What Is Bullying?
Bullying can be defined as any act or comment that could psychologically, or ‘mentally’ harm or isolate someone in the workplace. Bullying can also include physical contact. Bullying is usually characterised by repeated acts or a pattern that is designed to intimidate or degrade a person or group of people. Bullying can also be described as asserting power through aggression.
Bullying can happen covertly or can be quite open and in front of an audience. Although it might be overlooked by senior staff, it could be well-known by others in the company. These negative effects can not only affect the individuals targeted, but also may cause a decrease in employee morale, a change of organisational culture, and overbearing supervision.
What are some examples of bullying?
Bullying is an aggressive form of violence, but it can also be subtle and obvious. The following does not include all types of bullying. It is impossible to predict who the bully will be or who the target may be.
Bullying behavior could be:
- Verbal. Verbal abuse could include jokes, mockery, humiliation or gossip.
- Intimidating. Threats, social exclusion at work, spying or other invasions may all be possible.
- This is related to work performance. These include wrongful blame, interference or work sabotage, theft or taking credit for ideas.
- Retaliatory. Talking about bullying can sometimes lead to accusations of lying or refusal of promotions.
- Institutional. Institutional bullying is when a workplace allows and encourages bullying to occur. These bullying behaviors can include making unrealistic production goals, requiring overtime, and shaming those who aren’t up to the task.
Bullying is a behavior that is repeated over and over again. This distinguishes it from harassment which is usually limited to one instance. Harassment can be persistent and even bullying. However, harassment is an action directed at a protected group of people. It’s illegal and not bullying.
What can you do?
- Get to it early
- Stand firm
- Document the abuse and the performance effects
- It’s important to understand it (is it just the bully that is the issue?).
- Take care of yourself outside of work (Have a healthy mindset).
- Talk to your manager (or someone else, if they are the bully).
- Talk to HR and someone in power
- Get Legal Advice
- Find a safer workplace if all else fails
Your health and safety should always be priority.
What to do if you witness bullying?
You can speak out if you see bullying. Bullying is something that people often ignore out of fear. However, it can lead to toxic work environments. People can feel more comfortable speaking out when bullying is occurring in the workplace by creating policies that allow conversation or reporting.
You can help if you witness bullying by:
- Offering support. If the victim wants to speak out, support could include acting as a witness. Your co-worker can also go to HR.
- Listening. Listening is important.
- Notifying the authorities about the incident. Your management team may benefit from your account of the incident.
- When possible, stay close to your coworker. Bullying can be reduced by having a support person nearby.
Bullying is a problem in many workplaces. Although many businesses have a zero tolerance policy, it is not always easy to spot or prove bullying, which makes it more difficult for managers and employees to take corrective action. Others may not have policies regarding bullying.
Employers and their employees can both benefit from taking steps to stop workplace bullying. You can take steps to stop bullying from happening without having to confront the perpetrator. Take care of yourself first and report it as soon as you can.
What a Workplace should do
A written policy is the best way to communicate management commitment. Employers may want to create a policy that addresses all aspects of bullying, harassment and violence in the workplace. Even if no policy is in place, employers have a legal duty to protect employees while they are at work. This includes dealing with bullying and harassment.