Bullying: at one time or another, most of us have felt the victim of someone’s unreasonably antagonistic behavior. It’s often viewed as a dynamic between young people, and conventional wisdom says that this type of conduct is left behind in childhood as we exit the schoolyard.
Not so, “Bullying regularly occurs with adults, in the workplace. And it often continues even after someone has left a job, with the bully giving a potential employer an unwarranted bad reference,”says Jeff Shane, Vice President of Allison & Taylor Reference Checking, a firm that offers “Cease and Desist” letters to stop the bullying.
Workplace bullying tactics can range from the covert (behind-the-back sniping) to the blatant (public humiliation or physical abuse), but they are unquestionably harmful in all forms, often with alarming consequences. Victims of bullying report decreased workplace productivity, loss of confidence, debilitating anxiety, panic attacks, clinical depression and even physical illnesses as a result of being bullied. And simply removing yourself from the job is not always the answer, as the abuse can continue during the reference checking process for a new position.
“A large number of the references we check are in response to workplace bullying,” says Shane. “People are feeling traumatized and helpless in the face of persecution in the workplace. They’re also worried that the negative feedback they are receiving in their current job will adversely affect their ability to secure future employment in a more positive environment; an example being a bullying supervisor who offers negative references about them to a prospective employer.”
At the crux of the problem: management or supervisors are the most common offenders, and their bullying actions leave the recipient in a precarious employment position. Since many bullies are operating within the realm of “standard practices” in their organizations, victims often speculate that they may deserve the criticisms, or are simply too embarrassed, hesitant or fearful to confront the harasser.
What can be done to alleviate the problem? “If an honest, calm discussion with the person responsible does not resolve the issue, then an employee has to consider their options.” says Shane. “While a frank discussion is sometimes all that’s needed, such conversations sometimes result in an employee’s concerns being brushed aside or ignored completely. That’s when the victim needs to consider taking more assertive action.”
Allison & Taylor, Inc. and its principals have been in the business of checking references for corporations and individuals since 1984. Allison & Taylor, Inc. is headquartered in Rochester, Mich. For more information, please visit http://www.allisontaylor.com/ or call (800) 651-2460.