How bullies can steer business into toxic turns
WHEN we think of bullying we are often taken back to our school days, when students were preyed upon by what appeared to be lawless social predators.
Those who experienced bullying were often glad to see the end of their school days, wrongly assuming it meant the end of being bullied.
But unfortunately, that assumption has proven to be wrong for many. They entered the workforce and found a new type of problem — the workplace bully.
At a simplistic level, noting that the concept is often complicated, workplace bullying refers to any ongoing workplace behaviour that is threatening or harmful to the extent that it creates a risk to an employee’s health and safety. Such behaviours can be directed towards an individual or a group of colleagues.
Key workplace bullying behaviours can include ongoing and repeated abusive behaviour (including offensive language and yelling), belittling, victimisation and spreading malicious rumours.
More subtle bullying includes withholding information that is needed for effective work performance, denying access to required information or tools to perform duties and, in the case of a manager, setting tasks that are unreasonable or beyond an employee’s skill level.
Not all behaviour that makes an employee feel upset is necessarily workplace bullying. Managers and supervisors in the workplace have a responsibility to provide feedback, particularly when an individual’s performance is involved, but this should be carried out in a constructive way and not a demeaning or intimidating manner.
It is important to note the workplace bully’s behaviour is frequently not linked to how the bully feels about a particular victim.
Quite often, bullying occurs because of how bullies feel about themselves. The typical workplace bully often feels inferior to colleagues, and bullying behaviours are frequently a result of a lack of social and emotional maturity.
While employees often assume a prospective workplace bullying victim will be someone who appears to be vulnerable, this is not necessarily the case. Those employees, for example, who are exceptionally good at what they do or popular with their colleagues are also frequently targeted by bullies.
Bullying in the workplace has a range of consequences for both the victim and the organisation. It can result in stress, anxiety and other medical conditions for victims.
For organisations, the consequences can be just as severe. A bullying workplace culture often results in reduced productivity, increased absenteeism and costly legal issues. Victims of bullying should seek advice from a trusted individual in their organisation, for example a manager, or an HR professional.
Only if the victim feels comfortable should they approach the workplace bully and ask that the behaviour stops.
Workplace bullying is a scourge of the modern workplace.
All employees should play a key role to prevent it occurring.