Workplace Bullying

Workplace bullying is an issue gaining attention in both the press and the legislature. It is also a growing problem for food service operators. In a Foodservice Radio interview, Wendy Harkness, Vice President of Human Resources at Advantage Waypoint helps operators define and identify workplace bullying and lays out some ideas for prevention.

Bullying is different from discrimination. “Bullying is repeated or aggressive behavior that is used typically against a coworker or subordinate. It can also be called psychological violence. We are seeing more and more in the press and no workplace is immune,” says Harkness.
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While there is no current federal law against workplace bullying, legislation is on the horizon. According to Harkness, legislation has been put forth in 21 states since 2003 and 13 states currently have some form of bullying law in process.

Signs of bulling in the workplace can be hard to identify. “Bullying in the workplace is much more subtle and covert,” says Harkness. “Typical bullying behavior in the workplace might be spreading a rumor about someone that they know is not true or giving the silent treatment to someone.” Bullying can often be difficult to identify. “Bullying behaviors only come out in front of the target leaving operators to look for signs that bullying may have occurred. For an operator they might look for unusually high turnover in a specific department or under a specific manager.” Other signs are when a good employee suddenly resists in participating in employee functions or requests a transfer without a specific reason.

Bullying can have significant impact on an operation. “Turnover is one of the specific markers of bullying. Other effects are loss of productivity, increased absenteeism, increased risk for accidents or workplace incidents, and damage to your brand,” adds Harkness.

Operators can take several steps to curb workplace bullying. “They need to establish and communicate a complaint process. Avoiding it altogether is about fostering a cohesive workplace and taking care that they don’t promote individuals who are bullies.”

Operators can prepare now “this is coming whether we like it or not,” Harkness concludes. “If you are ahead of the curve before this legislation come out, you will be on much better ground because people will already be behaving within the policy.”