Workplace Bully Targeting You? Why it’s best to avoid the “Bully” Label

Workplace Bully Targeting You? Why it’s best to avoid the “Bully” Label

In Science Nordics recent article, “New method gets staff to discuss workplace bullying”, the researchers make two important points about workplace bullying. The first is the
problem of using the “bully” label. The second is the conditions that foster workplace bullying. I’ll address the first point in this blog.

The authors are researchers and their focus is on the challenge of collecting data if they say “workplace bully behavior” when interviewing employees. Often the mere mention of the word “bully” causes employees to “clam up.” My experience and research has identified the same problem at the HR level.

“Workplace Bully” Label Raises Red Flags

Employers do not like the label. Managers fear the label, HR fears the label. Practically speaking, HR sees “red flags” including the threat of possible litigation, confronting the person who may be bullying, the time required for formal investigations, exposing the target to further harassment and the lack of specific effective solutions.

So, to avoid those “red flags” I suggest that if you are a target of what you perceive to be workplace bullying, avoid the “bully” label and discuss the behaviors — let HR determine what label to use. HR can help you more effectively if you don’t raise the red flags.

It may seem like you are protecting the person who is demonstrating the behavior by not using the “bully” word, but in reality, you are strengthening your own case and helping build a support system that will take your situation seriously.

I’m Kathleen Bartle, a strategic consultant on workplace conflict to executives worldwide for more than 20 years. My work brings individualized solutions to your teams’ lost productivity, loss of key personnel, low morale, and the high costs resulting from bullying, abrasive behaviors and interpersonal workplace conflicts. You can contact me here.