious, frustrated, or angry?
Does that person constantly belittle you, your ideas, or your work?
Does that person only focus on your shortcomings or weaknesses?
Do you spend your workday walking on eggshells to avoid upsetting that person?
What do you do when your boss has outbursts at meetings?
What do you do when your boss humiliates you in front of your co-workers?
What do you do when your boss makes an unreasonable request that requires you to work long hours, and no matter how hard you work or how fast you work, you never even come close to getting everything done?
You’ve seen it in the workplace: the boss who shouts at staffers and scolds them at every turn.
Your boss may have two very different sides: one moment, he or she could be the picture of professionalism. He or she might lead a team or a company and garner success. But at the same time, he or she is controlling, mean, manipulative, or even violent. It might even reach the point where you dread coming into work each day and become physically ill from the stress.
You might remember bullying from childhood. Remember the biggest kid on the playground who wanted to play with a ball, so he just took it from a smaller kid? Or maybe you can recall the cool kids in school who would ignore you and never let you be part of their group? Today, adolescence might feel like ancient history. It might be years since you’ve graduated school and witnessed someone get pushed in the hallway or be given the silent treatment.
While we would hope bullying would end in childhood, the reality is that bullying in the workplace is more common than many of us realize.
Bullying can, and does, continue into adulthood
In the workplace, bullying often involves a person in power, such as a manager or supervisor, taking advantage of a less powerful employee. By definition, bullying is an abuse of power by someone who is stronger — physically, verbally, mentally, socially, electronically, politically, or financially — towards someone who can’t defend themselves against the bully’s games or cruel behaviors. Most bullying involves isolating and putting the victim down and can involve many different forms. The examples are not exhaustive. Bullies are creative and constantly come up with new ways to torment their targets. The lists here are forms of bullying that have been consistently identified in the literature and research on workplace bullying.
Interpersonal or relationship behaviors
The abuse may take the form of public ridicule, disrespect, overwork, and overcontrol, including (but not limited to):
Teasing, sarcasm, name-calling, slandering, and ridiculing a person
Put-downs and insults
Getting in someone’s personal space
Sending nasty emails
Angry outbursts, such as screaming or swearing
Persistent abusive phone calls, voicemails, emails, or postings to or about another person
Excessive criticism, reprimands, and repeated reminders of errors or mistakes
Hints or signals from others that someone should quit his or her job without cause
Destructive gossip, rumors, or innuendo
Offensive jokes or inappropriate statements
Making up accusations against an employee
Unfairly denying personal leave or job training
Intimidating behavior such as finger-pointing, physical pushing, shoving, slamming doors, or throwing things
Non-verbal threatening gestures
Organizational or task-related behaviors
Furthermore, abuse doesn’t have to be obvious and belligerent; in fact, it can be quite subtle. Just as destructive as overt bullying behavior is the intentional sabotage of another’s work, including (but not limited to):
Assigning impossible deadlines and giving unreasonable workloads
Micromanaging and unnecessarily controlling an employee’s work
Having key areas of responsibility removed or replaced with more trivial or unpleasant tasks
Undermining an employee’s reputation behind his or her back
Unrealistic work demands
Removing tasks crucial for one’s job with no explanation
Purposely giving inconsistent instructions
Changing hours or schedules to make life more difficult
Deliberately withholding information needed to be effective at work
Blowing off accomplishments
Excluding an employee from important emails, meetings, or social functions
Pressuring others to not take advantage of benefits to which they are entitled
Taking credit for others’ work
Engaging in office politics in a manner that is hurtful, manipulative, and unethical
Going into personal belongings and supplies
Giving bogus performance reviews to convince the target he or she is a problem
Bullying can be repetitive or one-off events.
Advocates on the front lines
Excerpts from one of our panels, "Advocates Working on the Front Lines," featured at our conference WORKPLACE BULLYING: SEEKING SOLUTIONS:
• Debra Davis, Council of New Jersey State College Locals, AFT AFL-CIO "Contract language and investigating claims"
• Gail Richardson, EVP, CWA Local 1036 "Workplace bullying training workshops and support groups"
• Lauren Larkin, Ridgefield Anti-Bullying Commission "Bully Free Zone includes NJ's first public ordinance against workplace bullying"