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Workplace Bullying: Know The Signs Before It Is Too Late

Friday 12 August 2016 by Gina Le Prevost

Over the next couple of weeks we’re going to throw light on some of the common issues at workplace that often get brushed under the carpet. This week we’re focussing on workplace bullying – a systematic and persistent pattern of mistreatment at work that jeopardises health, career and work productivity.

Are you being bullied at work? Some of you might answer yes, but most don’t even realise the signs of bullying until it becomes more serious. It is a common misconception that bullying is limited to high schools and colleges. The fact is workplace bullying is a highly prevalent and serious problem, affecting nearly a third of Britons at work. Bullying is all the more worrying at workplace, because most adults don’t report it for fear of personal shame or lack of awareness about the bullying or risk of losing a job/other consequences.

As with any form of abuse or harassment, workplace bullying takes a severe toll on the person’s mental health and a sense of well-being (Workplace Bullying Institute). Not only does bulling affect work performance and self-esteem but it results in significant health issues such as anxiety, blood pressure and ulcers.

We caught up with Lyndsay Ray, AP Group’s Head of HR, to understand this problem and know how to deal with it.  

“Workplace bullying is repeated, unreasonable behaviour directed towards an employee or group of employees, that creates a risk to health and safety,” Lyndsay explains.

So what is this 'repeated' behaviour?

“‘Repeated’ behaviour refers to the persistent nature of the behaviour, not that the behaviour is the same type each time. Behaviour is considered ‘repeated’ if an established pattern can be identified,” she elaborates.

“It may involve a series of different incidents, for example: verbal abuse, deliberate damage to personal property and unreasonable threats of dismissal.”

While workplace bullying can take various forms and affect you outside of work, here’re a few warning indicators that mean you are being bullied at work.

  • You feel particularly ill or anxious the night before your work week. This means your body is giving you excuses for bunking work in order to avoid the hostile environment.
  • You experience high blood pressure and other stress related health issues, stemming from your obsession with work or your constant struggle to prove your worth.
  • Your boss or manager constantly belittles or humiliates you in front of co-workers or in a meeting, making you feel incompetent and doubt your capabilities. 
  • You are the frequent target of unwarranted criticism despite having an impeccable work history.
  • You get excluded from group lunch or team meetings - social isolation.
  • False charges are labelled against you to malign your reputation or to get you sacked.
  • Your tormentor makes nasty remarks at you or spreads false rumours about you and/or your work performance.
  • You are threatened or intimidated by your co-worker(s) or boss to the point that it damages your self-esteem and confidence.
  • Your boss/supervisor tries to sabotage your chances of getting a promotion and/or prevents you from taking on new projects.  He/she deliberately changes your work rosters or withholds information that is vital for effective work performance.
  • Your boss repeatedly ignores your complaints against bullying and takes no action against the perpetrator.

Workplace bullying creates a toxic environment that has adverse implications for the entire organisation, not only for the person who is targeted. It often so happens that the co-workers who stand up in support of the bullied are ostracised by the group, which creates a sense of fear and guilt in them. Over time, this lack of collective action against bullying disrupts the work environment, resulting in deterioration of employee morale and productivity.

When this continues unabated, organisations stand the risk of suffering huge financial loss in the form of high turn over, sick leaves, health insurance and worker’s compensation claims and even additional legal costs.

What aggravates the problem is the fact that most companies fail to realise the implications of workplace bullying, and some don’t even have any anti-bullying policy in place.

Often complaints are ignored as a ‘single’ incident, but Lyndsay stresses that although a single incident of bully-style behaviour does not constitute workplace bullying, the management are required to take the appropriate action to ensure that the inappropriate behaviour is not repeated.  The behaviour may, however, be considered as harassment or discrimination.

It is in the employer’s best interest to create a healthy workplace environment where there is no place for harassment, bullying or abuse. Those in management/HR positions need to promptly address all complaints and demonstrate that bullying and abusive behaviour of any kind will not be tolerated. There should be strict enforcement of anti-bullying policy when appropriate, regardless of rank or position.

How should the victim deal with Workplace Bullying and Violence Issues?

Although employers have the primary responsibility, everyone in the workplace should be vigilant and report any such incidents to the concerned authorities. Above all, you should learn to recognise the signs of bullying and take appropriate action to root out the problem. 

“Employees who believe they are being bullied or are the object of workplace violence are encouraged to inform the alleged perpetrator that their behaviour is offensive, unacceptable, is against company policy and must stop,” Lyndsay advises.

If things continue on as they were, you may have to take the matter up with your supervisor or HR.

The more you tolerate and allow such unacceptable behaviour, the more you encourage such bullies to operate fearlessly, thus brining ruin to your own career and health. So speak up against bullying and help create a healthy and comfortable work environment.

 

It is AP Group Company policy to provide an environment where employees:

 

  • are treated with dignity, courtesy and respect
  • can work without distress or interference caused by workplace bullying or violence.

 

The Company does not accept workplace bullying of any kind by employees, trainees, customers, contractors or other visitors. Behaviour of this nature is deemed to be unacceptable and will not be tolerated in any circumstances.  This also applies to any workplace bullying or violence in any work-related context including meetings, work functions, work-related Christmas parties or business trips.

 

For help and advice on dealing with workplace bullying, contact our HR office at hr@apgroupglobal.com. We offer free and confidential advice on career, job search and workplace issues. AP Group also provides HR Services to its clients and is able to advice on the latest local government and health and safety policies.