WASHINGTON — The problem of bullying and harassment is not only limited to kids, and after an NFL investigation found pervasive harassment in the Miami Dolphins’ locker room, experts have some important tips for handling bullying in the workplace.
Clinical Psychologist and author Dr. Joel Haber says reports of workplace bullying are on the rise, but colleagues of victims, along with employers themselves, have a big role to play in stamping it all out.
While he recommends kids who are being bullied always report it, he recognizes that adults often fear that reporting workplace bullying could lead to retaliation, even termination.
“So it really kind of depends on the corporation you’re in, or the place you’re in at work,” Haber says.
“If you feel like there’s an HR department or someone you can talk to who you can share these kind of stories with, that can help, especially if the company takes a stand against workplace harassment,” he adds.
Even if it is not going to be reported directly through official channels, Haber says it’s important to tell someone who may be able to pass along a quiet word so that workers who are being harassed do not feel alone and do not choose to stay home to avoid the bullying.
“There’s different levels of bullying. Generally, if someone’s doing this in the workplace – even a supervisor – if there is a group of people who are connected to this supervisor and can share with them, even in a light way, that this is going on, sometimes just pointing out that that’s being perceived by the target as bullying is enough to get it to stop,” Haber says.
“Lots of times these workplace bullying incidents are because people don’t get that they’re really crossing the line, they think it’s kind of fun,” he says.
Another way to handle the situation is to talk with trusted co-workers who may be able to form a “power group” to help deal with the bullying.
For people who witness someone being bullied at work who may not have the courage to speak up, Haber says the first step should be to just talk to that person quietly to offer support.
“Let them know that they’re okay, that it’s not their fault