This weeks Workplace Wednesday topic is on Bullying
Bullying usually involves any incident or pattern of behavior that is intended to intimidate, offend, threaten, assault or humiliate a particular person or group of people at the work place. These behaviors would originate from customers, co-workers at any level of the organization. And contrary to popular belief, bullies don’t go after the weakest link, they tend to aim for the strongest. The Safety Council’s report states that bullies pick on capable, co-operative people they identify as a threat.It’s a grab for control by an insecure, inadequate person, an exercise of power through the humiliation of the target
What are examples of bullying?
There is a “fine line” between strong management and bullying. If you are not sure an action or statement could be considered bullying, you can use the “reasonable person” test. Would most people consider the action unacceptable? Then it could qualify as bullying. Actions such as spreading malicious rumors, gossip, or innuendo that is not true, excluding someone socially, intimidating or deliberately impeding a person’s work as well as physically abusing or threatening abuse are common forms of bullying. Also, removing areas of responsibilities without cause, constantly changing work guidelines, and establishing impossible deadlines that will set up the individual to fail, withholding or purposefully giving the wrong information all constitute bullying in the work place.
The list is just inexhaustible, besides making jokes that are ‘obviously offensive’ by spoken word or e-mail, intruding on a person’s privacy by pestering, spying or stalking are all unacceptable. Some bullies resort to yelling or using profanity, criticizing a person persistently, belittling a person’s opinions, blocking applications for training, leave or promotion, as well as tampering with a person’s personal belongings or work equipment.
The Burden of Bullying
Workplace bullies create a tremendous liability for the employer by causing stress-related health and safety problems, and driving good employees out of the organization. Bullied employees end up wasting their time at work by defending themselves and networking for support, thinking about the situation, being demotivated and stressed, not to mention taking sick leave due to stress-related illnesses. Furthermore, they may experience feelings of frustration, increased sense of vulnerability and loss of confidence. All these compromise their alertness and may lead to accidents and mistakes making the work place unsafe.
Moreover, bullies poison their working environment with low morale, fear, anger, and depression. The employer pays for this in lost efficiency and productivity, absenteeism, high staff turnover, poor customer service, severance packages and law suits. In extreme cases, a violent incident may be the tragic outcome.
The target’s family and friends also suffer the results of daily stress and eventual breakdown. Marriages suffer or are destroyed under the pressure of the target’s anxiety and anger. Friendships cool because the bullied employee becomes obsessive about the situation.
Note: Please watch out for Bullying prevention in the next edition of workplace Wednesday.
Adapted from: Violence in the Workplace Prevention Guide. CCOHS
Useful information: Violence, Bullying and Abuse Prevention
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