It is against the policy of Seattle Pacific University for any employee, whether a manager, supervisor, or co-worker, to bully another employee. Employees who engage in bullying may be disciplined, up to and including termination of employment.
Definition of Bullying
Bullying is defined as any verbal, written, or physical conduct that:
- Places an employee in reasonable fear of physical harm to such employee’s person or property;
- Constitutes abusive expression directed at an employee that is outside the range of respectful expression of disagreement or critique;
- Substantially and unreasonably interferes with an employee’s work performance, employment opportunities, or ability to participate in work activities; or
- Is sufficiently severe, persistent, or pervasive that it creates an intimidating, degrading, or humiliating environment.
Bullying can occur in-person or from a distance, can involve both verbal and nonverbal communications (including through electronic means), and can include both direct interactions and actions that harm another person through indirect means. Actions that occur outside of normal working hours and away from SPU property but still affect working conditions may still constitute bullying. Typically bullying requires repeated actions, but a single action that is severe can also constitute bullying. Typically bullying involves intentional conduct, but bullying can also occur unintentionally. Individuals can perceive conduct differently for a variety of reasons, such as differences in race, gender, culture, or background, and some actions may have the effect of intimidating, degrading, or humiliating someone even if the actor does not believe they are wrong. Workplace bullying often involves an abuse of power, but a power differential between two employees is not required in order for bullying to exist. Mere differences of opinion, occasional workplace personal conflicts, or expression protected by academic freedom does not constitute bullying. Certain actions may constitute prohibited bias-related incidents and/or discrimination or harassment based on legally protected characteristics as well as bullying, but bullying is not limited to those types of actions.
The following types of conduct generally constitute bullying:
- Verbal: Slandering, ridiculing, or maligning a person or a person’s family; persistent name-calling that is hurtful, insulting, or humiliating; repeatedly using a person as the butt of jokes.
- Physical: Pushing, shoving, kicking, poking, or tripping; assaulting or threatening physical assault; damage to a person’s work area or property.
- Gestures: Nonverbal gestures that can convey threatening messages.
- Exclusion: Persistently excluding or disregarding a person in work-related activities.
In addition, the following examples may constitute or contribute to evidence of bullying in the workplace:
- Persistent singling out of one person.
- Yelling, shouting, or raising one’s voice at an individual in public or in private.
- Using obscene or intimidating gestures.
- Not allowing a person to speak (e.g., ignoring or interrupting).
- Personal insults or use of offensive nicknames, slurs, or profanity.
- Public humiliation in any form.
- Belittling someone’s opinion.
- Invalid criticism of job performance.
- Constant criticism on matters unrelated or minimally related to the person’s job performance or description.
- Public reprimands.
- Repeatedly accusing someone of errors that cannot be documented.
- Deliberately interfering with mail and other communications.
- Spreading rumors and gossip regarding individuals.
- Encouraging others to disregard a supervisor’s instructions.
- Manipulating a person’s ability to do work (e.g., overloading, underloading, withholding information, setting deadlines that cannot be met, giving deliberately ambiguous instructions, purposely misleading someone about work duties).
- Unreasonably denying development or training opportunities.
- Assigning menial tasks not in keeping with the normal responsibilities of the job.
- Taking credit for another person’s ideas.
- Refusing reasonable requests for leave in the absence of work-related reasons not to grant leave.
- Deliberately excluding an individual or isolating someone from work-related activities, such as meetings.
- Ignoring attempts at conversation.
- Unwanted physical contact.
- Defacing or marking up a person’s property.
- Physically blocking a person from leaving the person’s office.
The examples in this list are intended to help identify potential instances of bullying, but this is not an exhaustive list of all conduct that could constitute bullying.
Reporting and Responding to Bullying
Individuals who feel they have experienced bullying should report this to their supervisor (for staff or student employees) or to their Dean (for faculty). If the supervisor or Dean is the person engaging in bullying behavior, the report may be made to the Director of Human Resources (such individuals could also be available for consultation prior to making an official report of bullying). All employees are strongly encouraged to report any bullying conduct they experience or witness as soon as possible to allow SPU administrators to take appropriate action.
Supervisors and Deans should respond to reports of bullying as described in SPU’s Anti-Bullying Complaint Procedure. It is intended that SPU administrators respond to bullying in a manner that is proportionate to the frequency and severity of the conduct.
Moreover, it is highly preferable for staff supervisors and Deans to intervene and address unprofessional workplace conduct before it becomes severe, persistent, or pervasive. For example, if an employee reports an isolated instance described in the list of examples above that is not severe, a supervisor or Dean (as applicable) should still take steps to address the conduct to try to prevent the recurrence of similar conduct.
Even though this policy is intended to address incidents of bullying against employees, if an employee engages in bullying against another person (e.g., a volunteer, a student, or a contractor), this conduct should also be reported to supervisors or Deans so that appropriate action can be taken.
If at any time an individual believes they are in physical danger, the individual should contact the Office of Safety and Security at 206-281-2911. Employees may consult with the Office of Safety and Security regarding personal safety plans. Also, if any bullying behavior would constitute a reportable Clery Act crime, any Dean or supervisor who learns of the behavior should promptly make a report to the Office of Safety and Security.