We receive many calls regarding a hostile work environment by employees as well as managers. Often during the conversation we discover the situation being described is not unlawful harassment, but perhaps is a case of inappropriate workplace conduct.

We often hear the word "bully" mentioned. Whether it's unlawful harassment or bullying, either one is just as detrimental to unit cohesion and accomplishment of the mission.

What is the difference between unlawful harassment and bullying'

Unlawful harassment that creates a hostile work environment occurs when an employee is subjected to unwelcome verbal or physical conduct based on sex, race or other legally protected characteristics. The incident could be so severe and pervasive as to unreasonably interfere with the employee's work performance or create an intimidating, hostile or offensive work environment.

Anyone in the workplace might commit this type of harassment. The key is the harassment is based on the employee's membership in a group protected by law under Title VII of the Civil Rights of 1964 or other federal authority.

Bullying takes one or more of the following forms:
* verbal abuse;
* offensive conduct/ behaviors, including nonverbal, that are threatening, humiliating or intimidating; and
* work interference sabotage which prevents work from getting done.

Bullying sounds a lot like harassment with the exception of a Title VII or other federal authority basis. Neither speaks of a well-ran organization and managers should take action as soon as they become aware of the inappropriate behavior regardless if it is unlawful or not.

No employee should ever have to hear, "That's just the way they are."

Bullying and harassment stops when management takes action to make it stop. You are encouraged to elevate these situations through the chain-of-command, if your supervisor isn't doing anything about it.
You may also contact the civilian personnel action center or equal employment office for assistance in resolving the matter.

Remember, if any employee feels threatened physically or fears he or she is about to be victim of a crime it is always his or her right to dial 911 and get law enforcement involved immediately.

Keys for managers:
* Think about the effect your actions have on others or on your employees.
* Be a role model for your employees.
* Let people know your boundaries and boundaries for the work environment.
* Take action when you see inappropriate behavior.
* Communicate your expectations for interaction.
* Be consistent in your expectations.
* Establish ground rules for communication for your employees.
* Agree to disagree.
* Agree on common goals.
* Focus on the task at hand.
* Listen, talk only half as much as you listen.
* Maintain credibility, say what you mean and mean what you say.
* Align your actions with your words, it's not just what you say but how you say it.
* Seek assistance from CPAC/EEO on problem situations.

Page last updated Fri July 22nd, 2011 at 12:16