What is Workplace Bullying? Shinning a Spot Light
Let’s get this straight off the bat: workplace bullying is a ravenous beast, feasting on the confidence and tranquillity of employees across the globe. It’s an ugly truth, but it’s the truth nonetheless.
What is Workplace Bullying?
Workplace bullying – sounds pretty grim, doesn’t it? That’s because it is. Think of it as the office equivalent of a schoolyard bully, but instead of stealing lunch money, they’re robbing your peace of mind, self-worth, and, often, career prospects.
I don’t want to come across as the Grim Reaper of office life, but it’s time we faced this beast head-on. Why? Because according to a 2017 study by the Workplace Bullying Institute, a staggering 19% of Americans have experienced bullying at work. That’s nearly one in five people! And here’s the kicker: 61% of bullies are bosses, the very people who should be fostering a positive work environment.
Recognising the Beast: What Constitutes Workplace Bullying?
So, what exactly is this beast we’re dealing with? Workplace bullying can encompass a variety of behaviours. We’re discussing verbal, nonverbal, psychological, or physical abuse and humiliation. It can include spreading malicious rumours, criticism beyond constructive, or open aggression.
Unlike a bull in a china shop, workplace bullying isn’t always easy to spot. It can be as subtle as a condescending tone or an exclusion from meetings. A bully doesn’t always come with a neon sign flashing “I’m a bully!”—more’s the pity.
The Boss Isn’t Always the Bad Guy
Remember those statistics we talked about? Yes, the ones that painted bosses as the primary villains? Well, here’s a plot twist: peers can be bullies too. Yup, the people you share your lunch break with complain about Mondays; they can also be the culprits. It’s a bit like finding out your favourite superhero is the antagonist.
The Invisible Wounds: Consequences of Workplace Bullying
What’s the big deal, you ask? A bit of workplace rough and tumble never hurt anyone, right? Think again. The impacts of workplace bullying can be severe and long-lasting. Victims may experience anxiety, depression, and even post-traumatic stress disorder (PTSD). It’s the equivalent of being repeatedly punched in the gut, but the bruises are on the inside.
Now, in the wise words of Sun Tzu, “If you know the enemy and know yourself, you need not fear the result of a hundred battles.” In that spirit, let’s look at some of the most common forms of workplace bullying, shall we?
The Insidious Art of Gaslighting
Ever felt like you’re losing your mind? Are you questioning your memory, perception, or sanity because of someone else’s actions or words? Welcome to gaslighting, the bully’s favourite psychological warfare tactic. It’s like being stuck in a twisted Wonderland where nothing is as it seems.
“The Bully has a Jekyll and Hyde nature – is vile, vicious and vindictive in private, but innocent and charming in front of witnesses; no one can (or wants to) believe this individual has a vindictive nature – only the current target of the serial bully’s aggression sees both sides; whilst the Jekyll side is described as “charming” and convincing enough to deceive personnel, management and a tribunal, the Hyde side is frequently described as “evil”; Hyde is the real person, Jekyll is an act.”.
This quote perfectly captures the essence of gaslighting, doesn’t it?
The Silent Treatment
Ignoring someone might seem like child’s play, but it’s a powerful manipulation tool in a professional setting. It’s the equivalent of being stranded on a deserted island, surrounded by people, yet utterly alone. As one famous quote goes, “If you let a bully intimidate you, he will do it again. You’ve got to stand up to these strong-arm tactics.”. The silent treatment is an intimidation tactic that can be as damaging as verbal or physical abuse.
The Power Play
Remember the days when power was about having the biggest stick? Well, in the office, it’s about control and influence. Bullies love pulling strings and controlling resources, opportunities, and information to maintain their grip on power. It’s like a puppet master pulling the strings, manipulating the marionettes. “The greater the power, the more dangerous the abuse.”
Power play can take various forms, from sidelining individuals during crucial projects to monopolising resources or withholding information. The bully, intoxicated by their power, becomes unreasonable and is persuaded only by threats; as one saying goes, “A bully is not reasonable – he is persuaded only by threats.”
The Blame Game
Ah, the blame game. The classic tactic of bullies everywhere. Made a mistake? Shift the blame onto someone else. Didn’t meet a deadline? Blame it on the team. It’s like being caught in a perpetual game of hot potato, except the potato is a ticking time bomb of blame.
Let’s take a moment to digest some alarming statistics: According to a 2023 study, 75% of employees have been affected by workplace bullying as a target or witness. Approximately 19.7% of adults in the U.S. experience workplace bullying on some level, while 70% of bullies are higher-ups such as managers or supervisors.
The Cost of Bullying
The cost of workplace bullying isn’t just emotional; it has a tangible financial impact too. Businesses pay an estimated $30k-$100k per individual who experiences harassment, which results in a 12-34% increase in employee turnover rate.
Think about that for a second. That’s a lot of money being funnelled into dealing with the fallout of workplace bullying. Imagine if that money was instead invested in creating a more positive, supportive, and respectful work environment. Food for thought, isn’t it?
Standing Up to the Beast: Dealing with Workplace Bullying
Here’s the million-dollar question: How do we stand up to this beast? How do we combat workplace bullying?
Well, first and foremost, we must acknowledge the problem. The first step to solving any problem is recognising that it exists. It’s like identifying the elephant in the room, no matter how uncomfortable that might be.
Remember, “Never be bullied into silence. Never allow yourself to be made a victim. Accept no one’s definition of your life; define yourself.”. You can stand up to bullying and reclaim your dignity and respect.
This doesn’t mean going into battle with your workplace bully single-handedly. It’s about engaging the right resources and taking the appropriate steps to address the issue.
Here are some steps you can take:
- Document everything: Keep a detailed record of each incident, including the date, time, location, people involved, what was said or done, and any actions taken.
- Speak up: Communicate your concerns to your supervisor, HR, or any designated person within your organisation.
- Seek support: Reach out to colleagues, friends, or a counsellor for emotional support. Remember, you’re not alone in this battle.
- Know your rights: Familiarise yourself with your company’s policies on bullying and harassment and the legal protections available to you.
- Practice self-care: Don’t let the bully steal your peace. Engage in activities that help you relax and de-stress.
The Bigger Picture: Workplace Culture and Policies
While individual action is crucial, addressing workplace bullying requires a systemic approach. It’s like treating a disease, not just the symptoms.
“Bullies thrive wherever authority is weak”. It implies that the issue is bigger than individual bullies; it’s about the culture and systems that allow bullying to thrive.
Organisations must foster a culture of respect and inclusivity, where diversity is celebrated, and everyone feels valued and heard. It involves implementing effective anti-bullying policies, training employees, and fostering open communication.
Additionally, organisations should invest in leadership development, as the study shows that 70% of bullies are higher-ups, such as managers or supervisors. Leaders should be role models of respect and empathy, not sources of fear and intimidation.
Frequently Asked Questions:
What constitutes workplace bullying?
Workplace bullying involves repeated and persistent negative actions towards one or more individuals that create a hostile work environment. This can include verbal or physical abuse, sabotage, manipulation, and the misuse of power.
How can I protect myself from workplace bullying?
There are several steps you can take to protect yourself from workplace bullying. These include documenting incidents, speaking up about your experiences, seeking support from colleagues or friends, familiarizing yourself with your company’s policies on bullying and harassment, and practising self-care.
What are the consequences of workplace bullying for businesses?
Workplace bullying can have serious financial implications for businesses. It’s estimated that businesses pay $30k-$100k per individual who experiences harassment, which can result in a 12-34% increase in employee turnover rate1. It can also damage a company’s reputation and morale.
Wrapping Up: The Stand Against Workplace Bullying
In conclusion, workplace bullying is a pervasive issue impacting individuals and organisations. It’s like a toxic cloud that pollutes the work environment, causing damage that’s often difficult to quantify.
However, we can combat workplace bullying by recognising the problem, taking individual action, and promoting systemic changes. After all, as one quote goes, “The place where you made your stand never mattered. Only that you were there… and still on your feet.”
Remember, you’re not alone in this battle. We all have a role to play in creating respectful and inclusive workplaces. So, are you ready to take a stand against workplace bullying?
*The information this blog provides is for general informational purposes only and is not intended as financial or professional advice. The information may not reflect current developments and may be changed or updated without notice. Any opinions expressed on this blog are the author’s own and do not necessarily reflect the views of the author’s employer or any other organization. You should not act or rely on any information contained in this blog without first seeking the advice of a professional. No representation or warranty, express or implied, is made as to the accuracy or completeness of the information contained in this blog. The author and affiliated parties assume no liability for any errors or omissions.