Workplace Bullying: How to Identify and Manage
People associate bullies with childhood, but the problem is life-long. Around 31 percent of Americans have been bullied as an adult, and 43 percent say bullying has become more "accepted" in society over recent years. In healthcare, bullying can take many forms, including nasty remarks, intimidation, and severe physical harm. It can happen in the break room, waiting area, or the operatory. It can happen to dentists and vets and administrators. Bullies have no boundaries.
As a healthcare employer or office manager, it's your responsibility to investigate claims of bullying (or take action if you notice bullying in the workplace). Failing to do so could leave your organization open to a lawsuit. More importantly, there are negative physical and mental consequences for the person being bullied.
What is Workplace Bullying in Healthcare?
Bullying is hard to define, and it can take many forms, "from being ignored during office meetings to being verbally berated for making mistakes," says U.S. News. It's not always obvious, but it can happen in any setting, including hospitals, clinics, and privately owned practices. Bullying is different from harassment and discrimination.
There's no federal state legislation that mandates against bullying in the workplace. (However, a number of states have introduced a Healthy Workplace Bill (HWB) that creates a legal claim for bullied workers.) As a responsible employer or office manager, however, you should take appropriate steps to manage any complaints about bullying. "Bullying lawsuits" are on the rise, and an employee could take you to court if you ignore the problem.
How to Manage Workplace Bullying
For better HR compliance, follow these steps for dealing with bullies in the workplace:
Identify Bullying Behaviors
Bullying can range from name-calling to more harmful practices like physical violence. If someone in your organization exhibits bullying behavior, it could be time for an investigation.
Collect any evidence that supports a complaint about bullying, including witness statements. Some employees might not want to "go on the record" about an incident because of fear of retaliation or other negative consequences. Therefore, you should collect statements in the strictest confidence and abide by data protection principles.
Communicate Your Anti-Bullying Policies
Include policies and procedures for bullying behaviors in your employee handbook. This communicates your stance on bullying and the potential consequences.
Understand the Consequences of Bullying
People deal with bullying in different ways, but the consequences can be extremely serious. Bullying can also have an indirect effect on your organization when the person being bullied can't complete their work duties properly. Here are some of the physical and mental consequences of bullying in the healthcare workplace:
- Physical injuries
- Self-destructive behaviors
- Loss of confidence
- Changes in eating habits
- Mental health problems
Bullying can be a complicated issue, but HR for Health provides resources and training to resolve a wide range of workplace problems. Click here to learn more.
Bullying can have severe physical and mental consequences for everyone involved. Dealing with this issue early on, however, prevents further problems and safeguards the well-being of all workers.
Need to manage bullying claims in your organization? HR for Health's suite of HR tools provide you with the resources you need. Click here to schedule a call with a member of the team!
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Quick note: This is not to be taken as legal or HR advice. Since employment laws change over time and can vary by location and industry, consult a lawyer or HR expert for specific guidance. Learn about HR for Health's HR services