The topic of bullying has been on my mind a lot lately. Starting in the schoolyard and continuing into the boardroom, bullying is a sneaky and insidious problem. Results in an article published by the journal Work & Stress indicate that people’s work suffers when they even witness unpleasant emotional encounters between others. Simply observing bullying behavior can produce lasting damage to a person’s state of mind and productivity. That’s a big deal.
My daughter starts kindergarten this year. You can imagine that my thoughts about bullying are only magnified as I reflect on this latest milestone. Sadly, she has already felt the pain of hurtful words from little friends. Last year during preschool, I overheard some girls in her class who had already turned five say, “She can’t play with us because she’s four and we’re five, right?”
Was this example bullying? Probably not. Was it hurtful? Definitely. This story leads me to an important and valuable question. When it comes to bullying, where is the line and how do you know when someone has crossed it?
Schools are getting more and more clear about their definitions of bullying. In the workplace, no such luck. I hear from people on a regular basis about intimidating, oppressive or exclusionary behavior that goes on in their office. But, when is it bullying? This is an issue worth ironing out. The clearer we become on what workplace bullying is and what behaviors to watch for, the more we can hold ourselves and others accountable for word and deed. And, let’s face it; our productivity and well-being depend on it.
The next time you suspect behavior has crossed the line into bullying, ask yourself the following questions and reverse engineer bullying accountability in the workplace.