Workplace bullying: how to recognize it, how to handle it

Harassment is a serious problem and should not be tolerated anywhere or in any form, including in the workplace.

Workplace bullying can be defined as “repeated and unhealthy mistreatment by one or more employees,” according to the website of the Workplace Bullying Institute, based in Clarkston, Washington state.

This can also be defined as “abusive conduct that takes the form of verbal abuse” or behaviors “perceived as threatening, intimidating or humiliating” and includes “job sabotage” or any combination of the above, they note.

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“Workplace abuse is the only form of abuse in America that is not yet taboo,” the website also says. “All other forms have been condemned (abuse of children, spouses, partners), while bullying at work is still considered a normal, unavoidable or even necessary business practice.”

For those who believe they are being bullied, there are specific things to do.

sad employee

Workplace bullying can be defined as “repeated and unhealthy mistreatment by one or more employees,” according to the Workplace Bullying Institute website. (iStock/iStock)

These are the steps to follow.

Start documenting cases of harassment

If you think you’re being harassed in the workplace, you should start creating a paper log to document the mistreatment, experts advise.

“If you’ve experienced workplace harassment or intimidation, having a good record is critical to reporting it and making sure your complaint is taken seriously,” John Joy, managing attorney at FTI Law in New York, told FOX Business.

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FTI Law specializes in representing whistleblowers who report legal violations to the SEC.

If workplace harassment or bullying has occurred through emails, be sure to save them and print a copy.

“Regardless of whether you report [your information] within your organization or to local authorities, having a record is what separates successful claims” from unsuccessful ones, Joy said.

Know the laws and limitations on documentation

“While you may have experienced harassment or intimidation, there may be state laws that prohibit you from bringing recording devices to work or even recording phone or Zoom calls with other people without their permission,” he said.

man hiding under laptop

“Workplace abuse is the only form of abuse in America that is not yet taboo,” according to the Washington state Workplace Bullying Institute. (iStock/iStock)

If you feel the need to record a conversation, Joy said first make sure you get local legal advice or make sure you tell the person you’re talking to that you want to record the conversation.

Create written records as incidents occur

Since recording a conversation isn’t always an available option, it’s safest to create a written record of all incidents of workplace harassment at the same time, Joy recommended.

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“This means you write what happened as soon as it happens, not the next day or weeks later,” he said.

“If your employer discovers your true intentions, they could act against you before you are properly prepared to make your move.”

A contemporary record can sometimes be used as evidence in court proceedings, according to Joy.

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However, a record you create later, after an event has occurred, will carry much less weight, or may not even be accepted as evidence.

Print Evidence of Workplace Harassment

If any workplace harassment or bullying has occurred through email, be sure to save it and keep a hard copy, Joy advised.

tired and upset man on laptop

It’s important to create a written record of all incidents of workplace harassment at the same time, one expert said. (iStock/iStock)

You can email such correspondence to a private email account, he noted.

If you’ve signed a nondisclosure agreement, there may be certain prohibitions on taking company emails home or forwarding them to a personal account, Joy said.

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These rules will vary by state and company, so it’s a smart move to get legal advice early in the process, he added.

If you can’t get legal advice, if you believe in good faith that the emails are evidence of harassment, and if you intend to use them in court, then you’ll probably be safe keeping a personal copy, he said.

Chronicle of any healthh results of bullying

It’s important to “diligently capture a paper trail” detailing the “emotional and physical distress” you’re experiencing, and any other personal events related to workplace bullying, said Danielle Clark, a business professor at Hillsborough Community College and University of South. Florida in Tampa, Florida.

nurse working on patient history

Make a record of the “emotional and physical distress” you’re experiencing, and any other pertinent personal events, related to workplace bullying, said Danielle Clark of the University of South Florida. (iStock/iStock)

“Examples of things to document include bullying-related doctor visits, like if you’ve had stress headaches and sought help,” she said.

“Word spreads, and not everyone you work with is your friend.”

Clark added that people should document “visits to the therapist, where they explore their feelings about being bullied” and social events they’ve missed due to anxiety, such as “no longer having the motivation and energy to keep going to spin class.

colleagues meeting

If possible, it’s good to get legal information about your workplace harassment experience, an attorney said. (iStock/iStock)

While it can be exhausting to document everything, it will help if your workplace takes action against you.

It will also be helpful if you can file legal claims.

Proceed with caution

Think carefully before sharing your workplace experiences about any harassment or abuse you’re experiencing, experts advise.

“Word gets out, and not everyone you work with is your friend,” Jeff Caesar Chukwuma, founder and senior partner of the Chukwuma Law Group with offices in Fort Lauderdale and Miami, Florida, told FOX Business.

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He said that as long as you proceed discreetly, you have an advantage as you have the element of surprise.

“But if your employer discovers your true intentions, [the employer] could act against him before he is properly prepared to make his move,” Chukwuma said.

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