Workplace bullying is a critical issue affecting individuals and organizations alike. If not rightly addressed can destroy the productivity and reputation of organizations and the government. Bullying is a behavioural trait considered unlawful under the UK Equality Act of 2010.
According to a survey by the Workplace Bullying Institute, 30% of workers have directly experienced bullying while at work. People who work remotely were more likely to report such bullying, with 43.2% responding they had been bullied on the job.
In this article, we will discuss the widespread effect of workspace bullying and organizations’ roles in combating this issue.
What is Workplace Bullying?
According to Wikipedia, workplace bullying is a persistent pattern of mistreatment from others in the workplace that causes physical or emotional harm. It can include behaviours such as verbal criticism, personal attacks, humiliation, belittling, and exclusion.
It’s important to note that anyone can be a bully or a victim, regardless of role or position in the workplace.
Who is a Bully?
A bully is anyone who consciously harms or mistreats people, through words or actions that cause them pain or make them feel little of themselves.
These bullies are across all organizational levels, from ordinary employees engaging in casual harassment to higher-ranking managers who misuse their positions of power.
Bullying can take on various forms and degrees of severity. From impolite remarks to public embarrassment or even acts of physical aggression. Being aware of the signs and behaviour of bullies can help you protect yourself and those around you.
Editor’s note: If you observe such behaviour, it is important to report it to the authorities, e.g. The HR or manager of your company.
Physical bullying is a widely recognized form of workplace harassment and bullying. It involves acts of physical aggression, both towards individuals and their belongings, and can create a climate of fear. Because of this, physical bullying is often considered equivalent to assault.
Additionally, it can extend to damage personal property, such as tampering, scratching, breaking, or causing financial losses.
2. Psychological Bullying
Psychological bullying is the most common form of bullying or harassment in the workplace. It primarily targets the victim’s mental well-being through belittlement and hurtful remarks. These actions negatively affect victims’ mental health, causing emotional distress and feelings of inadequacy.
3. Unintentional Bullying
Some bullies may unknowingly make comments or exhibit behaviour that negatively impact others. They may not realize the harm caused by their words or actions, but it is still important to address such behaviour for the well-being of both victims and bullies.
4. Manipulative Behaviour
Manipulative bullies employ subtle tactics, appearing friendly and supportive while undermining or scheming against others behind the scenes. This can involve spreading gossip or rumours or abusing their power for personal gain, such as treating certain employees unfairly or assigning hard tasks to employees without adequate guidance.
5. Direct insults
This form of bullying involves managers using demeaning or negative language towards employees. This includes yelling, screaming, or insulting them. It is important to recognize if such behaviour is adversely affecting your mental or emotional well-being and address it with someone in a managerial or human resources position.
6. Passive-aggressive comments
Unlike direct insults, passive-aggressive comments are subtle and veiled insults that may go unnoticed by others. These comments rely on the victim’s doubt and subjective interpretation, allowing the bullying to continue without consequence.
Examples of Workplace Bullying
Workplace bullying covers many unusual, ranging from insults to talks that place the victim in an uncomfortable position. Some common examples of workplace bullying as revealed by Indeed include:
Getting Physical or threatening physical abuse
Physical abuse or threats of physical harm are horrific forms of workplace bullying.
Physical abuse represents one of the most common manifestations of bullying. Such threats may stem from feelings of anger or jealousy, or as a means for the bully to coerce others into meeting their demands.
Physical aggression not only causes immediate harm but also instils finstilsanxiety in the victim. It violates personal boundaries, compromises workplace safety and requires urgent intervention to protect the well-being of all employees involved.
Spreading false news about your colleagues
Some employees who envy your position or personality result in spreading false news about you. This is a harmful form of workplace bullying that can damage the reputation and credibility of the individuals targeted. This leads to strained relationships between the bully and the victim, creating a toxic work environment. Such actions undermine trust and create an atmosphere of uncertainty and mistrust.
Excluding or ignoring others in the workplace on purpose
Intentionally excluding or ignoring coworkers is a form of psychological bullying that can have severe emotional consequences. Bullies may isolate or disregard an individual during social gatherings or within the workplace.
Starting gossip and rumours about a coworker
Initiating gossip and rumours about a coworker is a damaging form of workplace bullying. Gossip and rumours can arise in both face-to-face interactions and online platforms.
Bullies disseminate false details about an individual, motivated either by personal gain or the intention to cause harm.
It creates a culture of mistrust, fear, and insecurity, affecting not only the victim but the overall dynamics within the workplace.
Giving Unattainable Tasks and Deadlines
Assigning unfair or unattainable tasks and deadlines is a manipulative form of workplace bullying. It places pressure on individuals, setting them up for failure. This bullying tactic can lead to stress, burnout, and a negative impact on one’s professional reputation.
Withholding Information and Tasks
Withholding crucial information or tasks from coworkers is a passive-aggressive form of workplace bullying. Most times, when confronted, they (Bullies) feign the excuse of ignorance. By withholding information or tasks, these victims may wrongly perform a task or not respond to the task with prompt details. This may lead to the termination of the victim’s appointment or a terrible face between the employers.
Other common examples of workplace bullying include:
Telling offensive or inappropriate jokes
Invading others’ privacy
Criticizing others incessantly
Devaluing others’ opinions
Effect of Workplace Bullying
The effect of workplace bullying can be grouped into two: First, the effect on individuals and second, the effect on organizations.
Consequences of Individuals:
1. Psychological Impact
Victims of bullying and harassment often experience emotional distress, anxiety, depression, and decreased self-esteem, which can affect their overall well-being.
2. Physical health effects:
The stress and trauma resulting from workplace bullying and harassment can lead to physical health issues, such as headaches, sleep disturbances, and an increased risk of cardiovascular problems.
3. Work-related outcomes:
Bullying and harassment can negatively affect job satisfaction, engagement, and performance, leading to increased absenteeism, decreased productivity, and even job turnover.
Consequence on Organization:
Workplace bullying and harassment not only impact individuals but also have significant consequences for the organization. These consequences include:
1. Decreased productivity:
When employees are subjected to bullying and harassment, their ability to focus and perform their duties may diminish. A hostile work environment can create distractions, undermine teamwork, and result in decreased productivity across the organization.
2. Increased turnover:
Persistent bullying and harassment can lead to high employee turnover rates as individuals seek to escape the toxic environment. The recruitment of new employees to replace those who leave incurs significant costs for the organization.
3. Damage to organizational reputation and culture:
Incidents of workplace bullying and harassment can tarnish an organization’s reputation. It sends a negative message about the organization’s values and culture, making it less attractive to potential employees and damaging relationships with clients, customers, and stakeholders.
How to Deal with Workplace Bullying
If you observe instances of bullying at your workplace, it’s important to address them immediately. Here are some tips for dealing with workplace bullying:
1. Maintain written records
Discreetly document incidents of bullying as they occur. These notes will be valuable in informing the HR department and providing substantiating evidence if the situation escalates.
2. Make a formal report
By reporting the bullying behaviour to your human resources department or manager, you ensure that the company takes appropriate action to address the issue safely and effectively.
3. Limit interactions
Minimize your interactions with the bully. This can help reduce the frequency of incidents while you work on finding a resolution.
4. Request cessation of behaviour:
Politely and professionally, ask the bully to stop their inappropriate conduct. Sometimes addressing the behaviour directly can put an end to it.
Roles of Organizations in Addressing Workplace Bullying
To address harassment or bullying allegations, corporations should take the following actions:
Conduct comprehensive training programs on recognizing and addressing abusive behaviour, stress management, and fostering workplace engagement.
Encourage employees to maintain healthy interpersonal relationships and promote civil communication within the workplace.
Establish clear rules for positive behaviour and communication, creating a supportive and respectful work environment.
Implement fair workload distribution and clearly define job roles, ensuring impartial treatment and supportive management.
Provide training for administrators to promote a supportive and positive approach to handling workplace issues.
Cultivate a positive organizational culture that discourages bullying by addressing factors such as excessive workload, low job autonomy, and workplace stress.
Take action when workplace bullying occurs, including disciplinary measures such as transferring the bully to a different unit or demotion, and if necessary, termination.
Provide employees with training on how to handle hostile behaviour, encouraging them to not take it personally and manage their emotions effectively,
By implementing these measures, both corporations and employees can work together to create a healthier and more respectful workplace environment.
Workplace bullying infringes on the rights of individuals possessing serious emotional and mental health issues to victims. As employees, it is crucial to recognize how your behaviour can contribute to workplace bullying and take necessary actions to prevent it.
However, as managers, you must be mindful of your conduct and ensure that everyone in the workplace feels free to raise concerns or address issues. By following the steps outlined in this presentation, you can safeguard yourself as an employee and contribute to maintaining a positive work environment.
If you ever find yourself where you feel threatened or harassed by your supervisor, do not hesitate to seek support.