SPRINGFIELD, Mass. (WWLP) - Bullying in the workplace happens more than you may think.
"There's people that are going to take advantage of power, there's people that need to boost their ego and confidence, and that's how they do it sometimes...put other people down", said Ryan Baker of Somers, CT.
According to the Workplace Bullying Institute , more than a third of U.S. workers have experienced: verbal abuse, threats, intimidation, harassment or social exclusion at work, by either a boss or co-worker. Most victims never even report these incidents. But there are now efforts underway to bring an end to it--legally.
"I think it must be hard for employees because they don't want to cross the line or make the boss angry, or something like that...so it would be good if there was a law to protect people", said Paula Shea of Longmeadow.
A number of states are now considering laws that would allow workers to sue for on-the-job harassment that causes physical or emotional damage. This includes Massachusetts and New York.
"If discrimination is claimed, then the courts do step-in and take a look at it. Under this bill, the court is now being required to make a value judgment as to whether the employer was justified in doing what they did", explained Paul Rothschild of Bacon Wilson, PC in Springfield.
However, critics say this legislation would not be effective, arguing that it would open the doors to lots of frivolous lawsuits.
According to the Associated Press, Human resource experts say it's important to speak up and resolve the issue before it gets worse. Some tips they recommend:
- Consult your company's employee handbook to see if it has a policy prohibiting harassment or other workplace bullying behavior. Many organizations define acceptable standards of office behavior and have a process for filing complaints and punishing misconduct.
- Keep detailed notes of the bully's actions, including the date, time and circumstances of what took place. The information is essential for filing an internal complaint or, possibly, a lawsuit.
- Talk to the person who has been bullying you. Sometimes, a boss or co-worker doesn't realize words or actions have been hurtful. Talking it over in a professional way may resolve the problem. But don't get caught in a war of words or make threats that could escalate the confrontation. Bring in a third party if talking privately makes you feel uncomfortable.
- If talking it over doesn't help, it's time to talk to the human resources department or the bully's supervisor. If the bully is a senior manager or CEO, approach another senior official or someone close to the bully and urge that person to help defuse the situation.
- Keep doing your job well to show managers that you are a valuable employee. Make it in the company's interest to keep you happy.
- If you've worked through channels inside the office and there's still no resolution, it may be time to part ways with your employer.