How to stop bullying in the workplace

Like most people, you may have thought that bullying would no longer be an issue once you left high school.

Not so, finds a recent 2014 Work Place Bullying Institute (WBI) survey that found that 27 percent of adults have experienced bullying in the workplace. The group defines bulling as "repeated abusive conduct that is threatening, intimidating, humiliating, work sabotage or work abuse."

Human resources firm Xpert HR says employers need a concerted policy to prevent such conduct. Concludes the firm in a offering what it describes as a "toolkit" to prevent bullying:

Anyone can be a victim. Bullying isn't limited to one gender or one race. Every group gets attacked, although not quite evenly. And contrary to the idea that women want to help out other women, if you're a woman being bullied, your tormentor is most likely also female.

HR doesn't usually help. According to Xpert HR, only 2 percent of people who complained to HR were satisfied with the result. The WBI survey found that employers routinely "either deny, ignore, or minimize concerns regarding bullying." One caveat here -- many of the things that people complain to HR about isn't bullying so much as hurt feelings. Still, companies shouldn't ignore real bullying, and it should be stopped quickly.

Every company needs an anti-bullying policy. This should be clearly stated, include information on how to report bullying and underscore that people will not be retaliated against for reporting bullying. Even rank-and-file workers can suggest creating this policy, and you can volunteer to serve on a committee that puts it together. Someone has to start the program!

Anti-bullying training. Just having a policy isn't enough, according to Xpert HR. You need to have training where what is and isn't appropriate behavior at work is clearly spelled out.

Complaint procedures must be followed. Policies and training mean nothing without follow-through. A company's process to investigate bullying should be thorough and documented.

Enforcement. Offenders need to be disciplined or even terminated. Without this last step in the process, the policies are pointless.

If you've been a victim of bullying in the office, make sure you document what has happened to you and report it to either your boss or HR. But because bullying isn't illegal, understand that sometimes the best solution to bullying in the workplace is finding a new job.

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