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Mild Bullying

Mild bullying and early identification of safety concerns falls close to the middle of the Johns Hopkins Continuum of Disruptive Behaviors at Work. These behaviors fall on the harsher side of disrespect, and they are aimed directly at another person or persons. Included in this level of disruptive behaviors is early identification of safety concerns, such as sensing that a co-worker is a victim of domestic/intimate partner violence. 

Johns Hopkins has defined workplace bullying as repeated mistreatment of a person that may result in harm to one’s health and that takes one or more of the following forms: verbal abuse; offensive conduct/behaviors that are threatening, intimidating or humiliating; or interference that prevents work from getting done.

It is important to recognize these behaviors, and to say something if you see any of them so that they don’t escalate and cause a greater risk of disrupation to faculty, staff, students, and the community. Mild bullying is likely to continue without intervention. Johns Hopkins University and Johns Hopkins Hospital and Health System have adopted policies that call for zero tolerance of violent behavior, threats, bullying, and intimidation. Johns Hopkins will not permit employment-based retaliation against anyone who, in good faith, brings a complaint of workplace violence or who speaks as a witness in the investigation of a complaint of workplace violence.

Specific Actions Associated with Mild Bullying 

A subcommittee of the Joint Risk Assessment Team developed a list of concerning behaviors as part of ongoing research on disruptive behaviors at work and early intervention and prevention of workplace violence. Examples of behavior that indicate mild bullying include:

  • Removing responsibilities unfairly
  • Denying access to information necessary for performing work
  • Social exclusion and isolation (can be via email; can recruit others to do this)
  • Ordering an employee to do work that is below his or her ability
  • Posturing in an intimidating manner
  • Relocating an employee to a less desirable area
  • Damaging a person’s reputation so he or she can’t leave the organization
  • Using the “silent treatment” to ostracize others
  • Making up his or her own rules on the fly that even the bully doesn’t follow
  • Disregarding satisfactory or exemplary quality of completed work despite evidence
  • Starting, or failing to stop, destructive rumors or gossip about a person
  • Singling out and isolating one person from coworkers—either socially or physically

Awareness means understanding that behaviors left unchecked can escalate into violence.  If there is a behavior that makes you feel uncomfortable, don’t ignore it.  Take action well before the point at which violence might occur. If you or someone you know is concerned about any of these behaviors, contact your supervisor or academic advisor, human resources/labor relations, Security, the Faculty and Staff Assistance Program, or the Workplace Risk Assessment program manager at .