Bullying in your workplace: it’s happening
By NADIA BOSCAINI.
Have you ever felt excluded at work?
Ever felt like your co-workers treated you unfairly?
Or felt like you were the only individual that was punished by the boss?
If you responded yes to any of these questions, you have been bullied in your workplace.
Safe Work South Australia states that bullying is any behaviour that is repeated, systematic and directed towards an employee or group of employees, that leads to an individual being victimised, humiliated, undermined or threatened.
Helen Billows, a former Woolworths employee, described how bullying made her feel “unwanted” and “alone” when she was singled out of activities within and outside the workplace.
“When you go to work, you go there to do your job to the best of your ability and be compensated in return for that work,” she says.
“Yet if you’re being bullied, job performance often decreases because you simply do not enjoy being at work anymore.”
“It often results in people either getting fired of quitting if the situation is bad enough.”
Ms Billows believes that workplace bullying is any kind of unwanted behaviour experienced from one colleague to another.
However a current Coles employee (who wishes to remain anonymous), believes that workplace bullying is any needless bad attitude, yelling, or accusations without asking about the situation first.
Individuals’ understandings of workplace bullying appear to stem from their own experiences or experiences they have heard about, leading to uncertainty amongst bullied workers.
Psychologist Moira Jenkins states that there are five main risk factors to watch for which contribute to bullying.
Ms Jenkins identifies the industrial climate; the social culture of the work-group; leadership and management styles; lack of systems and policies; individual characteristics of the targets and perpetrators; and significant changes within the organisation, as potential risk factors.
“The instigators of workplace bullying tend to be very stressed employees or managers with poor skills,” says Ms Jenkins.
Ms Billows and the Coles employee agree that bullying usually comes from people in a position of power.
“People in positions of slight power, such as supervisors, who are ahead of average workers-but only just, often have a ‘power trip’ with the slight increase in responsibility and allow it to get to their head,” said Ms Billows.
The Coles employee believes that age is not a factor in workplace bullying and says “I think managers on power trips harass a lot, they seem to be the main culprits especially if people have been in the same place for too long.”
However, Ms Billows disagrees with this statement.
“Workplace bullying seems much more common in the younger age group, perhaps, roughly from 18-25 because of the lack of maturity,” she says.
The effects of workplace bullying can vary, with Safe Work SA stating that bullying may cause extensive health problems for employees exposed to this hazard, including physical and psychological illnesses and injuries.
It can impact on co-workers, clients, customers, business associates, family and friends.
Ms Jenkins says there has always been a link between bullying and psychological stress reactions.
“Insomnia, mental health problems such as depression and anxiety and physical ill health are some of the negative effects of workplace bullying, and there have been cases where people have committed suicide as a result of workplace bullying,” she says.
“The targets of workplace bullying often do nothing to provoke the behaviour to which they are exposed.”
Every bullying situation is different, and how one handles the bullying will depend on the particular work environment.
Ms Jenkins believes that bullying in the workplace could be reduced if managers were taught a clear, uniform way to deal with it.
“Managers need to be trained in conflict resolution so that there are minimal repercussions for other staff,” she says.
If you think you are being bullied in your workplace or know someone who is, visit the website for more information www.stopbullying.com.au or contact Safe Work SA on 1300 365 255.