Anti-Bullying Week - STOP Workplace Bullying!

This year Anti-Bullying Week starts on November 12th and its theme is ‘Change Starts with Us’. Anti-Bullying Week is held every November and aims to raise awareness of the bullying of children and young people in schools and is run by the Anti-Bullying Alliance, which was founded in 2002 originally by the NSPCC. Now over 140 charitable organisations support ABA and its cause.

‘Change Starts with Us’ underlines how everyday acts like listening, having a conversation, thinking about the impact of our words, or stopping before you ‘like’ a hurtful social media post, can help to reduce bullying. Whether it is verbal, physical, online or in person, bullying has a significant impact on a child’s life that can last well into adulthood.

The campaign aims to emphasise that we all have a part to play: Change Starts with Us.
While ABA is fighting to combat bullying in schools, we must all realise that bullying is not exclusive to young people and it therefore raises the question:

Who is fighting the corner of workers who are being bullied in the workplace?

Many of us associate bullying with the playground, and those that suffered at the hands of bullies during their former years often carry the emotional and sometimes physical scars way into their adult lives. At its worst, some bullied never fully recover and on the flip side, the bullied can even sometimes become bullies.

Definition:

Workplace bullying is a persistent pattern of mistreatment from others in the workplace that causes either emotional or in extreme cases physical harm.

At its core, bullying and harassment are of abusive behaviour that make someone feel intimidated, offended or humiliated. It can be carried out by an individual or a group of people, but the shared aim is to create an intimidating work environment for another with the sole purpose of harming their dignity, safety and well-being.

Examples of bullying and harassing behaviour can take on several forms, and it can be work-related and/or relational (social) bullying and sometimes cyber-bullying.

Bullying at work can often fall under the radar or be dismissed by management and is often difficult to pinpoint because workplace bullies often operate within the established rules and policies of their organisation.

Workplace bullying

Often perpetrators can be those in authority with trends showing that a high percentage of bullies regularly outrank their victims. Women are most likely to be bullied in general, with men more likely to participate in aggressive bullying.

However, women bullies are most likely to bully fellow women and bullies can also be peers, and occasionally subordinates.

Some of the following statements are commonly used but are absolutely a dismissive response to a deeper issue:

“A clash of personalities”
If there is systematic belittling, exclusion, or intimidation, this is not just clashing with someone, this is bullying.

“Character building”
Negative remarks and actions towards someone will not build any sort of character; the effects can be debilitating and affect emotional health.

“It’s a leadership style”
Overly aggressive or dominant managers may try and pass bullying off as their “style” of management, but if someone feels threatened, this is bullying.

“Provoked by the victim”
Bullying is never the victim’s fault and is often motivated by the perpetrator’s insecurities or desire to progress up the career ladder.

The results can be devastating to professional progression if somebody is unfairly treated, continually undermined in front of colleagues/clients or denied training and promotional opportunities.

Relational bullying

Relational bullying is social bullying within the workplace and can often be subtle and over a prolonged period. The impact of social bullying can be incredibly distressing and can break a person’s spirit, leading to feelings of anxiety, depression and exclusion.

 

Some of the following examples of social bullying behaviour may ring some alarm bells within your own work environments:

  • Damaging or hurting someone’s reputation or relationships, including professional.
  • Leaving someone out on purpose
  • Exclusion from social events on a regular basisSpreading rumours about someone and trying to get others to join in
  • Breaking confidence
  • Embarrassing someone in public
  • Trying to get others to avoid having contact with the victim
  • Comments on social networking sites that could be derogatory

Workplace relational bullying may not be at all obvious to co-workers if it is being instigated by a popular member of the team. Co-workers can unwittingly become participators. Many of us will have been subject to either receiving the odd dig or laughing at the ‘banter’ which will be at somebody else’s expense. “It was a bit of a laugh” or “I was only joking” can easily side-line onlookers to the real intent, but the receiver will feel inadequate, worthless, manipulated and paranoid.

The Facts

A recent survey conducted by Bullying UK found that 73% of respondents said the bullying was verbal and included threats and that they were made to feel bad, but that 60% felt the bullying was social which included exclusion, being ignored and feeling isolated.

 

48% of people surveyed felt that they had no other choice other than to tolerate the bullying whilst 20% stated that they were signed off work from stress. The numbers demonstrate how an individual’s professional credibility can be affected in the workplace with gossip and rumours reaching management and potentially damaging chances of promotion and stability.

Seriously shocking statistics highlighting the level of social bullying within the workplace along with the devasting impact it can take upon an individual’s emotional and physical well-being.

So how do we raise awareness?

 

How can we as individuals ensure that the stats go down and not up?

We can start by being honest with ourselves. Being able to recognise the signs of bullying allows us to evaluate a situation from a different perspective. If we step back and take a long look at the different forms of bullying, you may spot behaviour that resonates with some of the below examples:

 

  • Are we guilty of innocently participating in banter that might be at somebody else’s expense?
  • If we spot somebody who is regularly not included in the conversation, are we doing enough to invite them to join in?
  • Do you notice a colleague regularly being hauled over the coals in front of an audience but don’t feel confident enough to raise it with management?
  • Are you guilty of being nosey and wanting to get in on the gossip but not prepared to shut it down?
  • Are you too scared to confront a bully in case they turn their attentions to you instead?

Take Action!

It’s not easy witnessing or facing up to behaviour that makes us feel uncomfortable but making a stand can break the cycle. If you’re concerned that somebody is a victim of social or workplace bullying, try approaching the person affected directly to say that you have noticed them being repeatedly targeted and offer your support.

Being able to solve a problem informally can be the quickest way to a resolution. Often subtle bullying can fall under the radar and can become habitual, part of the daily office tease, but for those participating, they may not realise they had been causing upset. Speaking up and telling people how you feel can go a long way to stopping inappropriate chit chat that is getting you down.

Alternatively report your concerns to your line manager or HR if the informal approach is ineffective or you feel too uncomfortable or scared to talk to the perpetrator.

Ensure you keep a note of incidents, including dates, times, places, who was involved, what happened and witness names so that you have the evidence to back up your complaint. Remember the incident could be as subtle as giving someone the silent treatment or excluding them from signing a birthday card. Continued deliberate and emotionally damaging behaviour IS BULLYING.

Whilst bullying itself if not against the law, if you are being harassed or intimidated this could be harassment, which is illegal and falls under the Equality Act 2010

The following examples of harassment are protected characteristics under the Equality Act 2010 and include any unwanted behaviours regarding:

  • Your age, gender, sex, or sexuality
  • Your marital status, pregnancy, or maternity/paternity rights
  • Your race, religion, or beliefs
  • If you have a disability or additional needs

Clear advice for both employees and employers can be found on the UK Government website

Encouraging staff to speak out against bullying can be key as there will normally be more than one victim and power in numbers cannot be ignored. Embedding a zero tolerance on bullying in the workplace and making this known through company policy is crucial and will make staff feel secure within their working environment.

Let’s not let victims suffer in silence.
Let’s not feed the bully’s own insecurities by letting them have the power and control.
Let’s be kinder and more mindful of our own behaviour.
Let’s put an end to bullying

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If you have been affected by any of the content in this article, or want to make real changes within your own workplace, the following websites offer advice, support, guidance and legal information. Just click on the links.

BullyingUK

People Management

ABA (Anti-Bullying Alliance)

Gov.uk Workplace Bullying

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