Inside the conflict-free walls of York College's Alumni Hall, a room full of local professionals brainstormed to find reasons why workplace bullies target their co-workers.
More than 50 women and one man all agreed jealousy and insecurity are the underlying reasons why women target women in 80 percent of all workplace bullying.
Victims are typically well respected, well liked, good at their jobs and keep their heads down, said Lynda Randall, a partner at New Level Advisors LLC and founder of the Women's Business Center Organization at the J.D. Brown Center for Entrepreneurship at York College.
To better illustrate her point, she shared a quote from Gary Namie, a social psychologist and co-founder of the Washington-based Workplace Bullying Institute.
"Workplace bullies pick on people who pose a threat to them because they are good at their jobs," he said.
Randall was the featured speaker during a Tuesday workshop at the college, teaching York County women how to identify, report and stop bullying in the workplace.
What it is: Unlike rudeness or incivility, bullying is malicious behavior repeated for six months or longer to deliberately hurt another human being.
Sometimes it's presented in obvious forms -- loud confrontations -- but it often occurs as indirect bullying.
The latter involves gossip, lies, manipulation, vicious behavior and a level of exclusion, where a coworker is repeatedly left out of social gatherings or workplace notifications.
Indirect bullying is the style often practiced by girls in junior high, Randall said.
"Playground bullies who aren't stopped often grow up to be workplace bullies," she said.
Though it affects a target's health, income and career -- and is proven to cause panic attacks, insomnia and clinical depression -- workplace bullying is very hard to stop.
"Workplace bullies are workplace politicians who like to have power and cunning," Randall said.
It can be hard for targets to defend themselves against a bully who lacks empathy and believes the co-worker deserves to be treated poorly, she said.
Legislation? More importantly, workplace bullying is not illegal.
Legislation has been introduced at both the federal and state levels, but it hasn't come to fruition. It's still being discussed in the Pennsylvania House, as more incidents are reported and employers count the costs.
Workplace bullying costs U.S. employers $6 billion to $13 billion a year, Randall said, referring to a national survey by Zogby.
Bullies spent time strategizing and making life miserable for someone else instead of concentrating on their work. That reduced productivity causes companies to lose money.
Businesses also lose money when they have to start paying more money for victims' medical visits, sick days, paid time off and extended leave.
And even though workplace bullying isn't illegal, it can still result in legal fees for a business if a victim seeks counsel.
"At the very basic level, some forms of workplace bullying are forms of harassment, which are legally actionable," said Brook Say, an attorney with Stock and Leader.
Much as the education system has adopted codes of conduct regarding bullying, employers could help eliminate problems by creating a workplace code of conduct against bullying, she said.
"It protects the best interest of the business, too. Workplace bullying drives down productivity, morale and ultimately impacts the bottom line," Say said.
Workplace bullying also causes employers to lose employees, Randall said.
"People get to a point where they can't tolerate it anymore. They don't know what to do and quit," she said. "Even in an economy with so many people looking for work, I don't think employers can afford to have a disposable workforce."
-- Candy Woodall can also be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org.