woman employee doing bull horn gesture

How to Handle Workplace Bullying in Remote Working

Just because a person is working remotely, it doesn’t mean they can’t become a victim of workplace bullying. The COVID-19 pandemic hit everyone hard, forcing many companies to lay off most of their employees. Those who got to keep their jobs were forced to work from home to help control the spread of the disease. Sadly, while facing all these problems, many remote workers also have to deal with bullying.

In 2017, Harvard Business Review surveyed 1,153 remote workers and found that 52% of the respondents often feel disconnected and experience online bullying. This is becoming more common nowadays, but you rarely hear of it because most victims decide to ignore it. However, that isn’t the best thing to do. That is why in today’s article, we will show you how to handle workplace bullying properly.

What Is Workplace Bullying in a Remote Work Setting?

Workplace bullying can be defined as a behavior that can be harmful to the targeted person. The action may be accompanied by intentions of intimidating, humiliating, abusing, and belittling the victim. However, it is important to differentiate it from performance management. Just because a boss is implementing legitimate and constructive disciplinary measures, it doesn’t mean they’re bullying their employee.

Most victims of an intimidating work environment often end up emotionally upset, embarrassed, and distressed. In some cases, they become affected to the point of hospitalization or rehabilitation.

Victims of remote workplace bullying also tend to:

  • Take plenty of time off
  • Miss important virtual meetings
  • Appear nervous during virtual meetings
  • Lose confidence and motivation 

Factors That Lead to Workplace Bullying

 Bullying in a remote work environment is likely to occur due to any of these reasons:

  1. A bully’s lack of interpersonal skills
  2. A bully’s need for control or power over other employees
  3. Huge power imbalances where victims feel like there’s no need to address the issue because of the power gap between them and bullies
  4. Bullying cases in a remote work environment aren’t taken as seriously compared to a traditional workplace. This motivates the bullies to continue misbehaving since they know they won’t suffer any severe consequences.

Are There Laws to Curb Workplace Bullying?

Colleagues bullying a sad girl at office

Only a few countries have implemented anti-bullying laws. For instance, the US doesn’t have any laws penalizing workplace bullying. South Korea also hasn’t passed any laws to help curb workplace bullying. However, the victims are allowed to file a lawsuit against workplace bullies.

In other countries, such as in the United Kingdom, there’s legal protection for victims of bullying in the workplace.

Workplace Bullying Laws in the US

In the US, there are no federal or state laws protecting employees from bullying. However, many victims have successfully sued employers who constantly abused them.

Meanwhile, many US states have considered passing bills to curb work bullying since 2003. These states are listed below with the exact proposal years. They include:

  • Nevada (2009)
  • Illinois (2009)
  • Utah (2009)
  • New Jersey (2007)
  • Washington (2007, 2005)
  • New York (2006)
  • Vermont (2007)
  • Oregon (2007, 2005)
  • Montana (2007)
  • Connecticut (2007)
  • Hawaii (2007, 2006, 2005, 2004)
  • Oklahoma (2007, 2004)
  • Kansas (2006)
  • Missouri (2006)
  • Massachusetts (2005)
  • California (2003)

In the United States, any intentional workplace bullying meant to inflict emotional distress and assault is punishable. Most workplace bullying cases linked to a characteristic are protected under the US discrimination or harassment law. This includes sexism, racism, age, disability, and religious and sexual orientation bias.

How to Identify Bullying in the Workplace?

A Circle of Wooden figures bullying another one

Identifying bullying at the workplace can be pretty easy, but we’ll help you break it down below. 

Subtle Signs of Workplace Bullying

  1. A person can deceive their colleagues achieve a selfish goal, avoid employee punishment, or gain favor from a higher authority. This action is considered manipulative and can be regarded as bullying.A person can intimidate other employees because they are less superior.
  2. Someone can deliberately ignore a colleague, refuse to invite them for compulsory virtual meetings they are unaware of, and make it clear they are shunning them. In some cases, bullies ignore people who need something vital that may affect their productivity.
  3. Bullying can involve refusing to attend to an employee’s legitimate concerns, which may be detrimental in extreme cases.
  4. Someone may divert issues, change pressing subject matters, and cancel meetings without caring how that affects others.
  5. Employers can become bullies when they constantly make their workers feel useless even after delivering the expected results.
  6. Some bullies who have direct supervision over other employees may deliberately delay their works, refuse to assign them projects or even delegate tasks meant for them to other remote teams.
  7. Superiors, employers, and even coworkers may pit employees against one another, which may cause unhealthy competition and ceaseless disagreements. Eventually, this affects the victims’ emotions and the entire company’s success.
  8. Another example is removing parts of an employee’s role without practical reasons for such an action, or replacing the position with a less significant one. These are subtle signs of workplace bullying, but they still mean a lot. 

Glaring Office Bullying Signs

Shadow finger pointing at a office worker

If you notice any of these actions from your employer, any superior, or an employee, it’s a glaring sign of workplace bullying.

  1. Despite having a measure of authority over employees, it’s absolutely wrong to coerce them to do something against their will. Such a case is an obvious sign of workplace bullying.
  2. While it’s not wrong to disregard one person’s opinion for a better one, consistently doing so to specific people is another evidence of work bullying. It shows that the employer deliberately belittles the employee’s views, ideas, work, or personal circumstances.
  3. Employers who embarrass their workers every chance they get are also bullies and must be stopped.
  4. Retaliation for a worker’s wrong even after apologizing is another sign of bullying.
  5. Threatening workers with unwarranted punishment, termination, and abusing them emotionally is evidence of bullying in remote working.
  6. Using offensive language might seem okay to some people, but it may be hurtful to others, hence qualifying as work bullying.
  7. The most common one, particularly committed by superiors, is blocking all promotion opportunities for particular employees. They may provide false evidence against the victims to ensure they don’t advance in their careers.

How to Stop Bullying at the Workplace in Remote Working

Now that you know all the major bullying at work signs to look out for, let’s discuss how you should handle bullying when working from home:

1. Keeping a Personal Record

Ensure you always keep a private record of your bullying experiences. This equips you with all the evidence you need to back up your case.

As an employee, you should note the following:

  • The date and time of the incident
  • The offender’s name or position in the company
  • The offender’s exact words and actions
  • Where the bullying happened—was it on a virtual meeting, via email, or text?
  • Who else was there that can back you up?
  • How the incident makes you feel

2. Be Conversant with Your Workplace Anti-Harassment Policy

boss yelling at employee through a megaphone

Depending on your location, your company may have harassment policies in place to curb workplace bullying. Ensure that you are conversant with those laws to know the best ways to tackle hostile work environment bullies.

3. Use Employee Monitoring Software to Control Bullies

If you are an employer, then you also have a huge part to play. One thing you can do is using employee monitoring software to keep tabs on what your employees spend their time on while at work.

Many superiors bully younger colleagues by spying on them and making them feel insecure. Using Traqq’s employee monitoring tool can help you stop these bullies for good.

With Traqq, you don’t have to be with the employees to monitor them directly. You can use features, such as app and website monitoring, screen recording, and lots more, to keep tabs on everyone. The tool takes screenshots which you can use as evidence to indict the bullies. If you are looking for a reliable employee monitoring and performance management app, give Traqq a try.

4. Report Bullying to Your Employer or a Higher Authority

For good employers, their workers’ safety and comfort are always a priority. That said, you shouldn’t hesitate to report any case of bullying to your employers so that they can take the right actions to stop the behavior. However, first, try to talk things over with the bully. They might be willing to make adjustments. If that’s not the case, go ahead to report the incident to your employer or other appropriate authorities.

Suppose your employer is exhibiting bullying behavior. In that case, report the situation to a higher authority, such as the government or a legal institution.

On a Final Note

Bullying is unacceptable at the workplace, even in countries where no related bills are passed into law. Some people facing extreme bullying in a traditional workplace prefer moving to a different location to get some peace. For remote workers, most tend to avoid any online meetings where they feel they may get bullied. Whatever your case is, you should always report any sign of workplace bullying to help stop the ill behavior.

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