Bullying in the Workplace
Posted on August 3, 2011 by Gail Danneman
Bullying, once thought to be a childhood behavior, has gained increase attention in the workplace. As human beings, we all face social situations in the workplace that can be both positive and negative. In the workplace, coworkers can create exclusive groups and leave other coworkers feeling like outsiders. Even worse, employees can begin to bully an employee because of differences. A coworker of mine at my job in high school was quite overweight. Despite his weight, he was able to complete the job but was not as fast on his feet as the other employees. Comments were made to the employee about being overweight and slow. It felt like we were back in middle school and could not accept each other’s differences.
The social situations we face at work can be a source of great stress, especially if one is the subject of bullying. Victims of bullying at the workplace can suffer such physical symptoms as headaches, nervousness, sleeping problems, and depression. Unfortunately, victims suffering from depression as a result of being bullied often blame themselves for the bullying. They feel that it is their fault they are being bullied because there must be something wrong with them.
Those victims that attempt to end bullying often do so with little success. The party doing the bullying often does not stop, but often increases the intensity of bullying because they feel the victim has challenged them. Therefore, the victim develops learned helplessness, the repeated exposure to a negative stimulus. The victim eventually loses hope for the possibility of the negative stimulus stopping and essentially gives up.
Why don’t victims of bullying speak to managers or someone in the human resource department? Often, the victim fears that reporting bullying will result in complete social isolation from coworkers or they feel nothing will change. The situation becomes even more discouraging when the victim’s manager is an instigator of bullying. The employee may feel that there is no way out of the situation.
The most effective action organizations can take to prevent bullying is to have a clear, written policy on bullying in the workplace. The policy should outline consequences for anyone partaking in bullying and must be enforced strongly by the organization. Many organizations have a hotline for employees to leave voicemails concerning such issues.