The myths of workplace bullying revealed

by 01 Sep 2010

Employers must be vigilant at all times to the dangers of workplace bullying, yet there are still many misconceptions about what bullying means and how it can be detected.

Barely a week goes by where we don’t hear or read of costly lawsuits that arise out of bullying in the workplace, suicides that result from cyber bullying, or some sort of bullying that takes place in the school yard. But with each reported incidence of bullying, how many more silent victims continue to suffer at the hands of their tormentors.

Bullying is a real part of our society, workplace and schools. However one of the biggest issues is that many perpetrators aren’t aware that their behaviour is actually causing stress or trauma, or that their actions are considered as bullying.

To make headway in this area, it’s important to dispel the myth of what constitutes typical bullying and what an actual bully looks and acts like.

Here are the biggest myths of workplace bullying:

Bullying behaviour is only physical

The idea that bullying is only physical is an outdated one.

Physical abuse in the workplace is universally unacceptable however it’s usually obvious. Psychological torment on the other hand is more easily hidden and therefore more difficult to prove. Workers compensation psychological claims costs are nearly five times higher than claims for physical injuries.

There is a typical bullying personality and victim

The image of a loud, confident and brash manager versus the quietly spoken worker is misleading.

Even a usually confident, capable and likable person can be targeted by a bully and similarly a bully’s actions are not always apparent to others in a team. A bully’s victim may also suffer in silence and not even realise the treatment they are being subjected to is bullying.

Bullying makes people work harder

Although some employers may believe that being a little heavy handed and putting pressure on their employees may scare them into working their hardest, in reality this approach has far more negative consequences.

Reduction in productivity, decrease in quality of work, low morale, an increase in workplace incidents and error rates, and staff absenteeism are more commonly the outcomes of bullying.

Bullying will go away if you ignore it

Rather than avoiding the issue, its best to deal with bullying as it arises.

As employers, it’s important to develop a disciplinary process and make sure it’s followed. Bullies thrive on secrecy so by creating an atmosphere of openness and transparency, a bullying culture is less likely to develop.

Instil workplace values and have a code of behaviour for all staff. Educating your workforce and regularly reviewing your bullying policy and employee behaviour is a sure way of stamping out this type of behaviour altogether from your workplace.

By Jean-marc Maissin, communications manager at organisational health and risk management solutions provider, Konekt

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