company culture

Bullying in the Workplace

Bullying is aggressive behavior that repeats itself or has a high likelihood of doing so. It also always has a power imbalance, which may be physical and/or social. Mostly, we think of this happening to our children and teenagers, rather than as adults. However, it can be just as serious in adulthood as in childhood, and often manifests in the workplace. Since we spend so many hours of our day at work, this can be deeply debilitating, and affect more than just the victim of the bullying. In fact, it can affect your business.

Workplace bullying, unfortunately, is not illegal. The following behaviors are still offenses worthy of termination depending on your business, but cannot be held to legal action:

  • Teasing
  • Pranks
  • Threats
  • Humiliation
  • Intimidation
  • Interference with work (i.e. sabotage, refusal to cooperate with target)

It does, however, become illegal when it becomes assault, threat of physical violence, stalking, or harassment. Laws prevent workplace harassment based on characteristics like race, nationality, gender, religion, age, and disability. In the workplace, these are deeply serious issues, so it’s important to stop bullying before it gets this far.

Emotional Bullying

Among adults and especially women, this is the most common form of bullying. It leads to hostility in the workplace and may make employees dread coming in. Plus, this can affect how work gets done within a team or even at all.

Emotional or social bullying includes:

  • Exclusion
  • Refusal to help
  • Silent treatment
  • Badmouthing

These behaviors can stop progress in the office, or create bad relationships with brand new employees. In a work environment, emotional bullying can be more terrible than managers might think. It’s this kind of bullying that can severely impact someone’s performance, or even cause them to leave.

Physical Bullying

While this is not as common, physical bullying does take place. It may be subtle and easy to pass off as an accident (slamming someone with a door, or tripping them), or deliberate like stalking or unwanted touching. Adults may lean toward the former, being more aware than children that there is a line between bullying and assault. However, if an employee continues to have accidents, it’s time to investigate. It could be bullying, and not just clumsiness.

How it Affects You

Depending on the issues, you may be inclined to let the incidents pass or to do only the minimum. It can be difficult to police adults and their behavior. However, if you can take control of the situation, do so! According to Entrepreneur, 20% of respondents in an emotional bullying survey said that dealing with bullies cost them seven or more hours per week. Seven hours a week can total thousands of dollars per employee per year. And it’s not usually just one person; bullies disrupt at least 5 people, and more if they are a manager.

Your business and your franchisees’ businesses depend on handling bad behavior, regardless of other work performance. Establish from the start rules regarding workplace bullying, and let all offenders know the next step if they repeat their behavior.


While franchisors won’t be able to and shouldn’t monitor the behavior of all employees, you can make it clear what the standards in your company are. From your corporate level, you can provide the guidelines on how to combat bullying in the workplace. Keep your company healthy from the start: root out bullying before it can grow and poison your business.

Perks vs. Benefits: Improving Your Company Culture

Especially in attracting Millennials, many employers believe they need to fluff up their workplace with perks. These might include having an air hockey table, a no-walls workspace, or beanbags instead of chairs. While these are fine and fun to have, the real fault comes in calling them benefits.

The Downside of Perks

Perks like energy drinks, video games on breaks, and ping-pong tables are fun for companies, especially during breaks. But they aren’t as good as some employers believe. This is because fancy toys and break areas may have diminishing returns. Gaming tables or dozens of fridges may be expensive, and the former will lose interest over time.

Plus, employees may begin to ask the question if these perks actually help them, or if their shiny veneer is actually a trap in an otherwise unhealthy job. For example: free dry cleaning or free pizza (with no clocked-out lunch break attached) may come across to them as a way to keep them in the office. Though it may benefit your business, it will not benefit your employees to keep them working a few hours longer per week. Perks and benefits both should sustain your employees and business, helping them both be productive and healthy.

Why You Still Need Them

Perks do liven up a workplace. While they can’t improve a company culture all on their own, nor make up for the lack of benefits, perks are attractive and can add to a good culture. Perks can allow your employees to relax on their breaks, if you do them right. Plus, you can keep your workplace from feeling sterile and utilitarian–a death knell to creative types!


Unlike perks, benefits directly affect the security and wellbeing of your employees. If they have the proper benefits, they’ll be less likely to take days off or quit. Plus, you’ll actually be able to attract candidates to your office. Telling prospective employees that you have no or few benefits can send them running for the door.

Legally, you need to provide:

  • Time off for voting, jury duty, and military service
  • Contributions to short-term disability programs in applicable states
  • Federal Family and Medical Leave
  • Worker’s compensation requirements
  • Payment for state and federal unemployment taxes

You do not need to provide benefits like:

  • Retirement plans
  • Dental or vision plans
  • Health plans (except for Hawaii)
  • Life insurance
  • Paid vacations
  • Holidays
  • Sick leave
  • Paternal leave

Be warned, though: avoiding these when many other employers do may drive away candidates and create a disgruntled employee culture. Learn more about why time off benefits you as well as your employees!


A word of caution: perks and benefits don’t make a company culture alone. There still must be elements like communication and respect between executives, management, and staff. Check out our other tips for building a good, healthy company culture within your business.

What Makes a Successful Company Culture?

When conducting a 2017 study on successful company cultures, Entrepreneur and Culture IQ rated companies on these 10 categories: communication, support, collaboration, agility, wellness, mission and value alignment, work environment, performance focus, and responsibility.

These values strengthen your employees and how they see the company. You may notice that they focus on more than the company’s profitability or how hard the employees work. Naturally, these are important for your bottom line. But the bottom line in your company culture is just that: at the bottom.

Building a Strong Company Culture

How can you apply these pillars to your own company?

Focus on making your employees feel supported and encouraged, with good communication between all parties to foster trust and cooperation. Remember that younger generations especially like to feel trusted, challenged, and mentored. They might not want to stay and invest in your company if they feel easily dismissed or that there is a lack of trust on either side.

Build a good work environment for your employees as well–one that is safe, comfortable, and conducive to work. And remember to add in fun! Employees like something to look forward to or celebrate, like holidays or team lunches. These shatter the risk of monotony that can wear down anyone.

As you work on this, understand that a healthy work environment is more than just physical; every employee should feel at ease coming to an atmosphere of communication, partnership, and trust rather than drudgery or hostility. No one should dread coming to work!

Remember that money and other perks alone aren’t sufficient motivators. If you tie employee performance or company value solely to money, you can create an undesirable company culture and risk high turnover among employees who want more than simply higher pay.

A Culture of Values

As you build your company culture, find ways to incorporate specific values into your work environment. Zappos, for example, has 10 core values that build an extremely healthy culture. And not all of them are bland, boring cop-outs; these are well-thought-out values that a new hire could be proud to incorporate.

Does your company have values (such as company goals or standards) that apply to everyone, from the CEO or franchisor to a brand-new hire? Hold everyone to the same standards of a company goal and values. This will help every employee feel important, especially if you can show how their work–even if it’s small or menial–contributes to the overall success of your business. Millennials especially can be disheartened by “meaningless” work that seems to have no direct relation to the health of the company.

Hire Smart

Don’t just hire anyone who could do the job. When selecting a new hire, decide how they will fit into your company culture. Do they already have a head start on the values you’re using to drive your business? Will they improve your business and not just fill a role? Also, how will they work with your current team? These are attributes Twitter uses to hire their team members.


Your business is more than numbers or an arrow on a graph showing your profits. Work now to instill a healthy company culture throughout, from your corporate headquarters to the newest, smallest franchise. Your business will thank you later, with less turnover and a more attractive environment for new employees.