VICTIMS of bullying have been known to be children in schools or townships where
they insult, intimidate, or hurt each other. However, recently, it has been observed
that the element of bullying is affecting older people, with the most commonly said to
be in the workplace.
WHAT IS WORKPLACE BULLYING?
Dr Gillian Mooney, a teaching and learning manager at The Independent Institute of
Education, says while many young South Africans are victims of bullying at school, the
phenomenon is not limited to the playground, with many lives and careers being damaged by bullies in the workplace. Victims of this kind of bullying should not resign themselves to their fate, as there are several steps they can take to put an end to the bully’s reign of terror. “Workplace bullying is the consistent and repeated mistreatment of one employee by another,” she says.
HOW BEING BULLIED CAN AFFECT YOU
Dr Gillian says workplace bullying takes a huge toll not only on the person on the receiving
end, but also on teams, divisions and even the company as a whole. “Workplace bullying affects the target mentally, physically and will impact on motivation and productivity. Psychologically, bullying causes heightened stress levels and often leads to depression, break downs, poor concentration, insecurity, irritability, and even post-traumatic stress syndrome,” she says. “Physically, victims may suffer from chronic fatigue syndrome, lowered resistance to colds and flu, high blood pressure, migraines, stomach ulcers and
A WAY FORWARD
Gillian further says toxic team members cause a drop in productivity and organisational health due to increased absenteeism and staff turnover. “It is important to remember that workplace bullying affects both the target and those who witness the bullying.” She continues saying that while legitimate and constructive criticism should be considered as positive and part for the course in the workplace, companies and individuals should not allow bullies to thrive. “A bully may make unreasonable demands, use techniques such as verbal abuse which include cursing, shouting, gossiping and constant undermining of the target or tactics such as intimidation, degradation, isolation and humiliation,” says Dr Gillian. She says both employees and employers can and should take steps to address bullying in the workplace, which may include:
■ DETERMINING WHETHER CRITICISM IS WARRANTED
If you cannot distinguish between criticism and bullying, ask a trusted co-worker.
■ SPEAKING TO OTHERS ABOUT THE PROBLEM
Ask for help from a colleague who has been with the company for a long time, who may have greater insight into the company’s policies, procedures and any precedent.
■ LOGGING ESCALATING BEHAVIOUR
She says bullies are often guilty of gas lighting, which means you may start to doubt yourself. Therefore, you should keep a log of all incidents, including dates, times and context and approach your manager or human resource department with your concerns and evidence.