Workplace bullying is a common practice that has a negative impact on victims and organizations. Making matters worse, employers often ignore or downplay cases of bullying because they value the perpetrator as a strong member of their organization. According to the article, “Are You Being Bullied in the Workplace?” from Psychology Today, Workplace bullying can include targeted sarcasm, micromanaging, exclusion, gossip, and public humiliation. In addition, supervisors may deliberately give out workloads that are too heavy or insultingly simple and may fail to give proper resources or clear direction. The following will discuss psychological factors that contribute to bullying, the impact that bullying has on victims and organizations, and how to combat workplace harassment.
According to “Decoding the Personality of Workplace Bullies,” by Thomas Chamorro – Premuzic, workplace bullies are often confident, assertive, and outgoing. Since these characteristics are considered valuable in the corporate world, employers often turn a blind eye when it comes to addressing harassment. Although the above traits are indeed positive, bullies do not balance them with empathy and humility. Instead, bullies are often defined by narcissistic traits and are driven by self-promotion. Christine Comaford identifies a second common trait among bullies in “How to Stop Workplace Bullies in Their Tracks,” published by Forbes. She writes that bullies crave safety, belonging, and mattering. It appears that the opposite qualities of narcissism and low self-esteem both contribute to the making of a workplace bully. Perhaps this makes sense because both extremes share an unhealthy focus on self-image.
Chamorro – Premuzic explains that status is a major driving force behind the behaviors of a workplace bully. Interestingly, office bullies often harass other strong employees as opposed to an easy target. The probable explanation for this trend is the fact that they want to remain the dominant power within the workplace. Instead of working hard to become the highest performer, bullies rely on a cowardly method to rise to the top. Bullies dominate because they use harassment and manipulation to steer stronger coworkers in the wrong direction.
As with all forms of bullying, workplace harassment has a big impact on a victim’s day whether or not the bully is present. “What Are the Effects of Workplace Bullying?” written by Sherri Gordon and published on verywellmind.com, discusses the impact of bullying on the victim and the organization. Bullying takes a toll on a victim’s mental and physical health. Victims may begin to have panic attacks, trouble sleeping, chronic anxiety, elevated blood pressure, and may even develop ulcers. In addition, the victim’s ability to be productive in the workplace is greatly hindered by regular bullying. Victims become fixated on protecting themselves from their bully instead of getting work done. They may struggle to concentrate or make decisions because they are fearful and lack the self-esteem that they once had.
Bullying negatively impacts employers and organizations in many ways beyond the loss of productivity. Gordon lists many consequences of workplace bullying including the creation of a hostile work environment, increased absenteeism and sick leave, loss of loyalty, poor public image, and possible litigation. Organizations must develop strategies to address workplace bullying at all levels.
“Battling Bullying in the Workplace,” by Rebecca Koenig of U.S. News, provides many strategies to stop patterns of bullying. Once a victim realizes that he/she is being abused, he/she may consider confronting the bully directly and firmly, without displaying excess emotion. If the bullying continues or direct confrontation is not a realistic option, victims should start gathering evidence of harassment. Victims should save written communication such as emails that contain abusive words or comments. The article also suggests that conversations between a victim and a bully occur with other coworkers present so that a witness can confirm that bullying took place.
Not surprisingly, the article acknowledges that it is often difficult to find a safe person to confide in about bullying. HR personnel may downplay a harassment case and side with the employer, especially if the bully is towards the top of the organization. On the same note, even if company leaders want cases of harassment to be reported, a victim may remain silent out of fear of retaliation. At Red Flag Reporting, we provide organizations with a mechanism to report harassment of all types in a secure and anonymous manner. implementing a standard process for reporting abuse while ensuring anonymity shows employees that their concerns are valued. Empowering victims to speak up against bullies keeps your organization safe, productive, trustworthy, and free of litigation.