Bullying in the Workplace

We often hear about bullying in the schoolyard and as a result can associate bullying as being a problem for children. However bullying in the workplace is also very common and is perhaps not recognised or reported to the extent that it should be. Bullying crosses all divides. Bullying can be hierarchical, peer or upwards. In the U.K. the national Workplace Bullying Advice Line and Bully on Line reported that 75% of bullying cases involved individuals being bullied by their managers and around a quarter of cases where an individual is bullied by peers. In this situation managers are often aware of what is going on but do not take any action and 1-2% of cases involve a manager being bullied by a subordinate. Bullying can be carried out by an individual, a pair or a group.  More women tend to be bullied than men. In an ESRI (Economic Social Research Institute) Report in 2007 it showed that women were 10.7% more at risk than men . Also, a survey carried out in 2010 by the Institute of Bullying in the US showed 58% of women were targets whilst men were at 42%. This survey showed that the figures went up for women targeting other women from the previous survey carried out in 2007.

“Bullying in the workplace is repeated aggression, verbal, psychological or physical, conducted by an individual or group against another person or persons. Bullying is where aggression or cruelty, viciousness, intimidation or a need to humiliate dominates the relationship. Isolated incidents of aggressive behaviour, while to be condemned, should not be described as bullying. In the workplace environment there can be conflicts and interpersonal difficulties. Many of these are legitimate industrial relations difficulties which should be dealt with through the appropriate industrial relations channels. Only aggressive behaviour which is systematic and ongoing should be regarded as bullying.” (The Health and Safety Authority)

In the workplace there are several types of bullying and they are: 

Corporate Bullying: This is where employers take advantage of employees knowing that jobs are scarce. They often;
Expect employees to work longer hours than they are paid for.
Are dismissive of anyone suffering from stress whilst ignoring the causes.
Regularly snoop on employees by listening to phone conversations, use mystery shoppers, and contact clients/customers behind employees backs asking leading questions.
Client Bullying: This is where an employee is bullied by the people they work for, e.g. teachers can be bullied by students/parents. A recent online survey by the teachers union NASUWT (UK) showed more than two thirds of the 3,000 teachers polled experienced or witnessed workplace bullying in the past 12 months. Nurses can be bullied by patients/relatives, social workers by clients. In shops, banks etc employees can be bullied by customers.
Institutional Bullying: This is where bullying is so entrenched in an organisation that it is the norm. Some examples of this type of bullying are as follows: 
Long-existing contracts are replaced with new short-term contracts on less favourable terms with the accompanying threat of "agree to this or else". 
People are moved, roles and/or schedules are changed, workloads are increased, and job progression is made more difficult or can be blocked.
All of the above happens without consultation.
Cyber Bullying: This is bullying by text or e-mail.
Organisational Bullying is a combination of pressure bullying and corporate bullying. Pressure bullying happens in a stressful situation where a person loses their temper, shouts, is irritable. When the situation calms down the person’s behaviour returns to normal. During this time they become aware of their behaviour,  may apologise and do not repeat this behaviour.
Serial Bullying: This is where a bully picks on one person after another.
Secondary Bullying:This is where people unwittingly bully and it usually happens where there is a serial bully in the workplace.

Bullying is often difficult to see especially when a person looks at the incidents individually as they can seem small, insignificant and out of context. The following are some examples of what makes up bullying. This list is not inclusive.
Nit picking, criticism under the guise of constructive criticism.
Denied information /knowledge that is necessary to undertake work or to achieve objectives.
Being subjected to offensive bad language, ridicule, being shouted at.
Constant undermining especially in front of others.
Withholding information.
Aggressive/obscene language.
Blamed for problems caused by others.
Always given too much to do, so that you regularly fail in your work.
Regularly threatened with dismissal.
Unfairly passed over for promotion or denied training opportunities.
Repeated requests with impossible deadline or impossible tasks.
Being belittled or demeaned in front of others.
Social isolation /exclusion. 
Goal posts constantly shifting with work.
Nothing is ever good enough.
Work is been constantly corrected. 
Being overloaded with work or work being taken away and being given menial tasks or no work at all. 
Work increased but no authority.
Forced to work long hours, often without remuneration and under threat of dismissal
Find requests for leave have unacceptable and unnecessary conditions attached, sometimes overturning previous approval, especially if the person has taken action to address bullying in the meantime
Denied annual leave, sickness leave, or especially compassionate leave
When on leave, are harassed by calls at home or on holiday, often at unsocial hours.

Effects of Bullying 

Bullying can have a serious impact on a person’s physical and emotional health. Some of the symptoms are as follows:
Work performance deteriorates.
Poor concentration, forgetfulness.
Tearfulness, irritability, angry outbursts, hyper vigilant.
Dread going into work.
Self-worth, self-esteem and confidence takes a nose dive with a person constantly feeling unsure of themselves and questioning and doubting themselves and their performance.
Feelings of anxiety and stress.
Fear, shame guilt.
Panic Attacks.
Difficulties with sleep.
Stress related illnesses and headaches.
Can lead to suicide.

Bullying is a form of abuse. It can have a devastating effect on a person’s emotional and physical health and it happens to some extent in all organisations. More often than not a person will either put up with the bullying or tend to leave. In a lot of cases where a person makes a complaint or tries to do something about it, it is not dealt with in a proper and comprehensive manner even though there are company policies in place to deal with this specifically. Whilst the above is only a brief overview,  if you think that you are being bullied in your workplace my advice would be to educate yourself on what bullying is all about. This information helps to empower you and you can then make real choices as to what is best for you.
 © Copyright 2012 Anne-Marie Hearne