Bullying Behavior – Part 2

Bullying behavior tends to start or increase with organizational change.  The expression of bullying behavior is usually the result of a supervisor or manager’s lack of training in the area of relationship management. Sometimes bullying behavior has been legitimized by a company’s value or practice.


Here are some overt and subtle forms of behavior that serve as signs of workplace bullying / harassment.

Overt forms of bullying behavior:

  • Public humiliation
  • Personal insults and name-calling
  • Persistent criticism
  • Spreading malicious rumors
  • Freezing out, ignoring or excluding
  • Constantly undervaluing effort

Subtle forms of bullying behaviors

  • Removing areas of responsibility
  • Deliberately sabotaging or impeding work performance
  • Refusing to delegate
  • Constantly changing work guidelines
  • Withholding necessary information
  • Over-monitoring, especially with malicious intent
  • Setting up individuals to fail – eg. impossible deadlines
  • Blocking applications for leave, promotion
  • Using lengthy memos to make wild and inaccurate accusations
  • Instigating complaints from others to make individual appear incompetent

For more information on legislative changes in your province or state visit: http://www.healthyworkplacebill.org/states.php

Bullying Behavior – part 1

In 2002, the province of Quebec enacted the Psychological Harassment at Work Act. Although legislation is never a  cure-all, some see it as “legitimizing workers’ concerns about workplace bulling and imposes obligations on employers to act preventively towards the behavior.”[1]

An increasing number of American state and Canadian provincial legislatures are in the process of considering some form of workplace bullying legislation.

Here are four key aspects that employers must consider about bullying behavior:


  1. Does the action involve vexatious behavior?
    Vexatious behavior: conduct that is humiliating or abusive, affects an individual’s self-esteem and causes substantial distress. It is a behavior that exceeds what a reasonable person considers appropriate at work.
  2. Is the action repetitive in nature?
    Repetitive in nature: the behavior is reoccurring and continuous over a course of time. Therefore, a single instance of bullying behavior might is not enough. However a single, isolated incidence with extensive effects may fit the condition of being repetitive.
  3. Is the action unwanted?
    Unwanted behavior: a reasonable person would find the behavior offensive and impactful on their work life and thereby unwanted.
  4. Does the action create a hostile work environment for the victim?
    Hostile work environment
    : the vexatious behavior is impactful in such a way that it interferes with an individual performance of their duties. Symptoms of hostile environment include: physical or psychological health problems, such as anxiety, difficulty adapting, depression, post-traumatic stress, suicide; dependencies such as alcoholism or drug abuse; professional difficulties, even a job loss; major financial losses; family or conjugal difficulties; absences and even disabilities.

[1] Minding The WorkPlace (blog), http://newworkplace.wordpress.com/, posted Sunday, February 8th, 2009