“What, you can’t take a joke?”

It’s hard enough to be the newest or youngest member of a work group and be the subject of a hazing ritual. It’s harder still when your supervisor implicitly approves.

Times have certainly changed from when perpetrators of these rituals could argue they were having good-natured, harmless fun. From their perspective, hazing might not seem that bad. After all, they may say they were once the subject of a hazing ritual and they survived.

But that’s their side of the story.

Workers who claim to be unwilling participants of these rituals often feel harassed and demeaned. Even observers may feel intimidated, pressured to comply and afraid of the consequences if they don’t join in. Not surprisingly, both victims and observers may suffer intense emotional distress.

Hazing can also lead to unintended personal injury—and claims against managers for allowing subordinates, whether actively or passively, to create a hostile, disruptive workplace.

Hazing can also impact the company, especially when a victim files a workers’ compensation claim. If victims are targeted because of their protected characteristics and employers do not take steps to correct the behavior, victims may be able to file anti-discrimination complaints with the Equal Employment Opportunity Commission (EEOC).

If the behavior includes assaults, the perpetrators may also be criminally liable. Furthermore, managers can be subject to disciplinary actions, and companies can be fined for violating US Department of Labor and Occupational Safety Health Administration regulations. According to OSHA, “Workplace violence is any act or threat of physical violence, harassment, intimidation or other threatening disruptive behavior that occurs at the work site.”

Dorothy Bland, a business writer for business.com, provides the following preventative methods to address workplace hazing.

  • Create a hazing policy so management and staff can recognize specific incidents.
  • Reinforce your hazing policy with materials that show unsafe behaviors.
  • Build trust among employees and help them form bonds with team-building exercises.
  • Make it clear that hazing and harassment are unacceptable.
  • Learn best practices and implement strategies that managers and employees can adopt.
  • Clearly communicate your workplace hazing policy by hanging posters that show unacceptable behaviors and provide training videos that show the dangers of these incidents.
  • Devise and remind staff about the consequences of workplace hazing.

For more information on how to create a better and more productive workplace, please consult with an FEI account representative today. FEI’s suite of services are designed to help meet the evolving needs of businesses and help them stay competitive by developing the strengths of their workforce.