By Raven Hill
The news that former eBay CEO Meg Whitman settled a lawsuit with an employee whom she allegedly shoved has shined a spotlight on office bullying. Here's what you need to know if you have a bully in your workplace
Although bullying in schools has received glaring media coverage with laws enacted to address the problem, workplace bullying has not received as much attention or legal redress. Until, that is, the New York Times and other media outlets reported that California Republican gubernatorial candidate Meg Whitman had settled a lawsuit for "around $200,000" with an employee who alleged that Whitman had shoved her.
(“Yes, we had an unfortunate incident, but we resolved it in a way that speaks well for her and for eBay,” the employee told the Times.)
The revelation raised the issue of workplace bullying on the national stage, perhaps for the very first time. The reasons behind office bullying are varied, experts say. Many people tend to look at bullying as a "playground problem" – bad behavior, but not harmful. And in most cases, bullying is not illegal, which leaves managers with little recourse. But it is real, experts insist, and deserves serious attention.
Bullying is repeated mistreatment – verbal abuse; threatening, humiliating or intimidating behavior or conduct; or sabotage – that prevents work from getting done and jeopardizes the target's health, according to the Workplace Bullying Institute in Bellingham, Washington. It can be a form of racial or gender discrimination although not necessarily. The bully may be a supervisor, peer colleague or lower-level staffer.
According to a Workplace Bullying Institute study, 72 percent of bullies are bosses and 49 percent of employees report being affected by bullying at work. This guide will help you to rein in an office bully to boost morale and avoid getting caught in a bully's bull's eye.
How to Manage an Office Bully: Are You a Bully?
Denise Dawson, who runs the ReallyBadBoss.com blog, describes her first boss as "the worst bully," a cursing and screaming type who preferred to rule by fear. "We felt like prisoners more than employees," she says. "Morale was awful. Attrition was atrocious."
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