When we think of bullying, the images we imagine are most often those of children or teens being bullied either at school or in social groups. The reality though is that bullying is not exclusive to the young or to those in school. Workplace bullying happens, and more often than we like to think about.
While it may look different on the surface, it is just as damaging and has just as significant of an impact as the schoolyard bullying that we associate with bullying. Recent statistics point to almost 45% of polled employees stating that they feel, or have recently felt, bullied in their workplace. That is a staggering number of persons affected by behaviour that is rarely talked about.
What does workplace bullying look like?
Bullying behaviour in a workplace can generally be classified as behaviour that is:
- Abusive (verbally or emotionally , rarely physically in the workplace)
- An abuse of power or position of authority.
The ways that these behaviours manifest vary but often the following are present:
- Undermining or deliberately impeding a person’s work.
- Constantly changing work guidelines
- Withholding necessary information
- Yelling or using profanities
- Persistent and/or abusive criticism
- Unwarranted or excessive punishment
- Blocking opportunities for advancement
- Threatening loss of job or position
- Belittling a person opinions or beliefs
- Spreading malicious rumours or gossip
- Assigning unreasonable duties or workloads demands.
Essentially, it is behaviour that makes the person being bullied feel vulnerable, threatened, upset or humiliated.
It can be hard to discern between a person who has an aggressive nature in a business workplace or has a poor communication skills and a bully. There is a distinct difference between a situational conflict between co-workers, which can be a normal part of workplace environment, and a person who is exhibiting bullying behaviour towards another.
Bullying can be often be categorized as:
- Chronic – these are often the most problematic types of bullies to deal with as they have habitual, long-standing behaviour; most likely developed long before they entered the workforce.
- Opportunistic – the type of person who is competitive, striving for a promotion or credit for work.
- Accidental – a person who is genuinely unaware of the impact their behaviour has on others.
- Substance Abusers – a person whose behaviour is impacted by drug and/or alcohol use or abuse.
While many personal reasons and history factor into why a person may exhibit bullying behaviour, the most important things to consider in the workplace are: how to identify it and how to rectify the situation.
What Can You Do About It?
If you are being bullied, some ways to take the first steps are:
- Tell someone about it. Just like we tell our children, follow the same advice. Speak to a manager or human resource person within your company about your concerns. If needed, go outside your company to your local workplace health and safety organization.
- If possible, directly address the specific behaviour and the impact of the behaviour with the person. Try to relate how their behaviour makes you feel and why it needs to stop. While this is hard step, ignoring or denying the situation will not make them go away or improve. Thoughtful and concise action is needed to rectify the situation.
Once you’ve addressed the issues, find ways to manage the impact that it has, or continues to have, on your well-being.
With direct focus and attention to the matter we can all work to stop bullying in the workplace