Workplace mistreatment is an issue that goes beyond forms of discrimination based on legally protected characteristics. It often arises when individuals feel threatened by the competence and empathy of their colleagues. Unfortunately this problem is alarmingly prevalent, across workplaces affecting one third of Australian workers throughout their careers. Academic institutions, such as universities are particularly vulnerable to this issue as evidenced by reports from Ombuds. Within settings, faculty members, those in junior or off tenure stream positions are frequently targeted.
Subtle Yet Harmful Behaviours
While workplace mistreatment can occasionally manifest as arguments or rudeness it primarily takes on forms. These subtle yet harmful behaviours erode an individuals dignity. They may include;
- Disregard; Intentionally excluding someone and disregarding their contributions.
- Overburdening with Tasks; Imposing a workload, on an individual.
- Spreading Gossip; Engaging in gossip to tarnish someones reputation.
- Unfair Treatment; Subjecting someone to unjust practices.
- Targeting and Undermining; Consistently singling out and undermining a person.
- Withholding Information; Keeping information from an individual.
- Denying Opportunities; Hindering training or advancement prospects.
These subtle behaviours persist over time to the dynamics of violence trapping the targeted employee, in a relationship characterised by belittling, intimidation, humiliation or disempowerment. Victims often live in fear of degradation resulting in significant emotional psychological, economic and physical harm. This includes anxiety, depression, sleeplessness, high blood pressure, substance abuse issues, post traumatic stress disorder (PTSD) thoughts of suicide, heart disease and stress related illnesses. In cases it can even lead to job loss. This critical concern affects not the affected individuals but their families and necessitates the involvement of the psychiatric community.
The Role of Organisational Culture
Addressing workplace abuse necessitates organisations recognising that it is not a problem but rather a systemic issue deeply rooted in organisational culture. Bullies can be found across organisations; however they thrive when the organisational culture tolerates or even encourages behaviours such as gossiping, manipulating others for gain or power plays through exclusion and sabotage or unethical decision making.
In environments new employees quickly realise that they must adopt these behaviours to fit in or avoid becoming targets themselves. Such cultures often create cliques based on shared dislike, towards individuals or practices than fostering healthy social relationships. In groups maintain their power by targeting individuals who challenge the established norms bring innovation or expose behaviour.
Three Strategies to Address Workplace Abuse
Incorporate Feedback from Sources; of relying solely on top down evaluations it’s beneficial to gather feedback from those directly impacted by an employees actions. This approach encourages accountability and personal growth by providing a perspective, on an employees influence.
Gather Insights into Workplace Experiences; Organisations can assess the prevalence of abuse. Use tools to evaluate the frequency of bullying behaviours. Offer insights into the overall work environment.
Establish Comprehensive Workplace Bullying Policies; It is crucial for organisations to have defined policies that outline what constitutes abuse. These policies should also provide channels for reporting incidents safeguarding whistle-blowers identities and conducting training programs focused on addressing bullying behaviour. Additionally having independent departments responsible, for handling abuse reports can help mitigate conflicts of interest.
Workplace mistreatment is an issue deeply ingrained within organisations that tolerate or endorse behaviours. To eliminate it and foster positive, innovative and empathetic work environments institutions must embrace feedback from sources evaluate the extent of mistreatment and establish policies that safeguard the dignity of all employees. It is essential that every individual is treated with fairness and respect, in the workplace.
Recognising Workplace Mistreatment; A Comprehensive Guide
Workplace mistreatment extends beyond the image of victims facing hostile perpetrators. In reality victims of workplace mistreatment often possess qualities such as intelligence, social skills, ethics and a strong sense of justice. This paradoxical situation arises because bullies may target individuals they envy or perceive as threats. Addressing this issue effectively requires us to identify the indicators of workplace mistreatment and challenge our notions about it.
Recognising Workplace Mistreatment; Key Steps
Challenging Assumptions About Offenders; Workplace mistreatment can occur at any level within an organisation. According to the 2010 Workplace Bullying Survey findings 72 percent of bullies are in positions of authority or management; moreover gender does not significantly predict bullying behaviour. Among these bullying figures, in authority roles 62 percent are men while 58 percent are women.
Furthermore it has been found that 68 percent of instances of abuse involve same sex harassment with a majority of bullies targeting women. By stereotypes we can address abusive behaviour, in the workplace. To effectively handle abuse it is important to understand the psychology behind bullies. Experts like Harvey Hornstein describe bullies as individuals who harbor seated insecurities and compensate for their fears by undermining others. They often employ tactics such as “mobbing,” gathering a group to engage in a campaign of abuse against a target. This includes actions like innuendos publicly discrediting the victim and other malicious behaviours aimed at coercing the victim into resignation or termination.
In order to address workplace abuse effectively it is crucial to familiarise ourselves with indicators that someone may be a victim. Despite the prevalence of abuse 15 percent of workers reported witnessing co-worker bullying according to a study conducted in 2010. This suggests that workplace abuse has become so normalised that people often fail to recognise it. Victims may exhibit signs such as feelings of defencelessness experiencing injustice or indignity which might not be immediately apparent. It is important to pay attention to indicators such as stress or stress related illnesses among employees or colleagues.
Taking action, against workplace bullying should be prioritised by implementing a bullying” policy within your organisation if you hold a management position. Establishing a reporting program ensures that employees can safely report incidents of abuse without fearing retaliation. It is crucial to convey a zero tolerance policy towards bullying and consider the possibility of hiring a consultant who specialises in addressing workplace abuse. This will help establish a work environment, for everyone.
Workers Rights in the Workplace; Dealing with Verbal Abuse
Dealing with abuse from either a co-worker or supervisor can be highly challenging especially considering the need for interaction with these individuals within the workplace. As a leader in your organisation it is essential to take steps to protect your employees from mistreatment.
Understanding the Prevalence of Abuse
According to statistics provided by the Workforce Bullying Institute in 2017 19 percent of workers in the United States reported experiencing workplace bullying with verbal abuse being one of the common forms. Frequently individuals perpetrating this kind of abuse hold ranking or leadership positions within their companies and may have a supportive network that tolerates or even encourages this behaviour. These individuals often derive their self worth, from demeaning others.
Recognising Verbal Mistreatment
Verbal mistreatment can appear in forms, such, as criticising someone for minor mistakes or speaking in a condescending manner to undermine them. Individuals who engage in mistreatment may present themselves charmingly when interacting with authority figures while mistreating their colleagues. It’s important to be attentive to the indications of mistreatment even if they contradict the perpetrators outward persona.
Taking Action as a Business Leader
As a business leader it is your responsibility to establish a work environment that’s free from mistreatment. To accomplish this consider the steps;
- Foster a Culture of Respect; Cultivate a culture that values respect, kindness and open communication. Ensure these values are consistently emphasised and upheld.
- Implement Anti Mistreatment Policies; Develop and enforce policies explicitly addressing mistreatment in the workplace, including mistreatment. Make these policies easily accessible, to all employees and communicate the consequences of violating them.
- Encourage Reporting; Establish a reporting system that enables employees to report instances of mistreatment without fear of reprisal. Ensure that these reports are taken seriously and promptly addressed.
- Provide Training; Offer training programs to educate employees about recognising signs of mistreatment and how to respond appropriately. Provide individuals with the resources to intervene and report cases of mistreatment.
- Lead through demonstration; As a leader establish a precedent by treating every employee with dignity and addressing any unacceptable conduct promptly and uniformly.
In summary taking action, against abuse, including mistreatment, necessitates proactive steps. By stereotypes comprehending the mindset of bullies and fostering an atmosphere of respect leaders can cultivate a secure and welcoming work environment that allows employees to thrive without the fear of mistreatment. Learn more by getting in touch with one of our team.
David Alssema is a Body Language Expert and Motivational Speaker. As a performer in the personal development industry in Australia he has introduced and created new ways to inspire, motivate and develop individuals.
David Alssema started his training career with companies such as Telstra and Optus Communications, and then developed Neuro-Linguistic Programming (NLP) within workplace training as principal of Paramount Training & Development.
As an author/media consultant on body language and professional development David has influenced workplaces across Australia. He contributes to Media such as The West Australian, ABC Radio, Australian Magazines and other Australia Media Sources.