Workplace Bullying: What Everyone Needs to Know
What is workplace bullying and who is affected?
Workplace bullying refers to repeated, unreasonable actions of individuals (or a group) directed towards an employee (or a group of employees), which is intended to intimidate and creates a risk to the health and safety of the employee(s). Workplace bullying often involves an abuse or misuse of power. Bullying includes behavior that intimidates, degrades, offends, or humiliates a worker, often in front of others. Bullying behavior creates feelings of defenselessness in the target and undermines an individual’s right to dignity at work. Bullying is different from aggression. Whereas aggression may involve a single act, bullying involves repeated attacks against the target, creating an on-going pattern of behavior. “Tough” or “demanding” bosses are not necessarily bullies, as long as their primary motivation is to obtain the best performance by setting high expectations.
April 2008 Report # 87-2-2008.
bullying their peers, rather than a supervisor bullying an employee. One study from the National Institute of Occupational Safety and Health (NIOSH) found that a quarter of the 516 private and public companies studied reported some occurrence of bullying in the preceding year.
Examples of bullying: • • • • • • • • Unwarranted or invalid criticism. Blame without factual justification. Being treated differently than the rest of your work group. Being sworn at. Exclusion or social isolation. Being shouted at or being humiliated. Being the target of practical jokes. Excessive monitoring.
What is Corporate/Institutional Bullying?
Corporate/institutional bullying occurs when bullying is entrenched in an organization and becomes accepted as part of the workplace culture.
Many bullying situations involve employees 1
Corporate/institutional bullying can manifest itself in different ways: • Placing unreasonable expectations on employees, where failure to meet those expectations means making life unpleasant (or dismissing) anyone who objects. Dismissing employees suffering from stress as “weak” while completely ignoring or denying potential work-related causes of the stress. And/or Encouraging employees to fabricate complaints about colleagues with promises of promotion or threats of discipline.
Significant organizational change (i.e., major internal restructuring, technological change). Worker characteristics (e.g., age, gender, parental status, apprentice or trainee). • Workplace relationships (e.g., inadequate information flow between organizational levels, lack of employee participation in decisions. And
• Work systems (e.g., lack of policies about behavior, high rate and intensity of work, staff shortages, interpersonal conflict, organizational constraints, role ambiguity, and role conflict.
Signs of corporate and institutional bullying include: • Failure to meet organizational goals. • Increased frequencies of grievances, resignations, and requests for transfers. • Increased absence due to sickness. And • Increased disciplinary actions.
How Bullying Affects People:
Victims of bullying experience significant physical and mental health problems: • • • • • • • • High stress; post-traumatic stress disorder (PTSD). Financial problems due to absence Reduced self-esteem. Musculoskeletal problems. Phobias. Sleep disturbances. Increased depression/self-blame. Digestive problems.
If you are aware of bullying in the workplace and do not take action, then you are accepting a share of the responsibility for any future abuses. This means that witnesses of bullying behavior should be encouraged to report any such incidences. Individuals are less likely to engage in antisocial behavior when it is understood that the organization does not tolerate such behavior and that the perpetrator is likely to be punished. Factors that Increase the Risk for Bullying Behavior:
How Bullying Affects Organizations:...
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