Guarding Against the Effects of Workplace Bullying

In today’s competitive business landscape, there’s been a significant increase in workplace bullying.

Most recently, it has become a problem of epidemic proportions and one that all employers should be prepared to deal with.

According to the Workplace Bullying Institute:

  • 35% of Americans workers (an estimated 54 million) report being bullied at work
  • 15% have witnessed it and are vicariously made miserable

The Work Doctor, Dr. Gary Namie, defines workplace bullying as repeated, potentially health-harming mistreatment of one or more persons (the targets) by one or more perpetrators. According to Dr. Namie, bullying can take one or more of the following forms:

  • Verbal abuse;
  • Conduct which is threatening, humiliating or intimidating;
  • Work interference, sabotage, which prevents work from getting done;
  • Exploitation of a known psychological or physical vulnerability

When bullying occurs consistently, employee morale suffers, the environment becomes toxic and the quality of work is then impossible to maintain. It’s important to set a precedent for how bullying is handled within an organization – most companies have developed zero-tolerance policies and have put other safety and security measures in place.

For the employer, the real first line of defense should be an Employment Practices Liability Insurance (EPLI) policy. This coverage offers protection against potential claims and can provide the employer resources which help them identify when bullying occurs and how to appropriately handle it.

Employers are often reluctant to confront bullies for fear of retaliation and other liability. It’s extremely difficult to replace someone who has years of internal company knowledge or a specialized level of expertise.

Surprisingly, it’s much more costly for employers to not take action against bullies. They ultimately create a hostile work environment, undermine legitimate processes and secretly harm others within the organization.

Companies should examine the real costs of unwanted turnover, absenteeism, lawsuits, settlements and other claims. These losses may hold greater weight than any future worst-case scenarios. It’s best to be informed and get the proper protection. For more information on how to get EPLI coverage or any other professional liability coverage for your business, contact one of our experienced professionals.

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