If employers have not heard the term “status blind harassment” they should familiarize themselves with the issue, local attorneys and human resource managers say.

Status blind harassment is more commonly known as workplace bullying, said Joan Rennekamp, human resources consultant with the law firm Rothgerber Johnson & Lyons in Colorado Springs.

Insiders also call it “equal opportunity harassment” meaning that bullying can happen to anyone and is distinguished from harassment targeted at certain groups of workers protected under federal and state statutes, which are gender, race, ethnicity, age, religion and sexual orientation.

Workplace bullying is an issue that captures media attention when it escalates to violence. But, even when the bullying is more subtle, it creates a hostile work environment to which employers should pay close attention because it could be costing them money.

Experts say bullying can result in loss of employees, a high number of sick days and can damage morale. In a 2007 workplace survey, commissioned by the Workplace Bullying Institute, Zogby International reported that 35 percent of respondents experienced bullying firsthand in the workplace and that bullying is four times more prevalent than illegal harassment.

Job stress, which in some cases is related to bullying, costs U.S. companies $300 billion a year in lost time and health claims, according to the National Institute of Occupational Safety and Health. The figure is sometimes disputed, but local attorneys and HR managers say there is no denying that bullying leads to stress which leads to low productivity.

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The largest expense to employers is down time, said Ian Kalmanowitz, an attorney with the Springs law firm Cornish & Dell’Olio.

“I had one case where a guy was struck by the bully,” he said. “He went out on FMLA (Family Medical Leave Act) leave — that is a significant loss of productivity,” Kalmanowitz said. “His manager lost time in dealing with the complaint and if it leads to litigation it is a significant expense to the employer.”

Further complicating the issue is the rise of workplace incivility, which often is defined as a snub or the snarky comment or the interruption of a co-worker speaking in a meeting.

Incivility is just as troublesome as bullying, said Evan Abbott, Mountain States Employers Council director of organizational development and learning. But, it is even more difficult to define, identify and prevent.

“If workplace violence is the tip of the iceberg, incivility — all interactions and behaviors that don’t rise to legal issues — is the stuff that makes up the base of that climate,” Abbott said.

No matter what it’s called or how overt or subtle it is workplace bullying, incivility and bad behavior add up to lost productivity, Abbott said.

“Of those who said they feel they have been treated uncivilly at work, 47 percent say they spent less time at work to avoid the instigator,” Abbott said

In recent years, there has been an attempt by some states to legislate bullying in the workplace. Since 2003, 21 states have introduced Healthy Workplace legislation, which typically defines workplace bullying as any kind of repeated speech or act that is considered threatening or humiliating, according to the Healthy Workplace Bill website.

To date, no state has laws against workplace bullying.

However, that does not mean employers are off the hook. In the absence of anti-bullying laws, an employee could bring a negligent hiring, negligent supervision or negligent retention case against an employer, especially if there had been repeated attempts to tell a supervisor or HR personnel of the problem, Kalmanowitz said.

“If the employer is on notice that there is a propensity of bullying and they fail to take action, there may be a negligent claim,” Kalmanowitiz said.

It doesn’t have to be that way, he said.

“My advice to employers, first and foremost, there needs to be open lines of communication for employees to communicate these potential grievances to management,” Kalmanowitz said. “There needs to be respect for all parties. Don’t just look at a claim and outright dismiss it.”

Employers need to recognize that addressing bullying is in their best interests, Rennekamp said. There are a number of strategies employers can do to create a healthy work environment, free of bullying and incivility.

An employer could address anti-bullying in a company policy if they think it is a problem, Rennekamp said.

“It is OK to mention that you prohibit bullying and harassment,” she said. “So, an employee feels like they can address it.”

The key is for employers to build trust. Employers could establish a reporting route, similar to how an employee could report harassment. They also could give a climate survey, which might reveal patterns of bullying or feelings of intimidation.

And, when an employer discovers bullying, they might consider providing skills training or coaching for the bully.

“Let’s say you discover someone is bullying other people, you could give them the tools to get their job done,” she said. “People get stuck in their habits or behavior.”

But, when the bullying persists, even after warnings, employers need to terminate repeat offenders.

“The bottom line is companies need to do what they can to make sure (bullying) is not happening in their company,” Rennekamp said. “It’s in employers’ best interests to figure out if it is going on — you want to keep your valuable people.”

2 COMMENTS

  1. This is a thing we see or experience at one point.The intimidation from your workplace many people picked on some people I their workplace and personally I don’t like this and I experience this it is very draining and frustrating. So this article is around the idea on how to deal with these kinds of intimidation.

    Fact: 50 % of office workers admitted they being bullied at work by intimidation. Intimidation is an intentional behaviour that causes a person of ordinary sensibilities fear injury or harm. It can be covert or overt.

    There are two kinds of intimidation in the workplace

    Covert intimidation- which is subtle / non-verbal with the use of gestures – glance, stare shrug and other use of mean facial expressions.

    Overt intimidation- If intense confrontation occurs.

    Some people uses intimidation to protect their on self-interest or diffidence mechanism this is common in the corporate world

    Identifying intimidation tactics being used by your so-called opponents help prevent further escalation of the situation. Here are some tips to fend off the workplace intimidation.

    There ways to know your fight against your so called “Oppressors” this some of the ways you can use with it.

    Deal with it immediately.

    -It is unhealthy for you to be in such situation. You will have to combat a big deal of stress which may lead to anxiety and depression in the long run. It is also unhealthy for your co-workers, the company and even the economy is affected.

    Talk it out.

    -One-to-one conversation to settle the dispute and make each other aware of what it happening. Keep your cool. Try to talk it out with reason and open-mindedly. Give the bully the benefit of the doubt but do not be easily fooled. Identify if he/she is sincere when apologising.

    Discuss it openly with the HR.
    Consider this as your last resort if you can’t resolve it on your own. A good counsel puts us in an ease especially if it is very difficult for us to go about our work. This will be addressed properly by the authorised personnel.

    Know your friends and ask them for help.
    You need your people. Support system gives comfort and they are always going to be there to back you up.

    Expose the tactic publicly to gain witness.
    This is effective during heightened situation. It is not about having witnesses to take sides but to give resolution to the injustice you are experiencing. Witnessing confrontation can be an eye-opener on what the working environment is like. Of course, companies do not promote this kind of commotion.

    The conclusion

    Emily, you or anyone for that matter do not deserve to be bullied in the office for performing well. Taking it personally is far from being professional. Using intimidation tactics is common when working but it does not have to be if everyone knows how to deal with it.

    To know see more articles like this visit and subscribe in http://www.bestcatcher.com

  2. I need help! my office is really small, owner is never here and just myself and another coworker. She is much older than me and is a big bully. I’ve addressed this before with the owner but she also made me feel liable for the bullying. That co-worker was fine for a few months but now has gotten really bad. She says mean remarks to me, snickers, laughs in my face. I’m honestly afraid to confront her and the owner. Seems like a good reason to quit but I don’t have another job and can’t quit financically. I don’t know what to do.

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