Workplace bullying is defined as a pattern that involves persistent mistreatment from one or several people in the workplace. It includes regular incidents intended to humiliate, offend and of course intimidate an individual or a group of people.
Meaning of workplace bullying
Workplace bullying is a persistent behavior that is meant to cause emotional, mental and in some cases, physical harm. People involve several tactics like physical, psychological, non-verbal and verbal abuse along with degradation and humiliation to put others in their place.
It is a kind of workplace aggression that happens within the established rules and regulations of a professional environment so that it does not stand out.
Workplace bullying is generally conducted by people who have authority over the victim and can include peers, someone from management, colleagues and in some cases, subordinates. Blocking promotions, constant criticism and overbearing supervision are part and parcel of workplace bullying tactics.
Examples of workplace bullying
Bullying is an activity that encourages the assertion of power through constant aggression and high-handed means. It can be both obvious or settle form. Some prime examples of workplace bullying are as follows-
- Intimidating an individual or a group
- Isolating someone entirely so that he does not have a support group to fall back on
- Spreading of innuendo, gossip, and rumors with malicious intent
- Tampering with someone’s work equipment
- Undeserved punishment
- Making offensive jokes
- Purposefully withholding important information
- Mocking someone’s opinions regularly with the intention of humiliation on a repeated basis
- Criticizing persistently
- Giving wrong information with an intent to harm
- Stalking and pestering by spying on someone’s privacy
- Destroying an individual’s personal belongings
- Using profanity
- Encouraging the feeling of uselessness in an individual
- Creating unnecessary pressure by assigning unreasonable workload
- Creating impossible deadlines so that the person is unable to meet them at any cost
- Changing work guidelines to create constant confusion
- Removing someone from his position without cause
- Abuse in the form of threatening or physical harm
- Deliberately undermining an individual’s work
How does workplace bullying take place?
The target of bullies are people who are weaker than them, and that can be either physically or mentally. They generally target people who are-
- Bullies are very smart, and they target people who they feel are a threat to them. More often than not, the target is the most skilled or competent person who is regularly praised by superiors for his performance. The competencies of a particular person threaten bullies as it throws a spotlight on their shortfall. The only workable way for them at this point is to sabotage the work of that person or spread malicious lies and rumor so that they can elevate their status at his expense.
- Bullies tend to target people who they feel are vulnerable and who cannot confront or report them to higher authorities. They thrive on power and look at meek and submissive people who have a non-confrontational personality. They also are on the look-out for new entrants and inexperienced people who have not yet found their feet in the organization.
- It is a fact that women are targeted more frequently than men as part of workplace bullying. The bullies believe that women are generally inferior to them and do not belong in the professional atmosphere which has been the stronghold of men and this is why they go after the all horns blazing
- Workplace bullies want to appear in control in front of others to conceal their insecurities and inefficiencies. They target people who easily mingle with others and who are ready to compromise and collaborate within a team. The bully resents associations and friendship and lashes out because of frustration because he is unable to become a part of someone’s inner circle.
- Ethical, honest and fair people are a target of workplace bullying because bullies do not like individuals with strong integrity and moral code as it is in direct contrast with their values
- Racism is also part of workplace bullying, and the bullies often target people who they consider are beneath them
Results of workplace bullying on a person
The victim who is the target of workplace bullying can experience several physical and emotional reactions like
- Low morale
- Lack of concentration
- Decreased productivity at work
- Panic attacks
- Muscle tension
- Abdominal pains
- Appetite loss
- Confidence loss
- Increased vulnerability
Effects of workplace bullying on an organization
Workplace bullying has a direct as well as an indirect impact on the professional environment because it leads to an unhealthy workplace. The effects of workplace bullying at an organization are as follows-
- Increased employee turnover
- Low employee morale at the workplace
- The high rate of absenteeism
- High levels of stress
- Increase in cost for recruitment and EAPs
- Inefficient customer service
- Lack of customer confidence in the products and services of a company
- Downward corporate image
- Low morale
- Lack of motivation in the employees at the workplace
- Greater risk of accidents
How to handle workplace bullying?
The first step is accepting the fact that you are being bullied in the workplace because this acknowledgment will give you the confidence to act against it. If you are a victim of workplace bullying, then the victim must take help of the following suggestions-
- We have often heard that silence is golden, but it is not applicable in the workplace where a person is being bullied. The victim considers it as a defense mechanism, but it helps to escalate the issue. Stop ignoring the fact that you are being bullied and articulate it explicitly if you are looking for ways to handle this problem
- Recognize your inner strength, self-introspect and look at your choices so that you can deal with the challenge.
- Tell the bully that his behavior is not acceptable and ask him to stop firmly.
- Raise your concern to someone whom you trust. You can also contact the human resource department and log your complaint. Remember, when you register a complaint, it will encourage others to come forward and add to your voice.
- If you think that you or someone you know is being bullied at the workplace, you can understand about the rights of the victim to tackle this issue seriously.
- Start collecting your evidence against the bully. This can include emails, SMS, phone calls and CCTV footage.
- Keep a journal of daily events where you record the time and date along with the details of the incident as it happened. Make sure you also register the names of the witness that were present during the incident so that they can raise their voices on your behalf. It is essential to know the number and frequency of workplace bullying to establish a pattern.
- Do not take back your complaint under any circumstances. The bully will try to intimidate you further but make sure you stick to your point and do not take a step back.
- The one thing a victim should not do is retaliate because then you will become the bully, and this will never help your cause.
Steps the management or employer can take to handle workplace bullying
It is the management who comes under the scanner for every wrongdoing in the workplace. It must feel such a sensitive issue by implementing a workplace violence prevention program. It should include-
- The program must be represented and consequently developed by the representatives from both management and employees
- The rules and regulations should apply to everyone in the company and who is related to the company in the same way to avoid discrimination of any type
- Define the term workplace bullying in detail so that there is no confusion in the minds of the one who is bullying that he is crossing the limits from this point onwards
- State clearly and precisely what are the acceptable working conditions so that what is unacceptable is defined in bold letters
- Make sure that the view of the organization towards workplace bullying is explicitly mentioned to prevent any such issues
- The consequences of threatening anyone must be written down
- Outline the preventive measures against workplace bullying
- Encourage the victims to report incidences. Take steps to assure them that their voice will be heard and unacceptable behavior will not go unpunished
- Some of the victims might feel threatened and lack the necessary courage to come forward. Outline the confidential process of reporting the incident to safeguard his identity.
- Make sure everyone in the workplace knows that there will be no reprisals for the employees reporting a case of bullying
- The program committee must outline the process involved in investigating and resolving complaints
- Make sure that the program is seen as a firm commitment by the employees to stop workplace bullying
- Outline the preventive measures the company is implementing to prevent any bullying incident
- The program should be seen as a firm commitment by the management that will include regular monitoring and reviewing