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Workplace Bullying

Workplace bullying can often be hard to identify and even harder to manage. It comes in many forms, occurs at every level and is often unnoticed and unaddressed until it leads to more devastating consequences

All managers have the right and the authority to manage and strong management is not the same as bullying, but all managers should ask themselves the following questions:

  • Is the criticism constructive or destructive?
  • Is the criticism about the mistake, or about the person?
  • Is it designed to make the person aware of their error and to get it right in future, or just to humiliate them?

There is a very fine line between strong management and bullying, but when the sufferer becomes distressed, that line is crossed.

If you genuinely feel you are being treated unfairly by a boss or colleague, it is possible you are being bullied. Although there is no comprehensive list of bullying behaviours, and there is no one type of person who is likely to be a bully, the list below should give an idea of some behaviour which constitutes workplace bullying.

  • Harassment
  • Teasing
  • Gossiping
  • Competent staff being constantly criticised, having responsibilities removed or being given trivial tasks to do
  • Shouting at staff
  • Sabotaging team efforts
  • Persistently picking on people in front of others or in private
  • Blocking promotio
  • Regularly and deliberately ignoring or excluding individuals from work activities
  • Verbal intimidation
  • Setting a person up to fail by overloading them with work or setting impossible deadlines
  • Overruling decisions without a rationale
  • Consistently attacking a member of staff in terms of their professional or personal standing
  • Incivility
  • Regularly making the same person the butt of jokes
  • Purposely withholding business information
  • Demeaning others
  • Manipulation

Why do people bully?

There are a number of reasons why people might use bullying at work, but what shows up clearly across a number of studies is that bullies have a great need to control other people, either openly or indirectly. Many bullies are in positions of authority, as managers or supervisors. It may be that they are driven by envy and insecurity about their own competence, and that this emerges in their desire to keep any possible rivals down.

Bullying is essentially cowardly. The bully hides his or her own inadequacies, while making out that other people are at fault. The bully may see the other person as more capable, successful, popular or attractive than they are. The targets of bullying are usually above average performers, much more efficient and better at what they do than the bully. Less common reasons include race, gender or disability, being vulnerable, timid or unassertive, or reporting unacceptable working practices including bullying. (www.mind.org.uk)

What you can do if affected by bullying

Keep a record. Whenever you have been subjected to an act of bullying, make notes in writing of the incident, what was said and/or done, when and where it happened, who was responsible for the act, how you felt about it, potential witnesses and so on. Notes are required to provide the necessary evidence if successful action is to be taken against the person or persons responsible for the bullying.

  • As bullying can increase the feeling of isolation, it is important to speak to someone about what is happening to you.
  • Do not retaliate. However hard it may be, it is important to refrain from retaliation as you may get seriously hurt or in trouble.
  • Complain in writing formally about what is happening to you. If possible, gather enough evidence to demonstrate there has been a consistent pattern of negative behaviour directed at you and include this with your complaint. Ensure you keep copies of all evidence and correspondence. Your company should have a complaints and grievance policy and it is important you follow the procedure written in the policy.
  • If you are not the one being bullied, but you see it happening to someone else, offer your colleague support and encourage them to follow the above steps.

Other steps to take

  • If you are a member, contact your union representative
  • If your health is affected, speak to your Doctor
  • Visit Andrea Adams Trust

The effects of bullying

Bullying is recognised as a major cause of stress in the workplace and the law stresses it must be dealt with in the same way as any other health and safety hazard. If an employer fails to acknowledge and/or tackle bullying, they may find themselves affected by the following:

  • Lost time due to staff ill health caused by stress
  • Lost incentive bullying affects the morale of those concerned
  • Poor work quality
  • Reduction and/or loss of resources trained, skilled and experienced people leave the organisation
  • Reduced work output
  • Loss of reputation
  • Financial penalties especially if a case is taken to an Employment Tribunal
  • Most importantly, they are breaking the law.

Under the Health and Safety at Work Act 1974 employers have a responsibility to ensure the health, safety and welfare of their employees. Failure to do this is in breach of an individuals employment contract and they could find themselves facing fines, compensation and even a jail sentence.

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