You don't want to play den mother to your employees, but a new trend gaining publicity may put you in that role. So-called "workplace bullying" is no longer something you can shrug off. If you see it, you'd better try to stop it.
Reason: When bullying occurs, more workers are suing their employers for intentional infliction of emotional distress and intentional interference with the employment relationship.
Plus, some state and local legislatures are attempting to lower the boom through "anti-bullying" laws. While these initiatives focus on schools, employment experts say their broad language could reach into the workplace.
Other proof of the trend: Anti-bullying groups, such as the Workplace Bullying and Trauma Institute (www.bullyinginstitute.org), are popping up, gaining attention to the cause and pushing for new legislation.
Research shows that bullies tend to pick on veteran co-workers who excel. Bullies try to make their victims appear less than they are, hoping to drive them out.
Your goal: Make bullying at work as unwise and unwelcome as sexual harassment or drug abuse. Make the point in policies and discipline that bullying won't be tolerated. For advice on crafting an anti-bullying policy, go to www.bullyinginstitute.org/home/twd/bb/features. html. For more tips, see the box below.