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Why Workplace Bullying is on the Rise

Mar 10, 2022
HR Acuity

You might still be working from home, but workplace unfairness is still here.

While the entire world continues to battle this COVID-19 pandemic – there’s another, less-talked-about epidemic taking place at work: bullying, harassment and unfair treatment.

Seeing that most office-based companies have transitioned to remote work over the course of the pandemic, it seems logical to assume that instances of workplace mistreatment would decline. Remove undesired office encounters, business trips, meetings and happy hours from the mix and you have a harassment-free workforce, right? Not so much. In fact, some industries are even seeing an influx in hostile experiences among employees.

Let’s look at the stats:

  • In 2008, 74% of employees reported being the subject of or witness to workplace bullying
  • In 2019, that percentage jumped to 94%
  • Over half of employees cited they were bullied by a boss or manager
  • 51% say their company has a policy for dealing with workplace mistreatment, with just 7% actually using it
  • Since March 2020, employee ratings of company culture has fallen by 10 percent

So, what gives? We’re taking a deeper look into what’s triggering unfairness at work, and what employees and employers can do to improve workplace culture for good.

The Digital Barrier

As we all adjust to the “new normal” of the workplace (and for many, turning their home into the workplace), more and more organizations are turning to digital forms of communication to stay on task. In addition to email and instant messaging, platforms such as Zoom, Microsoft Teams and GoToMeeting are all modes of communication wherein harassment can occur. That, combined with a more relaxed nature often associated with working from home (sweatpants all day, every day, am I right?), can cause an uptick in uncomfortable work experiences. In other words, people tend to be braver – which, unfortunately, includes being meaner – behind a screen. That’s why it’s important for HR and people leaders to reinforce that while the workplace is distanced physically, proper workplace conduct still stands.

Pressure to Perform

The past few months have presented varying challenges for all organizations. While some companies are scrambling to accommodate the changing demands of consumers, others are navigating furloughs, layoffs, and budget cuts. This causes stress and anxiety levels to skyrocket – especially when it comes to fear of job preservation. This type of stress makes instances of foul language, negative outbursts and blaming more prevalent, and, if not handled properly can escalate into more serious interactions between employees.

How to Take Action:

No one should have to face bullying at work alone – and there there are plenty of steps to take when an employee feels they have been a victim of workplace bullying, such as distancing from the perpetrators, confronting the offender(s) or voicing the incident to upper management or HR. However, navigating workplace bullying can be a challenge, and employees may not be ready to take immediate action.

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Not Ready to Confront the Issue?

While HR and business leaders hope employees will speak up when there’s an issue, notifying an employer about workplace bullying or misconduct isn’t always easy. Instead, individuals may choose to document the episodes in writing and start a file of who, when and where the abuse occurs. This includes saving emails, text messages, voice mails, or other correspondence that reflect cyberbullying or that verify other types of unfair treatment.

The Solution:

By cultivating a workplace in which everyone feels safe and supported, you’re making an investment in your company’s most valuable asset – its people. Speakfully allows employees and individuals to voice workplace concerns safely and discreetly in just a few simple steps. 

  1. Onboard your organization
  2. Begin receiving employee claims/submissions
  3. Review submissions and take action accordingly

HR Business Leaders: Don’t let workplace bullying and/or unfair treatment get in the way of your organization’s success, and, ultimately, reputation. These instances not only affect your people, but your organization’s bottom line. For example, a decrease in employee productivity, increased employee absenteeism, and an uptick in resignations. Combat this challenge with Speakfully – a simple reporting, tracking, and resolution platform that provides you with real-time data and insights into workplace culture — allowing you to address issues head-on and cultivate a safer, more transparent work environment.

Ready to get started? Reach out to us to get the ball rolling.

HR Acuity

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