Bullying at Work is incredibly destructive and leaves people feeling humiliated. When Bullying goes on for a long period it damages people’s self-esteem and can trigger a range of mental health issues. Fortunately, there is now much more awareness of the fact that Bullying does happen and that it is not an effective management style.
Bullying at Work is behaviour that makes people feel intimidated and demeaned. It leaves people feeling they are incompetent and unable to do their jobs. It can also make people who are normally confident and competent, doubt their own abilities. Often, we think of bullying as shouting and screaming but bullying can also be subtle. Think about the following:
- Ignoring someone in a meeting – not making eye contact or deliberately ignoring that person’s contributions
- Eye rolling whenever a person speaks
- Sending accusatory emails with hints and threats about disciplinary sanctions or job security
- Making threats just before someone goes on leave
All of these are subtle ways of undermining and maintaining power. In fact, bullying is always about power and needing to maintain control over another person. The bully normally feels insecure themselves and does not feel particularly competent in their own job. Making someone else feel small boosts their own self esteem.
I also once investigated a case of bullying where one of the allegations was that the manager made everyone in the team, apart from this person, a cup of tea. This example illustrates how hard it can be to complain about bullying at work. Often the bullying behaviour sounds trivial and petty when described in writing. When I get sent complaints of bullying to investigate, my first reaction is often that they do not appear to have much substance. It is only after the investigation starts and you begin to understand the effect this behaviour is having, sometimes on a daily basis, that it becomes clear that there is much more to the complaint than is evident at first reading.
It is also important to state that managing performance in accordance with a proper procedure and in a reasonable way, is not bullying at work. The person being monitored will feel under pressure but this in itself is not bullying.
The best way to combat and root out bullying is to ensure that people feel they can raise issues, without fear of recrimination and with confidence that it will be taken seriously.
Do make sure any complaints of bullying at work are investigated properly. An effective report will provide recommendations on how to resolve the particular issue and also suggest more general learning points for the organisation.
If you would like assistance in dealing with bullying at work we provide an independent investigation service. We also offer mediation to help people work together again after a complaint of bullying has been investigated and dealt with. Contact us at firstname.lastname@example.org.
We also offer an online course ‘Diversity and Inappropriate Behaviour’ which includes Bullying at Work. Find out more below.