Is it because there is a fundamental misunderstanding between what a manager believes is constructive criticism and what an employee feels is bullying? It is NOT bullying for a manager to correct or provide feedback or otherwise manage poor performance or behavior issues. As an HR professional, we often have to address this issue. Certainly, some managers could use some fine tuning in how they deal with performance issues, especially repeated issues that cause increased frustration for the manager or supervisor, but it does not follow that it is harassment or bullying. This is a fine distinction and can be a “he said/she said” type of situation.
There are plenty of websites that lay out in specific detail what constitutes bullying but the common theme amongst the definition is that it is sustained and repeated. A one time loss of control on someone’s part is not bullying, although depending on the severity of the loss of control, it certainly could be unlawful. In fact, even if the behavior is bullying, it is possible that the alleged bully does not have malicious intent, they could be frustrated, overworked, or just not that tuned into the perception they are projecting.
Regardless, bullying takes its toll on a business. Absenteeism, poor behavior, sick leave expenses, benefit claims, turnover, all will impact the bottom line. This is why businesses should care. Train managers on how to appropriately discipline employees, train everyone on what is bullying and what is not acceptable in your workplace. As business owners, take a look at the culture that you have…is it abusive, and contributing to a bullying environment? If so, get real about the impact on your bottom line, not to mention what the word on the street is about your business. Maybe you don’t care, but enough people out there do, and it will come back to haunt you. Just look at Walmart – a claim of bullying against them netted an award to the employee to the tune of $1,450,000.00, this has since been dropped to $410,000 appeal, but really, what company wants to incur a completely unnecessary expense just because a supervisor or manager promotes a bullying environment.
Apart from being wrong, it also makes no business sense.