Bullying has been a concern linked to mental problems, stress, and suicides throughout the world. Primarily regarded as a childhood problem, bullying has been troubling adults as well.
Workplace bullying refers to repeated actions aimed towards employees meant to insult them. Actions like this pose a risk to employees’ health and safety.
There is a difference between bullying and aggression. Aggression usually involves a single act. In contrast, bullying behavior involves repeated actions against a target.
It is a current pattern of behavior.
Bullying at work involves an abuse of power. Intimidating, humiliating and degrading an employee are behaviors of bullying. It creates a feeling of helplessness in the bullying target.
Here are some examples of workplace bullying-
- Swear or curse at someone
- Ignore someone or someone’s opinions
- Criticize someone
- Blame someone without any reason
- Treat someone differently than others
- Isolate someone socially
- Target someone for practical jokes
- Humiliate someone
- Spread false rumors about someone
- Shout at someone
- Tell someone that they should quit
- Monitoring someone extremely
In recent times, “cyber-bullying” has seen a significant rise. Employees get bullied through social media.
Cyber-bullying happens because of the increasing use of technology in workplaces. It includes sharing offensive or private content about someone. As a result, this causes humiliation.
Characteristics and Traits of a Workplace Bully
One may not be a workplace bully by just displaying bullying behaviors.
A workplace bully has selfish motives and a complete lack of respect for others. He does not care for others and never considers them as equal. He uses all means necessary to impose his ways.
Some bosses may have high expectations from the employees to perform better. Such bosses may not necessarily be bullies. Bullying is generally done by employees to their peers.
Bullies display common behavioral traits such as anger and anxiety.
They are more likely to have a history of experiencing bullying in the past.
Bullies are also more likely to have experienced traumatic events in their lives. They are insecure about family relationships and friendships.
Also, they might suffer from low self-esteem. As a result, they pick on others.
An Australian study showed that bullies tend to come from dysfunctional families.
Workplace bullying is more likely to occur in stressful work conditions.
High workload, low job autonomy, and role uncertainty are signs of a workplace where bullying occurs.
Characteristics and Traits of a Target of Bullying in the Workplace
Research has found that employees bullied in the workplace also tend to be victims of anger and anxiety. They are usually more irritable than employees who are not bullied.
Furthermore, results show victims to be more intelligent than bullies. Such employees may outperform others and complete tasks faster in the workplace. As coworkers might not want this, they might force and bully such employees to lower the bar.
Also, older employees may bully new recruits.
What are the Effects of Workplace Bullying?
Bullying associates itself with various mental and physical disorders. Bullying in the workplace affects both employees and employers alike.
In a workplace where bullying occurs, staff turnover and absenteeism are high. Productivity and morale are low among employees. Besides physical problems, employees also suffer from stress and anxiety.
Furthermore, the creativity of the employees gets suppressed due to low self-esteem. This affects their ability to cope with difficult situations.
The health problems caused by bullying causes feelings of helplessness among employees.
Bullying in the workplace may cause employees to experience-
- Body aches and chronic neck pain
- Post-traumatic stress disorder
- Financial problems due to absenteeism
- Digestive problems
- Sleep Deprivation
- Lack of confidence and self-esteem
- Suicidal Tendencies
Bullying affects employers by the following-
- Low commitment to work
- Lack of job satisfaction among employees
- A high rate of absenteeism in the workplace
- Increased employee turnover
- Poor work environment
- Making replacements of bullied staff that leave
- Incurred costs of investigations and legal actions
Prevalence of Bullying in Different Parts of the World
Statistics show that prevalence estimates of bullying vary greatly from country to country.
For example, Sweden was the first country to research workplace bullying. It was the first country to pass an anti-workplace-bullying law in 1993. On the other hand, North America hasn't passed any legislation addressing workplace bullying. Also, in Canada, only 4 out of 10 provinces have passed such legislation.
One reason for this variation may be because of the presence or absence of legislation. While some countries have passed legislation addressing workplace bullying, many have yet to do so.
In a country where there is no legislation on workplace bullying, there may be bills which have been considered.
Moreover, this variation may also happen because countries may view bullying behaviors differently. One may not view traditional bullying behaviors as “bullying” while the other may do.
Ways to Prevent Workplace Bullying
The primary ways employers and employees can prevent workplace bullying are by-
Firstly, employers must recognize bullying as a real issue. Then they must intervene and implement training programs.
Secondly, employees must recognize that they are being bullied. They must know that they are not the source of the problem and that bullying is about control. They must also realize that it has nothing to do with their performance.
Employees must start recording details of bullying incidents such as phone calls and messages. They should also keep a diary to keep track of the date and time of the incidents.
After this, a bullied individual should report the bullying behavior to an appropriate person. Being prepared beforehand, they must expect the bully to deny their accusations. It is also imperative that they have a witness at the times when they are bullied.
Secondarily, employers should-
Promote stress management training, negative behavior awareness training, and workplace engagement in workplaces. They should encourage communication among employees.
Train their employees to be aware of their interpersonal impact. This will promote a civilized work environment.
Set a clear standard for positive behavior and communication in their workplaces. They must promote a healthy work environment.
Create a system where the workload is reasonable and the role is clarified. Treatment should be just and fair, and supportive leadership should be encouraged.
Provide managers with training to ensure fair and supportive treatment in the workplace. They must also empower victims of bullying.
Promote a positive work culture for a healthy workplace. Additionally, they must end factors of bullying such as low job autonomy, high workload, and high workplace stress.
Respond appropriately once bullying has occurred and reported. They need to punish a workplace bully by transferring him to a different department or demoting him. If required, they should fire him.
Offer professional counseling for victims of workplace bullying. This way they can share their experiences with a mental health professional and likewise, learn to cope with bullying.
Also, if bullying does occur, employees must be provided with the necessary skills to cope with it. Employees should be taught to ignore angry behavior and not to take such behavior personally. Most importantly, they must learn to regulate their emotions to cope with stress.
If the situation is just a conflict, some sort of mediation can be done. A third person may encourage a victim and a bully to work together, focusing on future relationships.
So, Why is it Important to Prevent Bullying in the Workplace?
Undoubtedly, it is high time that employers around the world view workplace bullying as the same as rape and sexual harassment.
Bullying in the workplace may lead to higher employee turnover and increased absenteeism. It causes a loss of productivity and also creates an inferior work environment. Furthermore, workplace stress increases and employee morale decreases.
It affects your employees' physical health as well as their mental health. Moreover, bullying in a workplace tarnishes the reputation of the company. This will also deter people from joining the company.
Preventing incidents of bullying in the workplace will have many benefits for employers. In a healthy work environment, there are productive and motivated employees.
Bullying in the workplace can have legal implications for a company. It can reduce potential customer confidence and tarnish a company’s reputation.
The bottom line is that workplace bullying has serious effects on a company and also its employees. Lastly, it is imperative for employers to try and end bullying in the workplace.
Decoding and Driving Employee Engagement