Sunday, September 18, 2011

Do Not Stand Alone: Workplace Bullying 2

In my last post, Do not stand alone, I took a look at workplace bullying, what exactly is bullying and how to spot a bully within your company/team. So just what type of impact can bullying behavior have on the victim/s and ultimately your business/company? Workplace bullying can have a very serious negative impact on individuals and companies, and sadly it is all too common.

Staffordshire University Business School, in 1994, published the results of a survey indicating that 1 in 2 UK employees have at some point been the victims of bullying behavior in the workplace, and according to the Workplace Bullying Institute (US) up to a third of all US employees may be the victims of workplace bullying at some point in their working careers, not much research into workplace bullying exists for Ireland however in 2007 the ESRI (Economic and Social Research Institute) exposed a disturbing picture of bullying in the workplace in Ireland, in their research it was revealed that 7.9% of those at work reported that they had experienced bullying within 6 months of the study, (that's an equivalent of 159,000 individuals) and women were at more risk to be bullied at work than men (10.7%).

Every person and every company would benefit from learning to recognize and stopping workplace bullying. Why? Workplace Bullying can have negative effects on employees such as:

  • Stress (long term high stress levels can lead to a whole host of physical, physiological and emotional problems)
  • High absenteeism
  • Low productivity
  • Lower self-esteem
  • Depression and suicidal thoughts
  • Anxiety
  • Physical issues such as digestive problems, high blood pressure, insomnia
  • Post traumatic stress disorder
  • Breakdown or issues with home life due to workplace stress

And workplace bullying is also bad for your business. Some of the ways the companies suffer include:

  • High turnover of employees, which is expensive for companies/businesses due to hiring and training employees only to lose them a short time later.
  • Low productivity due to lack of motivation to perform, increased annual sick days due to stress-related illnesses and disorders.
  • Poor Company image and difficulty to find employees as the company gets a reputation of having a hostile working environment.

Despite all this information is it possible that our own behavior could cause this type of upset for another individual. In other words can you yourself be a bully (or your actions be taken as bullying behavior), perhaps without really realizing it.

Robert Sutton in his book, "The No Asshole Rule" (an excellent book about bullying behavior at work) asked the question "Who deserves to be branded as an asshole?"

So who does deserve such a title? Do you? Does your colleague sitting beside you? The truth is that anyone of us can have a bad moment; day, week etc and so can become a 'temporary asshole'. By taking a little time to look at ourselves and how we treat others around us may be the first step in reducing workplace bullying, every action has a re-action after all.

Try answering the following questions:

  • You are having a disagreement with someone you work with and things are getting a little frosty, how do you behave towards this person? Do you find yourself talking about the issue to other colleagues? Have you attempted to resolve the issue with your colleague?
  • You have used a nickname for a colleague which they do not like, they have asked you not to do this again. Do you stop?
  • Have you ever found yourself in a situation where you have partaken in company gossip (or rumors) surrounding one individual? How did it make you feel? Would you do it again?
  • Have you ever taken part in teasing, tormenting or belittling another colleague for the amusement of yourself and/or others? Do you feel that people should be 'able to take a joke'? How did your colleague feel after this treatment?
  • Someone at work is having personal issues, how do you generally react to this type of situation? Would you consider yourself to be a supportive colleague? Could you be more understanding? Do you find yourself gossiping about them with other colleagues?
  • Someone in your department has come to tell you that they feel picked on by other, how do you react to this information? Do you find yourself thinking 'it's time to toughen up or find a new job'? Do you investigate the complaint or is it left on the 'long finger'?

There are no right or wrong answers, only questions that are designed to make you think about how you behave within your working environment. By making some simple changes in our own behavior can greatly aid in a healthier working environment for all, often time change begins with one person.

In my next and final post I will take a more in-debt look at what we can do increase our chances of getting through the 'workplace bullying' minefield in one piece, where to go for help and what companies should be doing to decrease workplace bullying and create healthy working environments for all.

The issue of bullying is a huge subject and these posts only touch the tip of the iceberg but please feel free to share your own thoughts and any areas of this subject you would like to read about in the future.

Thanks to Catherine Connors / Bloggertone


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