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What you can do about workplace bullying: Part II

Earlier this week, we began a discussion on the subject of workplace bullying. This type of harassment is estimated to negatively affect the lives of millions of Americans annually, though many are under the incorrect assumption that there is nothing to be done about this problem when it arises.

When workplace bullying contributes to a hostile work environment, it is generally considered to be illegal behavior, depending on the situation and who is contributing to it, sanctioning it or failing to protect employees from it.

Workplace bullying does not need to involve illegal discrimination or harassment of a protected class due to their minority identity; nor does the bullying need to be characterized by stereotypically aggressive physical and verbal behavior.

Rather, someone can be generally considered a victim of workplace bullying when they face "unwanted and unwarranted behavior that a person finds offensive, intimidating or humiliating and is repeated so that it has a detrimental effect upon a person's dignity, safety and well-being."

Employees need not "tough it out" in a hostile environment, nor should employers look the other way when bullying is considered part of a particular workplace's "culture." Rather, bullying should be stopped in its tracks so that others can be spared from similar treatment and victims' situations may be redressed.

It is up to employers to ensure that employees have safe work environments. Failure to prevent or redress bullying situations could leave employers liable for the bullying behavior.

In addition, experts suggest that bystanders report bullying when they witness it. Bullies usually do not act out in front of their bosses and many victims are too afraid of retaliation to speak up for themselves. Speaking up on behalf of a victim could save one or many people from humiliation, psychological pain and physical stress.

Workplace bullying happens far too often. And even though it may be difficult to speak up, victims do have rights. When employers trample on these rights, victims may seek to rectify the situation in court.

Source: The Washington Post, "Career Coach: Dealing with bullies in the workplace," Joyce E. A. Russell, May 27, 2012

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