Workplace bullying

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Background

Workplace bullying refers to the continuous criticism, negative comments on one's work or personality etc which harm the mental state of an employee much more than the sexual harassment.

As such, both the workplace bullying and the sexual harassment have an ability to create a negative aura but still, workplace bullying has much more adverse affects than the sexual harassment. According to a survey done, it was found that the employees who had undergone the workplace bullying in any form, say, belittling comments, abuses, continuous criticism etc had much more chances of being depressed, having inferiority complex, little job satisfaction and thus leaving their jobs than those who had undergone the sexual harassment.

In addition to this, it was also found out from the same survey that the employees who had experienced the workplace bullying had much more job stress, anger, anxiety and lower level of job commitment than the others.

Introduction

According to Gary and Ruth Namie, “workplace bullying is repeated, health-harming mistreatment, verbal abuse or conduct which is threatening, humiliating, intimidating, or sabotage that interferes with work or some combination of the three.”

Hence it can be said that the workplace bullying refers to the humiliating comments, criticism, verbal abuses, fault-finding activities, isolation, excessive monitoring, excessive warnings may be either verbally or in the written form, etc.

Both the workplace bullying and sexual harassment have a negative impact on the employees but according to an analysis done it was found that the workplace bullying had much more negative impact than that of sexual harassment and it also forced the employees to quit their jobs in a greater number as compared to the sexual harassment cases.

Personality traits more prone to bullying

The people who have the dominating nature are usually found bullying others at the workplaces. Even the dominating nature has two aspects - positive dominance i.e. leadership and negative dominance i.e. dictatorship. So dictators are the people who actually practice the workplace bullying.

Facts and Figures

Each year, due to the practice of bullying around 18.9 million working days are lost and half of the mental illnesses of the employees are a result of this bullying only. It costs, according to an estimation, around $3.7 bn to the US economy annually.

A survey on a population of 10000 employees was conducted and the result was that 92% of them said that they were currently being bullied out of which around 50% were being bullied by their bosses.

A study under the name “Bullying at work 2008” revealed the following facts:

  1. Since 3 years, 70% of the managers were being bullied
  2. Till then, 63% of the employees were being bullied
  3. 30% of the employees were witness to such practice of the workplace bullying
  4. In around 42% of the bullying cases, it was reported that no action had been taken by their organizations till then in such matters

According to a survey conducted in 2007, WBI reported that 34% of the American workers were being bullied at their workplace and as mentioned earlier also, nearly 50% of the employees were seriously affected mentally after witnessing bullying at their workplace.

The number of men bullies is around 62% in regards to 38% of the women bullies. The most stunning fact is that when women are being bullied, 75% of their targets are the other women. Also in the report it was revealed that in almost 65% of the cases, when the cases of such workplace bullying were reported to the employers, it was either worsened or ignored. It also demotivated the employees from reporting any such case to their employer in the near future. The employees who are being bullied, 77% of them either leave their jobs or change it to escape such situation.

Sleep Also Eludes Observers

Many of the people who had witnessed the workplace bullying also faced the disturbances in their sleep. According to a research done, it was found that around one-third of the employees who had witnessed the bullying during the past 12 months were suffering from sleep diaturbances. It was also found out that:

  • Men had higher chances of undergoing the sleep disturbances by 60% who saw someone else being bullied at their workplace.
  • Even in women, the chances of sleep disturbances were as high as 20% who witnessed someone else being bullied at the workplace.

In case, the employees had both, witnessed and experienced the workplace bullying, then the chances for sleep disturbance were much higher in them

Why do people bully?

Mostly, people bully because they want to hide their inadequacy. Bullying, actually, doesn't constitute even a single bit of the managing activity. It is an act of only those people who are in a rush to hide their inadequate potentials. So managing is an act of the good managers whereas bullying is an act of the bad ones. Mostly people bully because:

  • They want to hide their inadequacy and also reluctant to find out the solution to such inadequacy.
  • They are reluctant to accept the effect of their behaviour on other peoples' mental state.
  • They don't want to be figured out as individuals who are incompetent and have no worthy potentials.
  • They don't want their incompetency to come into the limelight.

The workplace bullying is the most ineffective and inefficient way of running any organization because the organizations where there is a scope for such an activity there is always a scope for the employees being highly dissatisfied, demoralized, demotivated etc leading to a high level of staff turnover and lower level of the employees' productivity and thus adversely affecting the organisation's profitability. Such organizations can never prosper.

A bully, in real sense, is one who:

  • Can never admit his misbehavior
  • Lives in the adult world but is not ready to understand the norms of living in such world i.e. acceptance of responsibilities.
  • Is reluctant to change his behaviour.
  • Is always in a search of someone on whose shoulders he can pass on his workload.

Despite all their illusive projections, bullies can always be recognized as the ones who the least amount of self-confidence and the highest level of insecurity. They are the ones who are always in a fear of being recognized because of their inability to fulfill their obligations.

Bullying is mainly derived out of incompetency, aggression, feeling of being rejected and frustration.

Bullies are seething with resentment, bitterness, hatred and anger, and often have wide-ranging prejudices as a vehicle for dumping their anger onto others. Bullies are driven by jealousy and envy. Rejection (which cannot be assuaged) is another powerful motivator of bullying.

What does bullying look like?

The top 10 bullying tactics according to the Workplace Bullying and Trauma Institute (WBTI) are as follows:

  1. Accusing others of the acts of which they are not even aware of. (71%)
  2. Nonverbal acts such as staring which completely depicted dominance. (68%)
  3. Discarding others' thoughts in public. (64%)
  4. Concocting gossips about others. (56%)
  5. Encouraging differences among the people. (55%)
  6. Constant criticism. (57%)
  7. No appreciation even for the best of the jobs done by the employees (58%)
  8. Building up the rules which even the bully himself doesn't follow. (61%)
  9. Verbal abuses. (63%)
  10. Discrimination on the basis of caste, colour, creed or race. (64%)

What are the top 10 acts of workplace bullies?

  1. Backbiting.
  2. Discouraging others by speaking in between their work.
  3. Boasting off of their authority.
  4. Discouraging others when they are giving their opinions.
  5. Irresponsible towards their work.
  6. Nonverbal bullying like continuous staring.
  7. Verbal abuses.
  8. Shouting at others.
  9. Prejudice
  10. Discrimination on the basis of caste and race.

Are there differences between genders?

According to a research done, WBTI noted that different gender of bullies chose different tactics of bullying which are under-mentioned:

a.) According to WBTI men bullies adopted the following tactics in more number than the women bullies:

Bullying Tactics

Men bullies

Women bullies

Yelling in public places

65%

57%

Verbal abuses

54%

48%

Non-appreciation of others' work

55%

43%

Opposition of the complaints registered by others

58%

48%

Mistreatment with mental vulnerability

54%

40%

Blaming others for being unsuccessful

53%

41%

Calling others by bad names

47%

36%

Threatening others of endangering their jobs

46%

33%

Endangering others benefits

38%

27%

Blocking others' access to the organizational resources which can lead to their success

35%

27%

Discrimination

21%

9%

Designating jobs to people where the work environment is not safe

21%

13%

Endangering others' physical security

23%

10%

Harming others' mental stability

16%

8%

Boasting off of the authority

9%

5%

b.) According to WBTI women bullies adopted the following tactics in more number than the men bullies:

Bullying Tactics

Men bullies

Women bullies

Non verbal mistreatment

69%

75%

Influencing others' viewpoint to be against the targeted person

58%

66%

Hence, the above report shows that men bullies are much more indecent than their women counterpart.

The WBTI notes different tactics chosen based on the targets' gender:

a) The women targets received the following tactics in more number than their men counterparts:

Bullying Tactics

Men targets

Women targets

The contributions to the different meetings being discounted

60%

75%

Mistreatment during medical or psychological sickness

34%

44%

Denial of success in the job.

33%

42%

Lack of access to resources for the success

20%

31%

Over interference into the office space and personal emails.

15%

23%

b) The men targets received the following tactics in more number than their women counterparts:

Bullying Tactics

Men targets

Women targets

Affliction arising out of disability

27%

19%

Physical harming threat

22%

13%

Identifying the bully in a workplace:

If the following things exist in a department, then there definitely exists a workplace bully:

  • A very high rate of staff turnover
  • High rate of the leaves due to illness
  • Nervous breakdowns
  • Mortality rate
  • High rates of voluntary retirements
  • Expulsions
  • Outsourcing the task of keeping an eye on the staff
  • Legal actions against the staff

Workplace bullying - Effects on an individual:

The under-mentioned are some of the psychological and physical problems faced by the targets of the workplace bullying:

  • Lack of appropriate financial resources due to high rate of absenteeism
  • Lack of self-confidence
  • Blaming oneself for the occurrences
  • Deep depression
  • Reduction in the self-respect
  • Highly disturbed sleep.
  • Lack of self-adjusting behaviour
  • Physical or mental disorder
  • Eating problems

Workplace bullying - Effects on an organization:

All the effects of the workplace bullying mentioned above will impose the under-mentioned costs on an organization:

  1. Costs of hiring the new employees in place of those who have left the organization due to bullying.
  2. Diversion of the efficient efforts of the employees away from the productivity.
  3. Outsourcing costs for keeping an eye on the employees.

Thus, it can be rightly said that the bullies wash away the profit earning capacity of the organization because there is high rate of staff turnover, absenteeism, low self-esteem among the employees along with less job satisfaction and thus consequently leading to the high costs to be borne by the organization along with the lesser efficiency and productivity from the employees.

The physical or mental problems posed by bullying on the staff makes them feel uncomfortable in their work environment, underestimates their efficiencies and consequently leads to a loss in the organization because the employees wont be fully dedicated and honest toward the organization.

Difference between the workplace bullying and the harassment:

Harassment is a sort of conduct which is very offensive in nature which can lead to serious situations in the terms of contraxt of an employee regarding his employment. Its main reason for existence is the protected class of the individuals like caste, creed color, religion, sex etc.

Examples:

  • When an employee cracks racist jokes and refers to a particular group of co-workers and when such group lodges a complaint with the employer, then in turn, he does nothing to ratify such act of that very employee.
  • When a male employee makes vulgar sexual suggestions to his female counterpart and tries to harass her physically.

The following are the main points of differences between harassment and bullying:

Harassment

Workplace bullying

Mostly in physical form involving the practice of touching the females by males, damaging one's precious possessions etc.

Mostly, the bullying is psychological in nature although it may become physical later on but only in case of the male targets and not the female targets.

Focused on a particular individual i.e. females, particular castes, creed, color, religions etc.

Focused on mostly those individuals who are competent enough and famous.

It is usually related with sex and biasness

It is usually related with competency and fame.

It arises out of a few or many incidents

It arises out of a single incident of high level of competency

Targeted person is well aware of the fact that he is being harassed.

Targeted person doesn't realize of his being bullied unless and until a major incident takes place.

It can be recognized especially in case of sexual harassment by any individual.

It is not easily identifiable.

It involves the use of abusive language e.g. - bitch, coon etc.

It doesn't involve abusive language rather involves underestimation of others' efficiencies and criticizing their abilities.

It involves possession.

It involves dominance and in case it fails, then comes the elimination of an individual into picture.

It is clearly focused on sex

It is clearly focused on competency and fame.

It is often due to attractiveness of an individual and his/her personality or image.

It is often due to the secrecy within one's heart against the other.

It can be anywhere i.e. within or outside the workplace.

It is mainly found within the workplace.

The person who is practicing harassment often takes his target to be an easy one.

The person who is practicing bullying perceives his target to be a threat.

It is mainly a form of dominance.

It is mainly an act of controlling the threat.

A highly indisciplined person is often a harasser.

A bully is often an envious individual.

The harasser often suffers from physical inadequacies.

The bully often suffers from inadequacies arising out of envious nature and highly competitive skills of others.

Bullies' main targets

The individuals who possess the following qualities are the main targets of the bullies:

  • Innovative skills.
  • Intellectual individuals.
  • Success and fame.
  • Desire to be on the top.
  • Imaginative and creative.
  • Valuing others' opinions.
  • Helping nature.
  • Ability to adjust in adverse conditions.
  • Willing to accept the challenging jobs.

Types of bullying

Pressure or unwitting bullying:

It is a kind of bullying in which the person is highly stressed out of which he becomes short tempered, frustrated and starts yelling on others. After a certain time period when he realizes his mistake, he asks for the apologies of others and tries his best not to repeat it in future.

Corporate bullying:

It is a kind of bullying wherein the employer is in a dominating position and he embarrasses his employees by abusing them, being well aware of the fact that the opportunities for the jobs in the outside world are very scarce. E.g.:

  • Unduly influencing the employees to work for 65-75 weeks at a stretch and if they are reluctant to their work the take undue punitive actions against them.
  • Firing the unfit employees rather than bearing the losses caused due to their presence in the organization.
  • Rejection of genuine sick leaves of the employees.
  • Continuous spying of the employees through some outsourced agencies.
  • Asking the employees to complaint about their co-workers and thus creating differences among them.
  • Underestimating any employee who is not confident about himself rather than helping him come out of it.

Organizational bullying:

It is a sort of bullying which takes place when the organization reacts to the external changes by adapting itself to the changed environments i.e. changed market standing of the organization, cutting the wage rates of the employees, meeting the changed consumer tastes and preferences and many other external influences.

Institutional bullying:

It is that kind of bullying wherein the employees are forced to enter into such type of contracts with the employers in which the terms of the contract are not favorable for the employees or are less favorable along with an element of threat, huge workload, tight working schedules, unmanageable roles and such positions which have very less chances of promotions in it.

Client bullying:

It refers to that kind of bullying in which the individuals are bullied by their customers/clients and are forced to render better quality services through verbal abuses or physical/mental torture. E.g.: patients bullying the doctors, clients bullying the lawyers, customers bullying the shopkeepers etc.

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