Bullying isn’t just something that happens in the schoolyard anymore. Now there are an increasing number of reports of people being bullied at work, on the Internet and elsewhere.
Where school bullies might intimidate, insult or even physically assault other children when the same thing happens to grown adults, the results aren’t just child’s play: It can be criminal.
Most Irish companies are now setting standards and implementing anti-bullying initiatives across departments. This represents a much-needed shift towards respect in the workplace, gender equality and employee diversity recognition. Hr Managers and departments are now tasked with monitoring workforce behaviour as an important aspect of workplace best practice. Any incidents between staff can be recorded using advanced Time and Attendance Solutions. These records can be used to enforce company policies.
Let us take a closer look at what constitutes bullying in the workplace, what types of bullying are commonplace in Irish companies and what they are doing to combat these issues.
Types of Workplace Bullying
Bullying at work usually is less physical than childhood bullying. Most people know that if they strike, push or assault another personal physically, they probably will face criminal charges and could serve jail time.
But that doesn’t prevent workplace bullies from verbally abusing their co-workers, insulting them personally or saying harmful things about their work performance, their sexuality, their race, their education or even their family.
Another common form of workplace bullying is freezing out individuals from groups or work projects. In some instances, victims will purposely be assigned pointless tasks or be given “busy work” to keep them occupied while other people do the real work.
Or victims of workplace bullying may be assigned impossible tasks or unrealistic deadlines so that they are certain to fail.
One of the most common forms of workplace intimidation is sexual harassment. And it’s not just something that happens to women.
Both men and women are sometimes made to feel as if their career advancement or opportunities depends on whether or not they are receptive to the sexual advances of their bosses or co-workers.
Sexual harassment doesn’t just mean groping or flashing other people. It also includes creating a hostile work environment in which an individual employee feels intimidated or demeaned for their sexuality.
This can include such things as management allowing suggestive or lewd comments to go unchecked or not doing enough to stop workers from being embarrassed or humiliated by other people within the office.
The ‘Hazing Mentality’
Another common form of workplace bullying is hazing. This is when seemingly innocent traditions or initiation rites for new employees or to celebrate milestones go too far.
Any time another person is made to feel humiliated or required to do things they don’t feel comfortable doing, it can be considered to be workplace bullying.
Bullying and Productivity
People who are bullied at work tend to be less productive. But it also can have a profound effect on their personal confidence, which can affect not just their job performance but also their career prospects.
Other consequences of bullying on employees include:
- Causing workers to feel afraid, anxious, stressed and depressed.
- Affecting worker’s lives outside of the workplace, such as their relationships, their studies and more.
- Causing people to want to miss work or stay away from the office or place where they are most likely to encounter the person bullying them.
- Feeling unable to trust the company’s upper management or even their co-workers.
- Fueling illnesses due to stress, such as headaches, body aches, sleeping abnormalities, and much more.
Causes of Bullying
So why do people bully other people in the first place? There are many possible causes.
Typically, those who bully, threaten or intimidate other people in the workplace, in the schoolyard or elsewhere often have self-esteem issues. In some cases, they often have been the victim of bullying or violence themselves, which can make bullying a self-replicating downward spiral.
Bullies often use intimidation and threats as a way to make themselves feel better about their place in the office or workspace.
When dealing with bullies, it’s important for victims to remember that whoever is doing it probably is using their behaviour as a way to deal with their own problems or insecurities. It normally isn’t anything the victim has done: They just happen to be in the wrong place at the wrong time.
Some bullies, however, are motivated by jealousy, ignorance, fear, prejudice or misunderstanding. While these offer an explanation for the behaviour, it doesn’t justify it.
Putting an End to Workplace Bullying
The key to stopping workplace bullying is an awareness on the part of workers and implementing a “zero tolerance” policy on the part of management.
Workers who feel bullied or intimidated should be encouraged to speak up. There should be no negative consequences or costs associated with reporting bullying in the workplace.
In Ireland, Companies such as Advance Systems have created a culture in which bullying and intimidation is not acceptable. Many companies in recent years have implemented mandatory sexual harassment training in order to raise awareness of this issue. The same thing can be done with bullying.
In Ireland, information about how to end bullying is available from labour unions, as well and Safety Authority and the Equality Tribunal. Workers also can ask representatives of these bodies to act on their behalf if they are uncomfortable standing up to bullies or reporting incidents of bullying on their own.