That is the question that should be asked and the one which needs to be answered!
Dr Linda Sue Mata in her book ‘Understanding Workplace Bullying’ noted in lay terms that:
‘Workplace bullying is a serious problem in workplaces today.
It can cause serious health problems, lower self-esteem, damage interpersonal relationships or end the person’s career.
There are insufficient laws and means by which one can seek remedy for this phenomenon.
It is important that victims and co-workers first recognize the signs of workplace bullying in order to keep it from escalating.
If the victims understand what is happening, they will be able to develop a coping mechanism which will help to eliminate bullying from the workplace and help the victims protect themselves from its harmful effects.’
The good Doctor has hit the nail firmly on the head when she advises that ‘it is important that victims and co-workers first recognize the signs of workplace bullying in order to keep it from escalating.’
First of let’s do some myth busting:
‘Traditional initiation pranks, such as relentless teasing or the physical and mental intimidation of a new employee or team member, are simply bits of fun, a rite of passage even’. FALSE
‘Belittling of junior colleagues lets them know who’s the boss and that they have to earn the respect of their peers.’ FALSE
‘Continually coming down hard on subordinates only serves to toughen them up in readiness for promotion.’ FALSE
‘Sticks and stones may break my bones, but words will never hurt me!’ FALSE
There are so many more myths and misconceptions, all dating back to the 1970’s, 80’s even 90’s unfortunately, still being observed by many today, in 2022.
So why, in this decade of embracing inclusivity and diversity, are these draconian behaviours taking place in the modern workplace?
Undoubtedly there have been many in depth studies and research papers into this very topic, however from a lay point of view it is simply that ‘Bullies beget Bullies’!
‘Ignoring bullying and harassment in your business will cost you in more ways than one’ by Sean Cookson, 360HR Solutions:
‘I worked in an organisation where a senior manager would regularly humiliate and belittle subordinates, in public. Over time, subordinate managers began to emulate and copy the same bullying behaviour of their leader. Possibly as a coping or survival mechanism. (‘Bullies beget Bullies’). Bullying behaviour spread and unsurprisingly the business was impacted by resignations and poor performance. The organisation’s leadership ignored the danger signs and complaints.’
A 2016 study by Safe Work Australia – ‘Bullying and Harassment in Australian Workplaces’ found that almost 4 out of every 10 workers had experienced being yelled or sworn at, with over more than 2 out of every 10 workers having been humiliated in front of others.
The same 2016 study notes that reports of workplace bullying had increased by 7% with Australia ranked as having the “6th highest rate of workplace bullying when compared to 34 European countries.”
According to that study:
- Organisations must take the consequences of bullying and harassment seriously.
- Bullying impacts performance of employees and increases turnover and absenteeism.
- If employers are to take the issue seriously, it’s critical they not only understand what constitutes bullying and harassment, or how to identify it, but importantly how to create a work culture and environment that is safe and doesn’t provide oxygen for bullying and harassing behaviours.
The Fair Work Ombudsman defines workplace bullying as follows:
- behaving aggressively towards others
- teasing or playing practical jokes
- pressuring someone to behave inappropriately
- excluding someone from work-related events
- unreasonable work demands.
In summary, bullying in the workplace of 2022 and beyond is purely and simply the act of one person or persons on another or others, which has the effect of leaving one or more person feeling inadequate, inferior, or of no value to the organisation or themselves.
Following are sources of support:
Legislation is in place to protect all persons participating in the workplace, available from the Fairwork Ombudsmen at https://www.fairwork.gov.au/employment-conditions/bullying-sexual-harassment-and-discrimination-at-work/bullying-in-the-workplace
There is also as an International Standard, ISO 45003 ‘Psychological health and safety at work — Guidelines for managing psychosocial risks’ at https://www.iso.org/obp/ui/#iso:std:iso:45003:ed-1:v1:en
This author has also experienced workplace bullying firsthand, sharing his experiences in his book, ’10 Years On – a memoir of workplace toxicity’ now available as a series of 3 x 12 minute podcasts at https://glasshalffullcom.com/%23mentalhealthmatters#657ebb22-b843-4fdd-82fc-1e014731571b
Should you or anyone you know need help, please contact:
- Mates in Construction 1300 22 4636 (construction worker focus)
- Lifeline 13 11 14
- BeyondBlue 1800 512 348
Charles Hill – The Glass Half Full Community Foundation – August 2022