Bullying in the workplace

By January 8, 2013 No Comments

Previously, I have written about bullying at school and how child bullies if not checked will become adult bullies and continue to cause misery in the lives of those around them. When I started to think about this topic, it came as a shock to realise that many of the clients who I have seen in counselling, have raised the issue of bullying in the workplace at some point during their time with me. In some cases, they were not even aware that they had been bullied or if they were, thought that there was nothing they could do about it.

Adult bullies have of course had many years to perfect their art and are skilled at disguising their unpleasant tactics. They are often in a position of seniority, such as a line manager or departmental manager. Middle managers can be in an unenviable position, with pressure from above to make sure tasks are carried out and resentment from employees below, who feel unfairly treated. In today’s workplace where so many companies are understaffed, the problem is compounded and morale is often at a low ebb on all levels. They may even be a work colleague who bullies others in order to hide their own deficiencies. There is never any excuse for bullying in the workplace.

As adults we often feel that we should ignore it and that we are showing weakness if we complain to someone about it. It takes a lot of courage to speak up, especially if we think we are being singled out. However, bullies rarely confine their work to one person alone. Their behaviour is addictive and gives them a sense of power and once exposed, it is often the case that others will come forward and admit to having suffered at their hands. Adult bullying is usually psychological and comes in a variety of forms. Here are just a few examples:

  • criticism
  • spreading rumours
  • misuse of power
  • blocking promotion
  • picking on staff in front of others
  • aggressive behaviour
  • mocking and teasing
  • overloading with work
  • giving work outside employee’s qualifications and experience
  • excluding and ignoring
Bullying can have a detrimental effect on your physical and mental wellbeing and you should never ignore it. I can think of at least half a dozen clients, in which bullying had resulted in the client taking time off sick with depression and anxiety and had then been referred on for counselling. You may think it couldn’t happen to you, but never under-estimate the destructive power of bullying. Unfortunately, not all companies and organisations have bullying policies, but that should not stop you from speaking out. Talk to someone you feel you can trust, maybe a member of staff in your HR department or if you are in a union, you could speak to your local representative, who will advise you.
Please click on this link for more information about bullying at work and what you can do about it. There are several websites on this subject, but this one seems to be the most accessible and informative as well as being up-to-date.
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