Bullying in the workplace

09 July 2019

Workplace bullying can have a very negative effect on your employees and workforce. It’s essential to ensure it doesn’t take place around your business.

You should look to prevent bullying where possible, which is where a bullying and harassment policy explains your stance.

One of the disconcerting workplace bullying facts is Ireland is one of the worst affected countries in Europe. A European-wide survey in 2016 revealed 6% of employees complained of bullying at work.

It’s a serious HR issue and breach of your policies if an employee is bullying others.

What is classified as bullying in the workplace?

The process is the behaviour of one employee—or more—that makes an individual feel intimidated, degraded, or humiliated. Forms of bullying in the workplace include:

  • Name-calling.
  • Physical abuse.
  • Passive-aggressive behaviour (such as implied threats in an email).
  • Excluding colleagues from common activities, such as meetings.
  • Deliberately overloading an individual with work.
  • Gossiping and spreading rumours.
  • Providing unfair treatment to a staff member.
  • Deliberately denying career advance opportunities.

Bullying in the workplace in Ireland can be down to lower-level employees, or those higher up, including directors, line managers, or a CEO.

The effects of workplace bullying are sometimes serious and can have very negative effects on a business. Employees facing bullying may have:

  • A drop in productivity due to stress.
  • Sleep problems.

The likes of stress from workplace bullying can then lead to resignations and a high turnover rate.

So, bullying and harassment in the workplace should be blocked at all opportunities.

It’s also important to note the difference between the two (many businesses mistake them as the same thing):

  • Bullying: Behaviour that’s offensive, intimidating, insulting, or malicious. The purpose of such activities is to undermine an individual and humiliate them.
  • Harassment: Behaviour that’s offensive or intrusive—such as sexual, racial, or physical. These activities violate an employee’s rights and are offensive and degrading.

You may hear other terms for the former, too. Another word for bullying in the workplace is mistreatment. You may also come across oppressor, persecutor, and tormentor.

It’s important to note bullying isn’t against the law, but it can have serious consequences if you don’t address the issue.

However, harassment is against the law. And bullying becomes a harassing issue when it relates to:

  • Disability (including mental health issues, such as autism workplace bullying).
  • Gender reassignment.
  • Marriage and civil partnership.
  • Pregnancy and maternity.
  • Religion or belief.
  • Sexual orientation.

Why do people bully in the workplace?

There are many reasons why an individual may do it. Examples include:

  • Exploiting a position of power—such as a managing director looking down on staff members.
  • A struggling employee lashing out at colleagues to make up for their failings.
  • A line manager with a particularly forceful management style that pushes the boundaries of acceptability.
  • If the individual has a personality disorder, such as a narcissistic personality disorder (NPD) that naturally leads to abusive behaviour.
  • Jealously due to a colleague’s promotion or accomplishments.
  • Due to discriminatory views against a colleague—such as their sex, race, or religious beliefs.
  • An individual fears a colleague is threatening to take over their role.
  • Due to the popularity of the colleague they’re targeting.

Those are common examples, but there are also other reasons why. Sometimes it’s due to simple and seemingly insignificant issues.

And that can include emotional bullying in the workplace, such as a gradual process of passive-aggressive and psychological putdowns.

In time, this can lead to serious mental health issues. That can include stress, depression, and anxiety.

Regardless of the reason, it’s important to make sure none of your employees engage in this sort of behaviour.

How to identify workplace bullying

It’s important for your business to be aware of the effects a workplace bully can have on other employees.

A problem is it can be difficult to spot—an affected employee may not have the confidence to come forward and make an official complaint.

But there are workplace bullying solutions. One of the best ways to identify the issue to have an open business policy. This can encourage staff to speak out about what’s happening to them. Make it clear they can report their issues to:

  • Line managers.
  • Your HR department.
  • A trade union representative.
  • A counsellor.
  • Directly to their boss.

It’s also important for your business to maintain a vigilant attitude towards bullying. As a result, you should have an anti-bullying policy in place.

This can be part of their contracts of employment and other documents—such as your company handbook.

The policy should explain your workplace bullying procedure. This informs members of staff have to report any problems—and how your business will respond to allegations. That can include:

  • An investigation into the claims.
  • Disciplinary actions.
  • Support for any employee suffering negative effects from the experience.

It’s also important to mentioned false accusations of bullying in the workplace. Make it clear that employees will face consequences if they make fake claims against a colleague.

This can result in disciplinary action—or worse if the claim is particularly slanderous, such as an act of gross misconduct.

Need our help?

For further complimentary advice on bullying from an expert, call us any time day or night on 0818 923 923 or request a callback here.

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