How To Combat Workplace Bullying
Take a minute to visualise what bullying means to you. Where is it taking place? Is it physical or psychological? Bullying can have significant impact on your self esteem and confidence.
People generally think of bullying in terms of physical pushing and shoving, something that happens in the schoolyard. Perhaps you were unlucky enough to be the victim of bullying yourself and have quite vivid and unpleasant memories of your experience.
You may be wondering what happened to your schoolyard bully? Well, they may have grown wiser with age and mellowed into a well adjusted, caring adult who volunteers their time on weekends at various charities. It is equally possible that they have not changed at all, and have honed their skills over the years and are currently torturing some other unlucky soul in their workplace.
It is rare in most workplaces that bullying is physical, although it does happen. One company I have worked with in the past had to stop their monthly pizza days due to frequent violent outbursts by staff over ‘who had more than 3 pieces’, or ‘someone is hoarding the BBQ meatlovers’.
Workplace bullies are becoming much more sophisticated and have developed their skills into a form of psychological warfare, deployed very discretely but with devastating effects that can make turning up to work a stress-inducing and sickening event for victims.
Workplace bullying is often very subtle, and (as the bully is very cunning) takes place when others are not around to witness the behaviour.
Bob Sutton is a recognised expert on the topic of workplace bullying and I would recommend anybody interested in the topic read his blog, Work Matters (http://bobsutton.typepad.com). Bob explains that victims are often hesitant to make a complaint as it is often ‘my word against theirs’.
They may also fear that the complaint will be pushed aside and they will be made to feel petty for reporting it.
Bullies are (relatively) smart, in that they are politically astute enough to conceal their behaviour from others. This is one of the bully’s key defences – coming out and shoving someone in the middle of the office is a sure-fire way to get fired, but when the office saint is accused of being Satan’s PA by her victim it can be really difficult for people to believe, as they did not witness the behaviour.
This will be my first in a series of blogs on bullying so stay tuned for the next topic: identifying bullies in the workplace and strategies to cope with, and hopefully prevent, their behaviour.
Workplace bullying is a serious issue for employers and can expose them to risks including litigation and claims from victims, reduced productivity and degradation of company culture.
If you are struggling to cope with bullying in the workplace, I would encourage you to talk to someone you trust. For more information on bullying see www.hreoc.gov.au/info_for_employers/what.html
Kate Klease was a former executive at Vantage Human Capital, a specialist recruitment and human resources consulting firm that helps ensure clients have appropriate strategies in place to successfully retain, motivate and manage their people.