Professional environments aim to be healthy workplaces. However, despite years of research and discussion workplace conflict, discrimination and bullying continue to proliferate, and people continue to suffer. Workplace bullying, specifically, can lead to severe psychological symptoms which include: psychosomatic issues, insomnia/fatigue, deflated self-esteem, reduced confidence, increased stress, anxiety, depression and potentially post-traumatic stress disorder.
What does workplace bullying look like?
“I was the only man in the office. A group of my female colleagues would make comments about my physique, tease me about whether or not I was seeing anyone, and flirt with me, amongst other things. I repeatedly asked them, nicely, to cut it out, but they only laughed and poked fun at the ‘sensitive guy.’ I couldn’t stand it – I had to quit.”
“Does that guy not realize how inappropriate his racist ‘jokes’ are? Why does he always come out with them when I’m around??”
“I was so happy to get the promotion… but the person who had been acting in the position before me wasn’t so happy about it. They continually undermined my work, spread rumors about me, even made snide comments to me when nobody was around to hear… my life at work was a living hell…”
All of the above are examples of workplace bullying and harassment. Workplace bullying behaviors can be covert/overt or passive/aggressive. Some examples are: withholding vital information, micro-management, questioning professional ability, spreading rumours, ridicule, constantly changing of one’s expectations/goals.,.
Workplace bullying can either be situational or chronic. Situational bullying looks like occasional outbursts, verbal abuse, and yelling regarding particular situations or events. Chronic bullying involves voracious, predictable constant torment. Chronic bullying could eventually devolve into psychopathogical behaviors.
So what do we do about it?
Workplace bullying must be taken seriously. It is never “just harmless fun,” and those affected are not “overly sensitive.” One possible solution is the adoption of formal codes of conduct, systems of reporting abuse, and zero-tolerance policies. Providing mandatory training, workshops and seminars to educate staff about workplace bullying, and gives them with tools to identify and help put an end to any bullying.
If you experience workplace bullying, raise your concerns with your supervisor, Human Resources department, or other senior member. Your Employee Assistance Provider can help you get help and support you through this struggle.
Sodhi, P. (Sodhi, 2010). Encouraging healthy and respectful work environments. Shepell·fgi Quarterly “Counsellors’ Connection” Newsletter, pp.10-12.