Bullying isn’t just about the school playground. It’s about the office as well. We throw light on adult bullies at the workplace this Anti-Bullying Week.
What is Bullying
If we told you that bullying in the workplace is a common occurrence, would it surprise you? If it does, ask yourself this – are you aware of all the forms of bulling that currently exist? It is quite probable that you may have either experienced or witnessed bullying at your office but have been unaware that the behavior is classified as bullying.
“I was pretty surprised when a colleague pointed out to me that my boss was being a bully! Now that I’m more aware, I’m shocked how easily I had accepted his behavior as something bosses normally do,” confides 25-year-old travel agent Isha Kuruvilla.
So what exactly is bullying? By definition, any act of intimidation falls under the umbrella of bullying. It is aggression that could be verbal, physical, social or psychological. Being yelled at, threatened or berated, especially in the presence of coworkers; being repetitively humiliated; being socially excluded or ignored; facing sabotage of reputation or work; being made the butt of harsh comments and jokes – all these fall under the category of bullying.
“My boss would tell me my work was trash and then top it up with comments like ‘You should just start looking for another job’,” reveals Isha. “It upset me each time I heard it, but I kept telling myself that’s just how it works in the real world.” Sadly enough, Isha’s response is unsurprising.
Effects of Bullying
Bullying has become as commonplace as, well, offices, and therefore the misbelief that bullying is a part of the real world thrives. This is unfortunate since bullying can have several adverse effects on the victim. There is emotional distress, stress that often leads to health issues, and even post-traumatic stress disorder. Bullying has adverse consequences not just for the victim but for the organization as well. An unhappy, stressed employee’s productivity will certainly be reduced. Stress also leads to illnesses which means the employee will be on sick leave often. Also not great for the organization. Nor the employee, who would have several medical bills to pay.
The Bullying Boss
If you’re wondering why it is that people bully, it’s not a big mystery. Power is a heady thing, and those who wield authority may manage it unwisely. “Bad managers tend to be from smaller companies. The larger ones have a human resources team set for quality – and behavior – control,” explains HR Executive Sushant Matre.
Although, we must point out here, large corporations can be insidious breeding grounds for bullies as well. “If the boss is the bully, it won’t be easy for subordinates to get him to stop. It could mean you losing your job,” shares Rima Patel, a part-time teacher who left a corporate job due to the stressful work environment caused by a bullying superior.
“This is true,” affirms Jonaki Upadhyay, Ph D, Psychology. “It’s a dicey situation. To challenge a bullying boss, you need allies. Often, an HR department might not do anything about bad bosses because the bully may be more profit-making than loss-making to the company. But if that scale ever tips, bullies are often fired. That is, if the relevant authorities are aware of the bullying.”
Why Bullies Bully
The reason why bullies bully is generally because they feel threatened by a colleague. The reason bullying thrives is competition. “Because it is individuals that are rewarded for their work, competition arises, and that leads to a whole lot of stuff,” explains Jonaki. “An ambitious fellow might want to get ahead, might want someone else’s better-paying job, might feel threatened by a co-worker’s ability, might just be mean-spirited – and therefore resorts to bullying to secure what he/she wants,” she lists.
How to Deal with Bullies
And the reason bullies are able to bully as long as they do is that victims often don’t speak up about it or report it. “You need to stand up for your right to be respected and treated with dignity,” advises Jonaki. “And it’s imperative to tackle the bullying. Either make the bully aware of his/her actions in an emotionally controlled manner or report a complaint so at least it’s on the record.”
Here’s an example of responding in a controlled manner: In Isha’s case, had she responded to her bullying boss by saying, “I understand your concern for better quality and will work on it. I have a concern too – the manner in which you communicate your displeasure,” the bullying might have been remedied.
Often, bullying bosses might not realize they are being perceived as bullies. If made aware of this in a diffused manner, they are likely to work on their behaviour. It’s important to approach them delicately and privately rather than aggressively in the presence of others.
Of course, if trying to diffuse the bullying doesn’t help and the victim’s mental and physical health is deteriorating, the best thing to do is move to another work environment.
Although bullying has not been outlawed yet, we hope one day it will. Until the day arrives, let’s continue to try and make our world a better place.
Have you experienced bullying? Tell us about it in the comments below!
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