Posts Tagged ‘Preventing Workplace Bullying’

Can “Toxic Bosses” be a Business Liability?

Thursday, October 21st, 2010

employeescreeningblog, employee screening, pre-employment screeningBullying in schools is all over the news right now—and for good reason. Workplace bullying has been a trend as well. Can so-called “toxic bosses” be a liability to businesses? The answer is a resounding “yes.”

There are strong feelings on both sides of this argument; but today we’ll focus just on the information employers need to be aware of.

The Healthy Workplace Bill gives employers incentives to prevent workplace bullying with policies and procedures that apply to all employees. The bill would protect “workers from what can be considered malicious, health-harming abusive conduct committed by bosses and co-workers.” Is such legislation necessary? Some say yes; others say no. A survey conducted by The Workplace Bullying Institute in September, 2010, which found that 64% of all respondents supported such a bill, while nearly 24% were opposed. 12% had no opinion or were not sure.

17 states have introduced legislation in recent years to curb workplace bullying. None have become law, but in New York, the Senate recently passed a measure that would allow workers who have been abused on the job—either physically, psychologically or economically—to sue their employers in civil court. The bill applies to organizations of all sizes—not just larger employers. It holds employers responsible for bullying behavior of workers and supervisors.

Some experts think that if New York’s measure becomes law, a chain reaction across the country is likely to occur. The bill includes a broad definition of bullying, including repeated insults, epithets and derogatory remarks. It also includes “conduct that a reasonable person” would find humiliating, intimidating or threatening.

Employers are already seeking advice on how to avoid litigation from some New York law firms. Others already have a handle on creating a positive, anti-bullying culture—always a good idea, but especially now. New York’s anti-bullying legislation says that employers “may not be held liable if they take steps to prevent or promptly correct abusive behavior.

How to Prevent Workplace Bullying

  • Create a policy that prohibits bullying by supervisors and co-workers.
  • Avoid hiring workers with a history of bullying (pre-employment background screening is a must).
  • Avoid hiring workers with abusive tendencies by asking the right interview questions.
  • Provide training on proper workplace behavior for all employees.
  • Take a look at your own management style: high turnover and yelling are good indicators that you could be perceived as a bully.

Defining the difference between discipline and bullying is a tough one—but if in doubt, ask your employees. Some reports say that between 16% and 21% of employees have experienced “health-endangering workplace bullying, abuse and harassment.” Florida State University’s College of Businesses conducted a survey in which 23.5% of respondents working for companies with 100 or fewer employees reported experiencing supervisor bullying on a weekly basis. The number for 100+ employee organizations was slightly less, at 21.3%.