September 15th, 2013

Forbes: Millennials have the power to banish workplace bullying


Generation Y is less tolerant of bullying than other generations. Can they reverse the rise of workplace bullying?

By Ruchika Tulshyan
9/13/13

When I wrote an article on why women are the worst bullies in April 2012, I didn’t think I would still be getting comments and emails about it nearly two years later. But evidently, workplace bullying isn’t going away.

Woman-on-woman bullying is actually on the rise, according to Dr. Gary Namie, psychologist and co-founder of the Workplace Bullying Institute (WBI). “Bullies are of both genders, but women bullies tend to disrupt relations or pit worker against worker. Men would rather push people around to show hierarchy,” he says.

The damage inflicted by bullying can often be worse than from sexual harassment, according to Dr. Namie. “The bullying is so personalized, it usually touches upon the target’s deepest insecurities.”

Over 80 percent of female bullies choose female targets.

Bullying varies from ostracizing victims to spreading rumors and betraying trust. Unfortunately, action against it is rarely taken. WBI found that the majority of targets believe senior executives in their organization consider bullying to be irrelevant and not worthy of attention.

How Millennials can change the status quo

But, there’s good news. Millennials have grown up with anti-bullying campaigns in school. Having more information on what constitutes bullying makes them more vocal against it and less likely to put up with it.

“The younger generation is quite intolerant of bullying,” says Dr. Namie. “We’ve found they’re less likely to believe they have to continue to stay in that environment. Many know they’ll hold multiple jobs in their lifetime, so they’re quick to get out of a bad situation [compared to the older generations],” he says. In time, the intolerance to bullying will trickle down to other generations as companies face employee turnover from it.

Plus, despite the rise of Internet trolling and reputation damage through social media, Dr. Namie says the internet has actually had a positive impact on the case against workplace bullying. Online forums dedicated to sharing stories have generally been supportive, he says. A whopping 72% of people surveyed had never heard of “workplace bullying” before reading the term online.

Millennials may be less tolerant, but it’s up to the company to fix it

“Employers have the power to nip bullying in the bud,” says Dr. Namie.

“I’m always surprised when small companies don’t address a bully. If you have six employees and one is a bully, that’s a significant percentage of your workforce that’s unhappy. In a bigger company, one bully out of a hundred wouldn’t make as big a dent.”

Yet, under six percent of respondents in a WBI survey said their organizations had a defined policy enforceable against bullying.

Here’s how companies can address workplace bullying, according to WBI:

(WBI note: Our newest DVD walks organizations through policy and procedure creation)

1.) Define what is workplace bullying at your company. Have a firm commitment that it is unacceptable. Use company-specific illustrations to define it. “Clearly state what it is and what it’s not,” says Dr. Namie.

2.) The target must show the consequences of the bullying. Work-related consequences of the bullying like absenteeism and drop in productivity are just as important and quantitative as impact on health.

3.) Enforce procedures to tackle it. An informal, pre-emptive measure could be to facilitate team training on anti-bullying. A formal procedure would be to insist on “restorative rather than punitive” action. “Even the bully should be treated with dignity as they get counseled,” says Dr. Namie.

4.) In other words: don’t have a zero-tolerance policy; find ways to create a culture of inclusion.

It took us 30 years of having laws against sexual harassment for people to understand it. Bullying is more ambiguous and only been vocalized recently.

Once companies realize the cost of bullying – particularly from losing Millennials – there’s hope they’ll start taking action too.

<-- Read the complete WBI Blog


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