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LeadingEdition: E-Newsletter for Purdue University Supervisors

Is there a bully in your midst?

Bullying is something we all hope not to have to deal with much beyond grade school. Unfortunately, workplace bullies are a problem many people face. A recent survey by CareerBuilder found that 35 percent of workers say they have been bullied at work. More than half of those surveyed said that the bully was a co-worker.

Sarah dreaded going into the office. Work had become increasingly uncomfortable for her because of one co-worker. Janice was in the same workgroup and seemed to look for ways to make Sarah feel incompetent. Janice was routinely sarcastic in meetings and rolled her eyes at anything Sarah suggested. When their supervisor wasn’t around, Janice would criticize and belittle Sarah with subtle insults. Others in the office would notice the behavior and told Sarah, “She’s always been like that. She does good work, but can be really rude.” They told her to not take it personally, but Sarah couldn’t help it. She became depressed and began missing work which gave Janice even more to criticize her about. She finally found another job and resigned. She later found out that she had stayed two months longer than the person before her.

Bullying and other negative behavior have a direct impact on the productivity and morale of a workgroup. Increased absenteeism and errors and high turnover are often the results of not recognizing and addressing it.

Supervisors should watch for signs of bullying. Someone who always takes credit for things others obviously contributed to, or who dominates meetings with sarcasm, interruptions, or insults. Keep an eye out for people who are afraid to speak up, or signs of obvious tension in certain groups. Sometimes hides under the appearance of humor but if the recipient isn’t receptive there might be more to it. Employees often put up with bullying behavior because they are afraid of losing their jobs, or think that complaining will make the situation worse. If employees do come to you with complaints and concerns, take them seriously.

When inappropriate behavior comes to your attention, investigate and address it quickly. Increase your presence in the office. Talk with the bully about the specific behaviors that need to stop. You can also contact Employee Relations for advice, resources and options.

Purdue is committed to a workplace that is respectful and professional. By maintaining a comfortable working environment for all you supervise, you and your team will benefit greatly.

Connie Reckowsky, employee relations specialist
Employee Relations


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LeadingEdition is an electronic newsletter for Purdue University supervisors.  It is produced and distributed by Purdue University Human Resources four times annually.  If you have questions, comments or suggestions relating to the newsletter, please call 49-41679 or email us.  Thank you.