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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. Mild bullying behaviors on the continuum begin a focus on early identification of safety concerns, such as a targeted outburst that can escalate into intimidating behavior.

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 disruption to faculty, staff, students, and the community. Mild bullying is likely to continue without intervention. Those who engage in mild bullying behaviors may be able and motivated to improve their dominant style through supportive interventions and personal assistance.

Specific Actions Associated with Mild Bullying

Examples of behavior that indicate mild bullying include:

  • Regularly ignore by not responding to or acknowledging another when greeting him/her (different from not initiating a greeting)
  • Ignore communications or requests for information or assistance
  • Dismissive interpersonal communications (shut down a conversation and not allow the other person to communicate his/her perspective)
  • Impatient with another; not allowing time for two-way communication; creating a sense of power differential
  • Assigning blame without giving the person the opportunity to share his/her perspective
  • Disregard satisfactory or exemplary quality of completed work despite evidence
  • Periodic “oversights” of leaving a person out of communications (including email)
  • Periodic “oversights” of excluding a person from social situations that would typically be inclusive; recruit others to do the same
  • Delaying information that subsequently results in impossible demands
  • Sharing inappropriate information about another; leaving out information about another that casts him/her in poor favor
  • Trying to intimidate and control another through interruptions, contradictions, silent treatment
  • Ridicule, insult, play jokes on another person
  • Making up rules for others on the fly that the bully does not follow
  • Assigning tasks that are below another’s ability
  • Limited insight to treatment of others; not aware of how others experience bully’s interactions

The list of specific actions associated with mild bullying emerged from a study of case experiences triaged by the Risk Assessment Team. Informed by workplace bullying research, Safe at Hopkins examined, defined and cataloged precipitating behaviors to create an early intervention program anchored by the Johns Hopkins Continuum of Disruptive Behaviors at Work. Research indicates and our own experience suggests that responding to disruptive behaviors at work is early intervention and prevention of workplace violence. 

Reported behaviors of mild bullying are responded to and handled in a manner that respects the privacy of all involved. If indicated, a thorough, systematic, and consistent evaluation may occur which results in findings, guidance and recommendations to management.

Johns Hopkins University and Johns Hopkins 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.