A distasteful phrase that has become part of the lexicon of our society. Bullying, as we now understand, is not only limited to school kids on the playground. It’s actually a form of harassment that far too many working adults experience on a day-to-day basis.
There seems to be a renewed sense of urgency around identifying and dealing with this repugnant issue; primarily because of the more sensationalized cases of ‘alleged’ bullying which reportedly have culminated into such travesties as mass workplace shootings. Workplace violence is clearly a more sensationalized outcome of alleged bullying which thankfully is a rare occurrence. Yet it doesn’t detract from the fact that any level of bullying can have a negative impact on its victims and the workplace.
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How to Identify Workplace Bullying
There is not always a clear understanding of what behaviors constitute workplace bullying. It is important to note that one of the hallmarks of bullying is that the antagonistic behavior is focused on an individual or group of individuals and is repeated over time. That is not to say that a one time action does not constitute bullying, but the difference is the repeated attempts by the perpetrator to intimidate, embarrass, or emotionally break down their victims.
- Feel a perceived power or dominance over the victim
- See the victim as a threat to their position within the company
- View the victim as being too ‘different’
- Need a boost to his or her low self-esteem
According to the Safety and Health Assessment Research Report, (SHARP) on workplace bullying, examples of bullying include:
- Unwarranted or invalid criticism
- Blame without factual justification
- Being treated differently than the rest of your work group
- Being sworn at
- Exclusion or social isolation
- Being shouted at or being humiliated
- Excessive monitoring or micro-managing
- Being given unrealistic deadlines
The SHARP report further states that bullied employees “experience significant physical and mental health problems” which includes:
- Reduced self-esteem
- Musculoskeletal problems
- Work withdrawal and sickness absence
- Sleep and digestive disturbances
- Increased depression/self-blame
- Family tension and stress
- High stress, post-traumatic stress disorder (PTSD)
- Financial problems due to absence
Employers should recognize that bullying is not limited to the rank and file. Supervisors can and do bully their colleagues or direct reports. Bullying of direct reports is a form of bullying that is more insidious in that it is often cloaked under the guise of dealing with a ‘difficult’ employee.
Your first step as an employer is to communicate to all staff that bullying will not be tolerated. All organizations, regardless of the size should have a written policy in place that highlights your company’s stance on bullying and the consequences of the behavior.
Be sure that your employees are aware of who they can reach out to within your organization to confidentially report any workplace issues. Most importantly, take action if you suspect bullying or if it has been reported to you.
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