Bullying doesn't just happen to kids at school; it is a very real problem in the workplace as well. Millions of days are lost to businesses each year as a result of absenteeism caused by bullying. Bullying results in low morale, lower productivity and high staff turnover. Surveys suggest bullying is responsible for 30 – 50% of all stress related illnesses in the workplace.
Have you ever been bullied by your boss? Have you witnessed a co-worker being
bullied by a supervisor? A recent study by the U.S. National Institute for
Occupational Safety and Health suggests that most incidents of workplace
bullying are between employees, rather than perpetuated by a supervisor.
Frankly, we find that very difficult to believe. Can it be true that most
workplace bullying is by co-workers?
We believe a survey recently publish by the British Trade
Union Congress on workplace bullying is highly significant. According to the survey, 2 million workers claim to have been bullied in the six months leading up to November 2005. What is particularly striking about this British evidence for workplace bullying is that it is senior managers, rather than co-workers, who are singled out as the worst offenders when it comes to acts of workplace bullying.
We think bullying by bosses is stupid because it is counterproductive. It is estimated that 18 million working days per year are lost through the effects of workplace bullying in the UK alone.
Are bullying bosses just a British phenomenon? Use the Submit a Story page to tell us what you think.
What is Bullying at Work?
Bullying at work is basically any behaviour that is malicious, intimidating, insulting or upsetting. It is a deliberate attempt by a colleague or boss to undermine, intimidate or control you. Bullying tends to be sustained over a long period rather than being a one off occurrence. Bullies rarely commit a physical attack but instead use more psychological tactics. The emotional problems that the victim experiences can be very hard to deal with. Any of the following can be regarded as bullying behaviour:
- Being humiliated in public or shouted at
- Blocking access to training/overtime and other benefits
- Spreading malicious rumours
- Persistent criticism that is undeserved
- Setting impossible deadlines – setting you up to fail
- Offensive reference to sex, race, age, etc
- Exclusion from meetings or communications that are relevant to your job
A bully may be quite subtle when talking to you in front of other people, but when you are on your own with them, you may be subject to explosive outbursts.
Bullies will quite often try to wear you down by placing unreasonable demands on you. They may accuse your standard of work or accuse you of not pulling your weight.
What can you do about it?
Admit that you are being bullied
The first step you need to take is to acknowledge the fact you are being bullied. If you just try to ignore it, the problem will not go away.
Stand up for yourself
Try not to show the bully that their behaviour has upset you. Try to improve your assertiveness and communication skills. Look at your body language, don't stoop or hang your head. Stand up straight with confidence and maintain eye contact. If you stand up to the bully rather than just take it lying down, chances are the bully may lose interest and turn their attentions elsewhere. Bullies prey on people that accept their bad behaviour. Don't give them an easy ride – simply choose not accept the way they treat you. If they speak to you abusively, stand up to them and ask why they are treating you so badly. Tell them how their behaviour is affecting you. If they know that they are always going to have to account for their behaviour, your direct approach will potentially reduce the chances of them bullying you in the future.
Make a case
Gather information about this person. Is it just you they are targeting or are they bullying anyone else? Build a case to show the negative impact they are having on the workplace.
Keep a diary of bullying tactics. Make sure you include specific incidences and record exactly what was said. Specifics are much more useful than vague recollections.
Write a memo to the person concerned stating your criticism of the way you are being treated. Make sure you copy in your Human Resources manager. If you are called into a meeting, request that a colleague or friend comes in with you.
Request that your Human Resources department spell out clearly their policy on bullying.
What if the company does nothing?
Talk to friends
Talk to your friends and supportive colleagues. Don't try to deal with the problems on your own.
Don't be embarrassed to seek professional help
If you have been badly affected as a result of bullying, seek professional help. Your family doctor can refer you to counsellors and psychologists. Bullying causes stress, which can, over a sustained period of time have very harmful effects on your body. Symptoms of prolonged stress include tiredness/feeling run down, difficulty sleeping, headaches, heartburn, stomach ulcers, high blood pressure and heart disease.
Know when it's time to move on
You need to ask yourself whether it is worth the stress of staying on. Some bullies will not back down and will continue to make your life hell. Is your job really worth it? If it is just the individual that is the problem, then the problem may be worth tackling, but in some cases the organisation may have a ‘bullying culture'. Why would you want to continue to work in an organisation that supports bullying?
Take some time out and make a list of what you are good at. Document your achievements and update your CV. Take this opportunity to push your career in a more fulfilling direction. Your health and sanity are much more important.
If you have experienced being bullied at work or if you have any tips on how you have dealt with a bully, please share it with us here.
Most Workplace Bullying is Worker to Worker, Early Findings From NIOSH Study Suggest
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