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Workplace Bullying – Definition

Workplace Bullying – Definition

Workplace bullying is unwanted, recurring, aggressive messages that are aimed at one or more individual, and that involve a power imbalance between bully and target. Bullying is prevalent in the workplace and invites significant damaging consequences for victims, observers, and the organization – including depression, burnout, job dissatisfaction, reduced productivity, increased absenteeism and turnover, health related stress, workers compensation expenses, lawsuits, and even a bad reputation. Harassment or “bullying” at work is about persistent personal abuse which humiliates and demeans the individual. Sometimes it is called a personality clash, strong management, or an attitude problem. It is behaviour that is too often condoned even if colleagues disapprove and it creates a hostile, fearful environment.

Men and women who bully need to control others resulting in difficulty in delegating, trusting others, and sharing information which they see this as a loss of control. They blame everyone but themselves using selective memories and twisting the truth to their own advantage. They can have “dual” personalities, able to charm some and still be tyrannical with others, usually subordinates. Because of this, people being bullied have difficulty being believed by those who have been charmed.

Repeated refers to the persistent or ongoing nature of the behaviour and can refer to a range of different types of behaviour over time.

Systematic refers to having, showing or involving a method or plan. Whether behaviour is systematic or not will depend on an analysis of the circumstances of each individual case with this general guideline in mind.

Risk to health and safety includes the risk to the emotional, mental or physical health of the person(s) in the workplace.

Some of the most common bullying behaviours include:

  • Behind-the-back put-downs, insults, and unfair criticism
  • Constantly belittling their employees
  • De-motivating employees
  • Hostile glares and other intimidating gestures
  • Never acknowledging and good or outstanding work performance(s)
  • The deliberate sabotage and undermining of another’s work performance
  • Yelling, shouting and screaming

Yelling and using profanity is a type of blatant verbal and emotional abuse and is often unpredictable and irrational. The individual being bullied may be vulnerable, coming back to work following bereavement or prolonged absence or be seen as “different” because of race, disability, timidity, sexual orientation etc. Verbal and emotional abuse undermines self-confidence and morale and productivity drops. It can lead to stress related symptoms and those targeted may find themselves wanting to quit to escape or fabricating reasons to stay away from work.

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