Is bullying rife in the workplace?

On a weekly basis we are hit with another press story relating to bullying in the workplace, the latest being the NHS and BBC. But bullying is not the exclusive domain of large organisations – it can happen anywhere. The impact is devastating and results in the individual feeling humiliated, degraded, undermined, or undervalued.  This creates a negative impact on operational effectiveness and destroys the collaborative work environment.

In the current climate evidence suggests people are fearful of speaking out about bullying. However they are still suffering an impact. There is a clear link between increased bullying and workplace stress and sickness absence. The Chartered Institute of Personnel Development recently reported stress is the major cause of long-term sickness absence for both manual and non-manual workers.  There are tangible costs associated with bullying at work.

Bullying can involve two individuals or groups of people. It is characterised by a combination of small things over time that in isolation may not appear to have much impact, but the cumulative effect can be intolerable.

How do you know if you are being bullied or have witnessed bullying? Some examples of bullying behaviour include:

  • spreading malicious rumours
  • unfair levels and type of work
  • exclusion from meetings, social events, decision making
  • being regularly undermined in front of colleagues
  • denying training or promotion opportunities

Responsible organisations have a bullying and harassment policy and work on solving the issue quickly and informally. They recommend WHAT to do i.e. speak to the perpetrator directly. They rarely give guidance on HOW to do it.

If speaking to the individual is not an option or does not have the desired effect, there are other things to try.  For example,

  • Speak to someone about your concerns such as a colleague, staff or HR representative
  • Keep a diary of what happened, including what they and you said or did, when and where, and if there were witnesses
  • Use mediation
  • Follow the formal complaints procedure

You can read more about bullying here.

Many progressive organisations have adopted The Garnett Foundation’s approach to raise awareness of bullying and harassment. We examine the impact bullying can have on the work environment.  Our training courses offer practical solutions on the HOW to resolve discord using a range of techniques, enabling them to choose a solution that suits their personal style.   We show individuals and organisations how to tackle inappropriate language and behaviour in all its forms. Plus we create an environment where individuals can examine their own personal impact.

Read more in this case study.