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Workplace bullying also affects witnesses

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HC Online | 22 Jun 2011, 12:00 AM Agree 0
Workplace bullying can effect not just the victims, but any colleagues who witness it, according to a New Zealand study.
  • Bernie Althofer EGL I ASSESSMENTS PTY LTD | 24 Jun 2011, 09:19 AM Agree 0
    Inappropriate behaviours such as bullying and harassment can have an impact on a range of people including the target/victim, the alleged bully, the organisation, the medical and legal profession, the family/friends and associates, the investigators and the media. In some cases, workplace bullying can have a flow on effect to family and personal relationships. Another survey indicated that 42% of those surveyed had witnessed workplace bullying. Personal experience indicates that even the witnesses/bystanders can be reluctant to report or become involved in a workplace bullying incident. Some reasons provided to me include fear (of what is going to happen to them); not wanting to be involved; they have to work with the alleged bully so they don't want to take sides; and in some cases, they believe that even if they do step in, nothing will be done to address either the bullying behaviours or change the environmental factors that contribute to the situation. How do witnesses/bystanders survive? Some people have very good coping mechanisms and learn to switch off. Does it mean that the workplace will change if witnesses are not proactive? Bullies like it when nobody stands up to them and tells them their behaviours are inappropriate so it gives them even more chance to engage in the inappropriate application of power. I think it is really important to listen to the language of witnesses/bystanders to understand how they are effected and how they respond.
  • lorraine blaney | 03 Jul 2011, 02:11 PM Agree 0
    Yes of course. I feel even more helpless when a workmate is tormented. And managers, say, when i complain.well it didnt happen to you, and they bully the victim even more to make sure that they do not support me in my complaint about the incident.
  • Dr.Peter Gorman | 03 Jul 2011, 03:21 PM Agree 0
    The vicarious affect obn the bystanders has caused a number of known cases to have occurred to people who have left work and been denied workers compensation.It is a very serious state of affairs.
  • Bernie Althofer EGL I ASSESSMENTS PTY LTD | 05 Jul 2011, 02:00 PM Agree 0
    Recently I had a discussion with a middle manager about to leave a large public sector organisation. We were discussing exit interviews. When I asked whether or not he completed the paper work, he indicated that he did. He also indicated that he did not say any negative because the culture is such that he believed 'the organisation' would go back through his career and find the smallest thing to use against him. He also indicated that he knew that he should include comments about the bullying that he had witnessed. However, he also said that if had spoken up, not only would he be targeted, but those he was speaking up for would be subjected to further bullying. There may be those organisations who believe they have a good track record when it comes to preventing and resolving bullying. However, when an organisation has a culture that creates a belief in individuals that if and when they speak up in support of the victims/target, they themselves will be targeted or subjected to other forms of 'attention', the organisation is demonstrating complicity in supporting and condoning bullying (and maybe even worse). Of course, witnesses and bystanders caste the victim/target adrift knowing what will happen to them personally. It is not easy taking a stand, and sometimes to do the right thing, one pays a penalty that includes loss of promotional opportunity (pay), exclusion, and even the silent tormet of "If only I had spoken up". There are some brave people around who do fully understand the implications of speaking up, and yet they do it. Of course there are those who witness so much bullying that goes with the culture that they eventually leave. Some even write books.
  • ron jones | 05 Jul 2011, 07:07 PM Agree 0
    Absolutely agree - I have recently undertaken 2 investigations and witnesses were profoundly affected. Management hoped the problems would go away and this gave rise to people questioning the culture that was being promoted.
  • Bernie Althofer | 31 Aug 2011, 03:35 PM Agree 0
    Whilst we may have a tendency to focus on the affects that may occur in the workplace e.g. victim/target, alleged bully and the witness/bystanders, we should also consider the impact that workplace bullying has on relationships outside the workplace. Discussions with victims/targets over the past few years have indicated that whilst the victim/target is expected to work towards resolution, there does not seem to be much discussion regarding the flow on impact that bullying has on families and partners. It some circumstances, a less than supportive or understanding partner may simply expect the victim/target to change jobs, or to 'suck it up' and stay in the workplace. In the worst case scenario, both parties can become involved in domestic violence resulting in a diverse range of agencies including Courts becoming involved. At a time when we are starting to become more willing to discuss mental health issues such as depression and anxiety, we should perhaps be more willing to have some full and frank discussions about the broader implications of workplace bullying. It seems from discussions that I have had regarding workplace bullying claims, that investigators are provided with brief or scope of work. Sometimes it appears that this limits the investigation to a small number of individuals e.g. victim/target, alleged bully and the line manager and supervisor. Limiting the extent of the scope of the investigation may in fact limit recommendations that may be made regarding effective changes that need to be made. Asking the right questions and knowing the right questions are both important. Developing a flow chart to show who is involved and the level of their involvement is also important. Workplace bullying investigations can be time consuming and confronting for all parties. Getting witnesses to understand the importance of what they saw or heard or even did, is often tempered by how they perceive they will be treated if they provide a statement that is not viewed in a positive light by any of the parties involved. Just as the victim/target may be further victimised post investigation, it is not unreasonable to believe that witnesses will also hold the same belief. As I have said in other forums, the Australian culture was once such that one would 'stand by your mate' and 'never let the team down'. Perhaps this culture only applies in certain situations, and when it comes to workplace bullying, only the brave or those with courage will stand up. It would be interesting to know how witnesses were profoundly affected and how this may have impacted on the investigation outcome.
  • Dr. Aydin ÇIVILIDAG/ Turkiye | 01 Jul 2012, 07:02 AM Agree 0
    Yes, Certainly The witnessses are rather important prevention of mobbing or bullying at workplace but witnesses or bystanders should be brave heart for me because this issue is important for all workers all over the world.
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