Stand Up Against Bullying: A blog to help stop workplace bullying
Workplace Bullying Targets Leadership

Screening for Workplace Bullying: How to know if bullying is happening at a potential employer

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Original Publication Date: September 19, 2017; Edited and Republished on March 7, 2022

It is no secret that targets of workplace bullying experience multiple layers of trauma. Consequently, targets of workplace bullying may end up looking for a new job either voluntarily or involuntarily. Finding a new job is always painful and includes some level of risk. It can be particularly dicey for vulnerable workers. However, it is vital for targets of workplace bullying so they do not end up in a worse situation than they are already in.
Targets in high-risk professions, such as education, nursing, mental health, or health professions should be aware that the organizations they are applying may already be plagued with aggression. 

It is vital to screen potential employers for workplace bullying to ensure that they take a job with an organization that is bully free.  So how do we go about doing this?
The first step is merely do an internet search on the potential employer. In today’s world, there are online sources designed to provide reviews on employers.  Of course, not every organization and agency have reviews. However, it is strongly recommended that targets do an internetsearch to see what if anything is out there. These reviews should be viewed with a critical and cautious lens, but it is a good place to start.

Targets should prepare themselves for the interview process. Developing a series of questions to be asked during the interview is vital. These should include pointed and follow-up questions around conflict management, discipline, professional development, leadership, and team building. These questions should be asked of workers at all organizational levels to better assess the organizational culture and the environment.

Targets also want to investigate the general working relationships and overall job satisfaction of the employees during the interview. Using multiple sources of information, if possible, targets should find out the frequency of turnover and the reasons why the last few employees left the organization. Targets should be skilled and weave these questions into their general interview and be aware that the information they are given should be consistent with what they are seeing. 

Targets need to keep their eyes wide open and observe the environment during their interview. It is likely there will be signs that the organization is dealing with workplace bullying.

Here are some examples of possible red flags:
·        Is there a worker who is actively bad-mouthing other employees? 
·        Are there workers who are not speaking to one another? 
·        Is there visible tension between workers and leadership? 
·        Is what is being said too good to be true? 
·        Are there workers not present who were supposed to be part of the interview? 
·        Do workers have their doors open or closed? 
·        Is there an area for workers to eat lunch together or have coffee? 
·        Are you being asked questions that are not supposed to be asked, such as marital or family status?
·        Were the workers unwilling to answer  questions?

Observing non-verbal behaviors of the workers along with truly hearing what is being said helps targets decipher if this potential workplace is suffering from workplace aggression. All these bits and pieces, when put together, can tell targets a lot about the overall organizational culture and environment. There are always signs that bully culture is happening. It is vital for targets that they open their eyes and see these before start working in another bully culture.