How to Overcome Workplace Bullying? Understanding Bullying
How to overcome workplace bullying? Understanding bullying better can help with considering your next steps.
Our overview explores this essential workplace culture subject and can be used alongside your own local laws.
Firstly we’ll ask: what is bullying?
How to Overcome Workplace Bullying: Definition
It is important to define what workplace bullying is to be able to address it when it occurs
According to WBI: “Workplace Bullying is repeated, health-harming mistreatment of one or more target by perpetrators.”
Abusive conduct may be threatening, humiliation, or intimidating the target. It extends to sabotage, which is preventing the target from accomplishing their work. Finally,verbal abuse is also a clear form of bullying.
What Isn’t Considered Workplace Bullying?
Human relationships and communication are not as simple as you think. At times, a situation or something that a colleague says or does is misinterpreted as bullying. There is a fine line separating between appropriate feedback and destructive behaviour.
To avoid any misunderstanding, let us clarify what is not considered workplace harassment. For instance, a manager must direct and supervise the way work is done. Therefore, a manager evaluating an employee’s poor performance and deciding to apply a disciplinary action is not considered bullying if processes and standards are followed correctly.
As long as the process of evaluation is not biased, or varies from one employee to another, then the manager is merely doing his/her job. Moreover, workplace conflict could arise, but it is not deemed as bullying. Bullying is rather a series of repeated and unacceptable mistreatment.
How to Overcome Workplace Bullying: Why It Happens?
In the workplace, an employee could be targeted when he/she imposes a threat to the success of another person, however the perception of threat could only exist in the bully’s mind.
In other cases whose personality is does not “blend” with the team’s character.
How to Overcome Workplace Bullying: Statistics
Bullying is a serious issue and one deserving of serious consideration by managers.
In the States, 65 million workers are affected by workplace bullying. With 27% of employees reporting being targeted, whether now or in the past. Those who have witnessed workplace bullying represent 70%. In the UK, it is not much different: 29% of people have been the victims of workplace bullying.
That’s nearly three in every 10 workers. To put that into perspective, that’s more than the populations of Scotland and Wales combined.
These alarming numbers remind us how important it is to address the issue of how to overcome workplace bullying in companies.
How to Overcome Workplace Bullying: Effects
You may be thinking that only workers subjected to harassment or mistreatment should be asking how to overcome workplace bullying. However, overcoming workplace bullying is not an individual concern. Not only do bullies harm their target employees, but also, they harm the business itself.
Bullies must be regarded as productivity killers and potential legal threats to the employer. For that reason, many companies take measures to put an end to this phenomenon.
Here are some of the negative effects on business caused by workplace bullying:
- Reduced productivity and profitability due to the target employee losing focus on his/her work.
- Higher absenteeism and sick time to escape harassment and confrontation.
- Decreased morale and loyalty.
- Higher turnover rate which causes the business to lose its best human resources.
- High turnover means increasing costs to recruit new employees and give them training.
- Negative effects on the company’s image, especially now that social media is accessible to everyone.
- Increased workers’ compensation claims.
- Wasting time on solving bullying issues among employees, which causes delay and loss of financial resources.
- Legal costs from employees who decide to sue the employer.
On a personal level, employees subjected to bullying can suffer from:
- Low self-esteem due to poor job performance.
- Mental health problems (such as anxiety and depression)
- Decreased job satisfaction
- Physical health risks (such as high blood pressure)
How to Overcome Workplace Bullying: Types and Examples
The Loud Voice
Loud bullies are obnoxious and rude. It seems that they maintain their importance by being the loudest person in the room; always making their ideas heard, but not in a healthy way.
They thrive on the notion that others fear them. So, they must interrupt others in meetings or step on their ideas with humiliation and disdain. They discard other people’s opinions as invalid or unworthy of attention.
Loud bullies intimidate their colleagues, especially the shy ones, from speaking up and sharing their thoughts. This causes the business to lose new innovative ideas, just because one employee decided so.
Seriously, who hasn’t met those? However, unlike the loud bullies, these are the hardest to spot. They bully with a smile. To a co-worker’s face, they would act as trusted friends, but once the target leaves, their real side is shown.
This bully has no problem destroying a co-worker’s reputation, stabbing him/her in the back, or even taking credit for work they haven’t done. Double-faced snakes usually have more than one target. In addition, they are often social climbers, so they may also aim at someone with a good position, to bring him/her down.
Gossipers and snakes love each other, they always go hand in hand. They both work behind the scenes and with a smile. While gossip is a common activity everywhere, workplace gossip may have serious consequences.
In some cases, gossipers could cause the target to lose the job, or his/her marriage. Gossipers usually spread rumours, in coffee breaks or in the game room; work related or personal ones. Rumours are hurtful, and they ruin a person’s reputation.
In fact, rumours spread by gossipers are an invitation for other people to bully the target too. It somehow becomes collective bullying. While gossipers may be doing this for entertainment, or to feel better about themselves, it could have a huge effect on the target.
It’s a dangerous trend that should be eliminated from a healthy work environment.
The Constant Critic
It is usually a grey area for many to differentiate between constructive and destructive criticism. Constant criticism is a sign of destructive criticism. Even the worst employees have at least one thing that they deserve appreciation for.
Also, constructive criticism aims to improve an employee’s performance, while destructive one aims to destroy self-confidence. The constant critic bully looks for any possible flaw to point at, his/her reasons are usually unwarranted.
He/she will hold the target in to irrational – or even impossible – standards. Even if your work is impeccable, this type of bully may go an extra mile and create falsifying documents or put fake poor results under your name.
Gatekeepers do not like sharing. They often hold some high positions, at least higher than that of the target. Their strategy involves preventing the target from reaching the right tools, resources, time, or information to execute his/her tasks properly.
They hide information and pretend it’s an accident. In other words, they push the target out of the way. They may deliberately assign a task to the target just before the deadline to put him/her under stress or make them look bad.
They feel important when they exercise their power over their targets. If they could, gatekeepers may exclude the target from meetings, brainstorms, and social activities. This affects the target’s performance, business goals, and makes the worker feel stressed and victimised.
Like gatekeepers, a clique also likes to keep things for themselves. The difference is that they come in a group.
A clique thrives on excluding “outsiders,” often targets, and exclusion is usually accompanied by disdain and humiliation. While it seems less dangerous, it does affect the work environment. It makes the target feel uncomfortable and unwelcome; more of an outcast.
Once again, this feeling of persecution increases dissatisfaction and lowers an employee’s self-esteem.
The Attention Seeker
The attention seeker is a dramatic employee that continuously relates everything to being to something wrong going on in their personal lives. They intentionally try to gain sympathy from everyone, especially new employees and managers.
They would flatter, sweet-talk, and highlight their struggles to everyone in an attempt to drive sympathy and attention. Attention seekers do not always have a specific target in mind, they merely aim to be the centre of attention.
Once someone doesn’t give them the right amount of attention, these bullies immediately turn against them. Like ‘the snake’, they may use sympathy to get information from co-workers, just to use it against them later.
The guru is also a common workplace bully. He/she is that employee of the month, every month. The one who makes no mistakes. Gurus are truly the best at what they do and they deserve all the attention and praise they get.
What’s the problem? They have zero respect or empathy for their co-workers. Gurus only care about themselves, and their personal gain. Since they are the gurus, they think they are better than everyone, and therefore, they should be above the rules.
In addition, they do not accept criticism and would never admit that they made a mistake. They may be willing to step on any employee to reach their goals. Although they may not be targeting one employee in specific, their attitude makes the atmosphere toxic for all other employees.
Pranksters may not have the worst intentions, they do it for the laughs. However, there is a clear line between an acceptable prank that brings humour to the office and humiliating a co-worker. The prankster bully targets a co-worker who is not so popular, and makes him/her the hero of their pranks.
This bully enjoys making one person or more look like fools, while the bully himself/herself gains popularity. The reason why it is hard to deal with the pranksters is that they would claim it was a joke, and that they did not mean any harm.
Regardless of that claim’s truth, the office is not the best place for pranks especially if it causes the target to feel insulted. Some pranks may even affect the target’s work directly. Once pranksters cross the line of being funny, the target/company must stop them.
The puppeteer is an employee with a charm, a rank, and an intelligently twisted mind. Some people call these bullies, the sociopaths. They are experts at manipulating other people’s emotions to make them do what they want.
They use persuasion to turn other people to their puppets. Sometimes, it is merely for their personal pleasure. For instance, like making someone buy them coffee every day, or watching other people compete against each other for their entertainment.
In other cases, it could take more serious forms, such as convincing a co-worker to do their dirty work in return for a raise or a higher position. Puppeteers are often bosses, or people who hold higher positions. Most importantly, employees should never feel like they are doing things for their boss’s enjoyment.
How to Overcome Workplace Bullying: Strategies
Many employees are not aware that bullying is a widespread epidemic, they do not even recognise it when it happens. Sometimes managers disregard it as exaggerated or over-sensitiveness on the target’s behalf. Raising awareness is the first answer to how to overcome workplace bullying.
Raise awareness by conducting sessions that clarify that workplace bullying is a real problem. Explain what the different types of bullying are and how and stress on the difference between what is acceptable, and what is not.
Keep an Eye on Potential Targets and Bullies
Employers have a general duty to protect employees from risks at work. Workplace bullying is a psychological risk that employees are subjected to. So, it is the employer’s responsibility to take safety measures to protect every employee.
Everyone knows that some employees are more prone to bullying than others. Managers and employers should keep an eye on potential targets. They should make them feel comfortable and welcomed.
Also, they must also encourage potential targets to immediately report any sort of maltreatment or intimidation. As for potential bullies, managers should make it clear to them that bullying will never go unpunished.
Adopt a Zero Tolerance Attitude
Cultivate a zero tolerance policy and attitude since day one. All new employees should have a brief about the company’s core values that does not endure toxic attitudes. This makes bullies think twice before abusing a co-worker.
Train Staff Members on Healthy Ways to Deal with Conflicts
Employees spend more time at work than they do with their families. The office is a place where people from different cultures, age, and social status meet, so conflicts are not surprising.
How people deal with these conflicts is what makes a difference. There are many healthy ways to deal with clashes without turning co-workers into enemies.
Self-Confidence and Communication
These two form the basis of a strong character. Developing these qualities in your employees is a great way to limit workplace bullying. Self-confidence reduces the effects that bullying causes to the target. A confident employee knows how to deal with bullies, and how to speak up for him/herself.
Communication makes employees speak honestly, face-to-face, about how they feel towards each other. If a conflict arises between two employees, they should ideally communicate in a healthy way instead of holding grudges or backstabbing each other.
Team-Building Activities and Social Events
The best strategy to avoid workplace bullying is to actually build friendships and good connections among the staff. Team-building activities and social events help break the differences and form bonds between individuals.
Make Sure You Are Not the Bully
To be able to apply these strategies, the manager or the employer must be a role model. A team will never trust a manager who bullies them. They will also hesitate to report the incidents since it could affect them badly.
Listen to your employees attentively in meetings and never ignore any opinion. Revise the way you deal with your employees, inside and outside the business context.
Reconsider your sense of humour and how your employees view your attitude, especially in meetings and while assigning tasks.
How to Overcome Workplace Bullying: As An Individual
Keep Your Calm
Bullies do it for the reactions, either from the target or the audience. If you show that you are hurt or upset, it will make them feel their actions have been a success.
If it doesn’t stop, then you must start documenting what happened. The date, the location, what the bully did, and who witnessed the incident. Witnesses are of great help to rest your case.
Turn the Tables
Sometimes it works when the bully realises that he/she is not the only one who is good at the game, especially when it comes to verbal bullying. That doesn’t mean you should bully back, just find a way to pick a smart reply. If the target steps up with a good comeback, without showing anger, the bully backs off.
Find someone you trust, and it would be best if this person has authority. Do not be worried about the consequences of reporting it officially, even if your bully has a high rank and a great reputation.
In addition, you may not be the only person. Find strength in numbers and team up with anyone who has been bullied by the same person.
How to Overcome Workplace Bullying: From a Legal Point of View
Although “bullying” does not exist in UK law, the term is used interchangeably with “harassment.”
Harassment is covered by the Equality Act and is defined as: “unwanted conduct” which has the purpose or effect of violating an individual’s dignity or creating an intimidating, hostile, degrading, humiliating or offensive environment for that individual.”
Filing a complaint for a serious bullying problem, one that qualifies for harassment, is a solution to how to overcome workplace bullying.
How to Overcome Workplace Bullying: Awareness is Key
Workplace bullying is a real problem that everyone should have an awareness of, it affects the mental health of the employees and the business as well. Companies should not tolerate bullies as they directly harm their reputation while individuals should know the steps to take to act against unacceptable behaviour.