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Bullying in the Workplace


Bullying at work is a serious problem and Anti-Bullying Week 2018 is a good time for companies to examine their employment policies regarding bullying.

What is Workplace Bullying?

Tackling bullying in a workplace setting can be a complex and delicate issue because what constitutes bullying can be incredibly subjective. So what defines bullying in the workplace? After all, what one person takes to heart, another person brushes off without a second thought. In reality, when there is a record of repetitive negative and/or inappropriate behaviour by one or more people against one or more individuals, and this behaviour undermines the rights and dignity of those being targeted, then we may well have a case of bullying at work.

Types of Workplace Bullying

As with bullying in schools, it can be difficult to recognise bullying. Physical bullying is easier to prove, but most cases of workplace bullying are subtle and not everyone is aware of the issue. This is because many cases go unreported because people are worried about being penalised at work or losing their jobs and they therefore suffer in silence.

The behaviour of workplace bullies can take many forms including:

  • constantly criticising a colleague’s performance
  • spreading malicious and untrue gossip
  • undermining an individual’s decisions by questioning/ridiculing them
  • excluding an individual from meetings, brainstorming sessions etc
  • having unrealistic expectations of work performance, setting unrealistic/unattainable goals

Tackling Workplace Bullying

What can you do if you are the target of a workplace bully? First, make it clear to the bully that you find their behaviour unacceptable. This may take courage, but doing nothing will prolong the agony. Bullies relish the power they have over others and they don’t expect you to stand up to them — don’t give them this satisfaction. Next, keep a record of all incidences of workplace bullying — you will need this information if you want to take things further. If the bullying continues, you need to report the matter to your manager or to the HR department. If your manager is the bully, report the matter to their manager.

Ultimately, bullies thrive when they are not confronted. It is only by taking a stand against the bully that things will change. Being able to recognise workplace bullying and being aware of how to address incidences of unacceptable behaviour are the keys to eradicating bullying in the workplace. Companies need to ensure staff are aware of their rights in relation to bullying. Above all, we should feel confident that all reports of bullying will be treated confidentially and effectively.