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Workplace Bullying

Workplace Bullying: The Silent Epidemic Affecting Millions!

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Workplace bullying is yet another unaddressed issue that comes with critical consequences. Statistically, forty-six to fifty-five percent of people in Indian workplaces are being bullied while American workplaces observe thirty percent of bullying at the workplace and Germany witnesses seventeen percent of workplace bullying. Even people working remotely have reported bullying at the workplace which appears to be a solid forty-three percent of the workforce switching modes of working because of this evil. The amounts are not non-negligible but rarely any effective action is taken against this. We will undertake this topic in this article to explore the insights about workplace bullying.

What is Workplace Bullying?

According to the Australian Human Rights Commission, workplace bullying is defined as any type of abuse be it social, physical, psychological, or verbal at the workplace by any fellow colleague, employer, or group of people. Every type of workplace is prone to getting used for bullying. It can happen at the official workplace, any café, shops, restaurants, community groups, workshops, or even government organizations. No individual working at a workplace is safe from workplace bullying, all interns, volunteers, apprentices, and even permanent or contractual employees can fall prey to this.

According to the University of Mary Washington, workplace bullying is any practice taking place at a workplace that is considered inappropriate treatment of a person or group of people by the victim. This is a usual unreasonable practice occurring repeatedly and is not favorable for others. It takes account of the negative acts targeting particular people at a workplace and may afflict, frighten, embarrass, or degrade other people in front of their co-workers.

According to Azizi Marshall, LCPC, bullying is malignant in nature spoiling the self-assurance and self-worth of an individual. It forms long-lasting scars for victims disturbing their mental health for longer durations. Bullying comes in a number of forms, including verbal bullying, visual bullying, cyberbullying, social exclusion, etc.

Signs of Workplace Bullying

Sustaining in a negative workplace with inappropriate behavior of others puts people in difficult and uneasy situations. Since workplace bullying is often covert and is hardly hostile openly, it can take many forms. Gaslighting is one of the common signs of workplace bullying with the intention to put the victim in self-doubt by using abusive behavior. Some other subtle signs of workplace bullying might include:

  1. Exclusion of some employees from decision-making, casual office gossip, or other events. This also includes intentionally forgetting some people in sending invites for any work meeting
  2. Forceful efforts to make people do things they are unwilling to do otherwise
  3. Intimidation
  4. Hiding or Manipulating facts to maximize self-interests
  5. Berating
  6. Not acknowledging people’s efforts
  7. Lying
  8. Embarrassing people publicly
  9. Taking unfair credit for others’ efforts
  10. Unfair criticism
  11. Limiting the concerns of others
  12. Sarcastic remarks
  13. Emotional manipulation by blame game or guilt tactics
  14. Threatening others
  15. Creating a competitive and conflictual official workplace

Myths Associated with Workplace Bullying

Bullying comes in all forms and has an impact on all types of people. No matter if you have a highly competitive personality or you always please people keeping them at high standards, workplace bullying will generate a negative impact on you hindering your work productivity.

Contrary to this, many people believe that high achievers are usually involved in bullying others, however, these high performers are in actuality the targets of bullies. Bullies are those mediocre people who are often not up to the mark but take credit for others’ efforts to dominate the limelight.

Workplace bullies are not motivated by the goals of an organization to bring betterment in the system but they just have personal level grudges which they vent out in the form of workplace bullying. These are even victimizing the organizations covertly by bullying the capable class at the workplace.

Along with high achievers, low-performers at the workplace also face bullying which is often labeled as motivation but in actuality, the work performance stays far from being improved yet it lowers their self-esteem. It further paves the way for lower work productivity, hindered performance, least collaboration, lack of creativity, and employee distress. Thereby, anyone can appear to be a bully or bullied at a workplace irrespective of their role.

Effects of Workplace Bullying

Workplace bullying has a wide range of effects on individuals and organizations. It not only hinders the personal growth of the victim but also has fiscal consequences that adversely impact the organization. Some common effects of workplace bullying are discussed below:

Job Performance

Bullying at the workplace inflicts mental discomfort on the victim. The ability of such individuals to concentrate on work and show active participation diminishes with time, thereby reducing their overall work productivity. The performance of bullied employees decreases as they encounter issues including lower self-esteem, lower productivity, trouble in making decisions, and inability to concentrate and work.

Such people are compelled to overthink certain situations, thereby they stay preoccupied and lose time and motivation to perform effectively. These people keep thinking about plans to escape and avoid bullying situations, replacing isolation with support networks, defending themselves, etc. If these situations become lasting then traumatized victims might face isolation, helplessness, powerlessness, disorientation, and confusion in life.

Health Risks

Once the bullying at the workplace starts then it does not even leave you outside of it. It can inflict major psychological and physical health conditions including panic attacks, ulcers, high blood pressure, stress, mood swings, changes in appetite, muscle tension, insomnia, headaches, etc. Such conditions are often treated by psychotropic medicines like sleeping pills, tranquilizers, anti-depressants, etc.

Impacts on Workplace

Bullying at the workplace is a double sword impacting both employees and employers negatively. It not only lowers the morale of employees but also disrupts the work environment with a hostile and toxic work environment. It promotes worker absenteeism, and more staff turnover with sick or healthcare leaves reducing productivity. On one hand, the compensation claims of employees are impacted while on the other hand, bullying ends up in legal proceedings which are costly. But the risk of legal action will increase. The employer will also have to induct new people and train them according to workplace culture resulting in extra costs. The commitment and loyalty of employees with also face erosion.

How to stop Workplace Bullying?

Workplaces need to have a healthy environment that fosters the well-being of individuals rather than terrorizing them. But what makes this practice prolonged and no action takes place on it? Do leaders’ non-interference make the matter worse? How can organizations play their role in creating safe hubs for employees? Organizational-level approaches taken in a systematic manner can bring some positive results by preventing or reducing workplace bullying.

  1. Individual Efforts
  2. Organizational Efforts

Individual Efforts

According to Avigail Lev, a direct and assertive approach is needed to respond effectively to workplace bullying. The unacceptable behavior must be dealt with in a head-on confrontation. At the individual level, a person needs to be proactive to cope with the bullying.

Firstly, a direct conversation with the bully is a compulsion where you share your thoughts about their unacceptable abusive behavior. You should tell them clearly the result of their behavior if it happens again it will not be tolerated in fact strict action will be taken against them. One should set boundaries to declare everyone the type of behavior that is tolerable for you. This draws a line between improper and proper behavior and helps you identify your rights and protect them against all odds.

The next step could be to opt a confrontational behavior. Here one should stay assertive all the time and should reflect this professionalism through voice. The use of I should be enhanced as it makes you vocal and answers the unacceptable behaviors. If the bully comes from some senior in the office, then you should simply not follow the lead until they fix their behavioral issues according to work-appropriate manner.

The third possible solution is consistency in tracking the record of bullying for any legal actions in the future. You can pen it down in some diary and should also involve witnesses of the event. Note down all important takeaways like date, time, bully, etc. You can also reduce stress with relaxation strategies or social support. If the symptoms of distress, anxiety, or depression prolong, consider assistance from a mental health specialist.

Organizational Efforts

A bullying-free workplace is in the best interest of an employer to make the employees feel relaxed and actively engage in official tasks. Actions to prevent bullying are better and cost-effective as compared to the efforts in reaction. The organization needs to show care for employees’ safety to retain them. In this regard, proper guiding sessions can be provided to the higher-ups as most of the bullying comes from them.

You should seek the guidance of the employer if you fail with individual-level efforts. Another possible way out is the involvement of human resources in the workplace. You can see the workplace employee handbook to see the code of conduct, what is not allowed here and how can you proceed to file a complaint against a person. Yet, many of the complaints are left unanswered so it is beneficial for the employees to seek external assistance and legal pieces of advice.

Conclusion

Workplace bullying is any form of practice that seems unsuitable to a person. It can come in any form like in the form of words, power to pull you down, burden with extra work, etc. This article has discussed the signs to identify workplace bullying and the harmful effects it can cause on the health of an individual and the overall productivity of an organization. Lastly, some solutions to cope with the situation are given both at individual and organizational levels.

Frequently Asked Questions About Workplace Bullying

What is workplace bullying?

Workplace bullying is any form of act carried out at a workplace by fellow colleagues, bosses, team, employer, etc. It can be psychological, social, verbal, or physical.

How to identify workplace bullying?

Some common signs of workplace bullying include excluding one individual from important happenings, giving forceful tasks, emotional manipulation, unfair criticism, embarrassment in public, etc.

How does workplace bullying affect job performance?

Bullying at the workplace negatively impacts job performance by reducing the productivity of employees. It inflicts mental discomfort, overthinking, preoccupation, lowering self-esteem, etc.

What impacts workplace bullying has on organizations?

Workplace bullying directly affects the health of employees ultimately impacting the organization with an increase in absenteeism, more sick leaves, higher staff turnover, lower employee morale, and diminished self-esteem. All of this contributes to reduced productivity so the company has to hire new employees bearing high costs of training.

How can an individual stop workplace bullying?

An individual can make multiple efforts to stop workplace bullying including setting boundaries, setting grounds for legal actions, practicing relaxation strategies, and seeking help from an employer or healthcare provider.

What if individual efforts to stop workplace bullying fail?

In case the individual efforts to stop workplace bullying fail then the organization should invade and act according to the codes of conduct to address any complaints.

What is the long-term impact of bullying on employees?

The long-term impacts of workplace bullying include chronic stress, mental health issues, lower self-esteem, decline in job satisfaction, and ultimately serious health issues.

How can an employer prevent workplace bullying?

An employer can prevent bullying by fostering a caring workplace environment, crafting proper policies and procedures to address bullying, and ensuring a safe workplace culture.

Is workplace bullying a prevalent issue?

Statistics show that it is a prevalent issue as 46-55 percent of people in India, 30 percent in America, and 17 percent in Germany face bullying.

What myths are associated with workplace bullying?

Common myths associated with workplace bullying include the belief that high achievers are bullies, however, they are the targets. The bullies are associated with fulfilling the organizational goals but they just want to maximize their self-interest.

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