Workplace bullying has become a hot-button topic over the past few years, with statistics suggesting that up to 35 percent of the work force have fallen victim to this alarming trend.
Some suggest that bullying victims simply are people who “can’t take the pressure” at work. Not so, says Jeff Shane, vice president of Allison & Taylor Reference Checking.
“Bullying has become an unpleasant fact of life in too many workplace environments. What makes it especially insidious is that it often continues even after someone has left a job, with the bully continuing to make their life difficult by them a poor reference to a prospective employer,” says Shane.
Workplace bullying tactics can range from derogatory comments to public humiliation or physical abuse. In any event, they unquestionably lead to decreased workplace productivity. Victims may experience a loss of confidence, debilitating anxiety, panic attacks, clinical depression and even physical illnesses.
Central to the issue is the fact that management or supervisors are the most common offenders, and their bullying actions leave the recipient in a difficult employment position. Since many bullies are operating in accordance with a company’s “standard practices,” victims often speculate that they may deserve the criticisms, or they are simply too embarrassed, reluctant or fearful to confront the harasser.
How Bullying’s Impact Continues on Job Search
If you are the victim and you’re unwilling or unable to effect a change in the workplace, leaving the position and looking for a more positive environment may be your best choice. However, be certain that your former employer’s negative feedback does not hinder your efforts to find a more suitable work environment.
“A large number of the references we check are in response to workplace bullying,” says Shane. “People feel traumatized and helpless in the face of mistreatment. They’re also worried that the negative feedback they’re receiving in their current job will carry over into a negative reference, and disrupt their ability to secure future employment.”
Fortunately, there is recourse available for such grim scenarios. If a workplace bully is speaking out of turn when responding to an employment inquiry, employees can exercise the option of a cease and desist letter or pursue more substantive legal action. Such tools will help ensure that the transgressor will stop their actions out of fear of corporate reprisal.
“The dilemma of workplace bullying is often made worse by the feeling that nothing can be done to alleviate it,” says Shane, “but that’s not true. A person can, and should, take steps to improve or protect their employment situation.”