A Hostile Work Environment

They say that “Friday the thirteenth is still better than Monday the whatever.” because it is that dreaded day that people have to retire from their oh-so-fun weekends and go back to their 9-5 job and slog. Workplace can be dreaded for various reasons, but bullying in the workplace can be really traumatic and have physical and mental effects.

The Workplace Bullying is defined as repeated, health-harming mistreatment of one or more persons (the targets) by one or more perpetrators. It is abusive conduct that is threatening, humiliating, or intimidating, or Work interference, sabotage, which prevents work from getting done or Verbal abuse.

In other words, workplace bullying is a persistent pattern of mistreatment from others in the workplace that causes either physical or emotional harm. It can include such tactics as verbal, nonverbal, psychological, physical abuse and humiliation. This unlike school bullying, takes place under a well-defined organization and is mostly done by the higher authorities.

Workplace Bullying takes various forms like:

  • Asking juniors to do things just to exercise pressure and show them who the boss is.
  • Choosing difficult situations, timings, events for them just to humiliate them and stroke their ego.
  • Asking others to join in the deed for terrifying the person even more
  • Use the worker’s personal weakness to use against him /her.
  • Failing to invite someone to an essential meeting
  • Threatening job loss
  • Assigning tasks that cannot be completed by deadline and setting unrealistic and impossible goals
  • Treating a worker differently than peers and co-workers are treated 
  • Invalid or baseless criticism, faultfinding, and unwarranted blame
  • Humiliation, public reprimands or obscene language
  • And many other advantages that they try to make use of for personal or professional benefit.

How bullying can affect an individual?

Those who are the targets of bullying may experience a range of effects. These reactions include:

  • Shock/Anger
  • Feelings of frustration and/or helplessness
  • Increased sense of vulnerability
  • Loss of confidence
  • Physical symptoms such as: Inability to sleep or Loss of appetite
  • Psychosomatic symptoms such as: Stomach pains or Headaches
  • Panic or anxiety, especially about going to work
  • Stress in personal life
  • Inability to concentrate
  • Low morale and productivity

How can bullying affect the workplace?

Bullying affects the overall “health” of an organization. An “unhealthy” workplace can have many effects. In general these include:

  • Increased absenteeism
  • Increased stress
  • Increased costs for employee assistance programs (EAPs), recruitment, etc.
  • Increased risk for accidents / incidents
  • Decreased productivity and motivation
  • Decreased morale
  • Reduced corporate image and customer confidence
  • Poor customer service

Although there are many laws persisting about workplace bullying, here are a few things that can help you in preparing your mind to take the required steps under such mental stress.

Define the deed by giving this torture a defined name and call it workplace bullying and not shy away from addressing it from what it is. Understanding that it is serious will help you take firmer stands and decisions.

Be emotionally strong and take a day off if you need and calm yourself down and clear your head before you take another decision. Be sure to note down the events that have been harassing you point by point for e.g.: The date, time and what happened in as much detail as possible, the names of witnesses and the outcome of the event.

Ask a helping hand and talk to your colleagues and ask them if they face anything like that and see if you could share your views on how to tackle it.

Firmly tell the person that his or her behaviour is not acceptable and ask them to stop. You can ask a supervisor or union member to be with you when you approach the person.

Keep copies of any letters, memos, e-mails, faxes, etc., received from the person.

Report the harassment to the person identified in your workplace policy, your supervisor, or a delegated manager. If your concerns are minimized, proceed to the next level of management.

Written by Chaitali Rai

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