Bullying in the workplace

Bullying in the workplace

When many of us hear the term “bullying” we start to think back to our school days, or we think of school children today. Bullying has been in the news quite a lot recently, especially as there have been some high profile instances of the results of school children being bullied. But bullying isn’t just something that happens in the playground or in our schools; it also takes place in the workplace. According to a Samaritans study in January 2008, 80% of workers are bullied at work. According to the HSE (2006) bullying costs the UK 80 million working days and £2 billion in lost revenue each year. That’s some alarming statistics that many of us just aren’t aware of.

Just like bullying at school, it seems there is complete ignorance about bullying in the workplace. Many employers / managers simply don’t want to recognise it, others shy away and some simply just don’t know how to handle it.

Now, as you know,this blog aim to help you deal with problems like bullying by changing the way you think about and deal with situations, so here we go…

Bullying behaviour

One of the problems with bullying is that both the perpetrator and the victim don’t know how to recognise tell tale signs and if they do, don’t know how to deal with the problem. Unfortunately, this can be endemic throughout an organisation.

Bullying can be hard to spot as it comes in so many forms. We all know that bullying at school isn’t just about the school bully stealing other kids lunch money, the same applies in the workplace.

It is important to differentiate between the person and his or her behaviour. Bullying behaviour is often caused by an individual’s own emotional problems. It is unlikely that a self aware and confident individual will resort to bullying tactics. 

The victim

Bullying is something that gradually wears a person down over time. The results of this constant wearing away are often anxiety, depression and feelings of inadequacy and feeling unworthy. These feelings won’t stay confined to the workplace, rather they extend outside the workplace and have real impact on the person’s personal life too.

The signs

Some signs are harder to spot than others, but employers should be aware of all of the following:

  • Harassment
  • Intimidation
  • Aggression
  • Bad attitude
  • Coercive management styles
  • Personality clashes
  • Poor management style and technique

It’s also worth remembering that some people won’t identify their own actions as a form of bullying.  

Forms of bullying

Identifying the signs of bullying is very important, but it is also important to know what forms bullying can take in the workplace. These are the most common forms of bullying that can be found in the workplace. Do any of them seem familiar to you??

  • Micro-management
  • Setting up individuals to fail
  • Withholding information
  • Withdrawing interesting and challenging jobs and replacing them with mundane tasks
  • Blocking requests for leave or promotion
  • Constant / non constructive Criticism
  • Spreading gossip
  • Encouraging others to make complaints

What to do

As the victim it’s important to recognise the forms of bullying and then take action as soon as you can. So what can you do as an individual? Well here are some quick guidelines:

  • Keep a record of every occasion you have been bullied, with times, dates, names of any witnesses and the form of bullying that took place
  • Think whether you would wish to speak directly to the bully, explaining how their behaviour is having a negative impact on your work. Stress what steps you will take if it continues. Make notes of the meeting and send them to the bully (remember that some bullies may not be aware of their behaviour and its effect).  This is a difficult step and does not guarantee a resolution if the organisation has a bullying culture.
  • Make contact with a staff counsellor / welfare officer explaining how you feel
  • If the bullying continues, make a formal complaint to personnel, backed up with your evidence and statements from others

As an organisation there are three simple steps that need to be followed in order to tackle bullying problems:

  1. Recognise bullying happens. Identify where it is happening
  2. Create awareness within the organisation
  3. Take action as soon as bullying is identified

 These steps sound easier than they are to actually carry out. Because of this there are now training courses out there, available to organisations to help train their staff to identify, and tackle bullying such as our sister company CityMinds.

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