Workplace bullying - don't suffer in silence
Written by listed counsellor/psychotherapist: Kay Tromans MBACP
6th June, 2009
Like bullying in childhood, bullying in the workplace is the tendency of individuals or groups to use persistent aggression or unreasonable behaviour towards someone. It can be seen as a grasp for control by an insecure, inadequate person, an exercise of power aimed at humiliating the target. Very often childhood bullies continue their destructive behaviour into adult life.
It can be hard to counter in the workplace, because bullies in this environment can often operate seemingly within the established policies or guidelines of the organisation. Indeed, they can sometimes make use of a position of power to intimidate someone. The victim can be also be made to feel it’s too complicated, difficult, or even threatening to their job security, to complain.
Workplace bullying – how to recognise it
An important first step is to realise what constitutes bullying. In the workplace, it can include:
- Talking in a dismissive tone
- Being quick to criticise and slow to praise
- Spreading rumours or gossiping
- Falsely accusing someone of making errors
- Not providing appropriate amenities and resources in a fair manner
- The silent treatment, whereby someone is deliberately isolated
- Imposing unrealistic work demands
- Making it hard to succeed or even deliberately ensuring failure
- Refusal to allow reasonable time off – to attend a doctor’s appointment, for example
- Destruction of personal property
- Character assassination
- In extreme cases, it can even include assault
Being on the receiving end of any of these can have an effect on your happiness and health. It can also come to dominate other areas of your life and your relationships.
Workplace bullying - what you can do about it
If you feel you’re being bullied at work, there are a number of steps you can take.
1. Start by identifying what’s going on. It’s tempting to deny it’s going on or to hope it’s going to go away by itself. More likely, you’re going to end up more and more dreading having to work with that person – or even having to go into work at all.
2. If you’re not sure of yourself or your situation, it can be worth writing down what’s happening. This helps to identify both the bullying and the effects it’s having.
3. Confide in friends or family – their feedback and support may help.
4. Talk to the person you feel is bullying you if you possibly can. In some instances, they may not realise they are behaving badly and be genuinely sorry. Whatever their response, try to stand your ground and make it clear how it’s affecting you and your work, and that it’s essential it stops.
5. If you really are unable to talk to the person concerned, or have done so without effect, then talk to your personnel department or HR manager. It’s an essential part of their job to take these matters seriously and to ensure they are dealt with effectively.
Above all, don’t suffer in silence. Remember, workplace bullying should be as unacceptable as sexual harassment or racial discrimination – and there’s lots you can do to stop it. You can also talk to a qualified counsellor - especially if there’s one in your workplace.
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