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Do Not Stand Alone: Workplace Bullying

At some point in our lives many of us (myself included) have had some experience at the hands of a bully, be it the school yard bully or a workplace bully, but whichever way, the feelings of isolation and extreme stress can linger for many years after the event.

As a stress management coach, I see the impact that bullying creates, both for the victim but also for a company.  It’s behavior that lowers company morale, result in higher turnover, lower productivity, more sick days, and that’s just for starters.

The subject of bullying is so vast that one post really could not convey all the important details and as a result I’ve broken down this subject into (what will be) 3 separate posts.  These posts will take a look at what bullying is, how to spot a bully, the impact of bullying on people, am I a bully myself and what companies can do to reduce the risk of bullying within their own work environments.

What is bullying ?

Bullying is persistent, unwelcome behavior towards you either from a single person or a group, mostly by unwarranted and unnecessary criticism,  constantly finding fault and nit-picking, also deliberate exclusion, isolation, being singled out, shouted at, humiliated, snide comments, excessive monitoring, and much more, in extreme cases physical bullying also takes place. Bullying can also be subtle and in many cases can slip ‘under the radar’, therefore its very important that those who manage people can learn to spot a subtle bully as well as the more ‘hard-core’ bully.

No matter what form the bullying takes it should become one of a company’s priorities to be able to identify and deal with bullying behavior.

How to Identify a Bully

Most bullies don’t act as such in front of their superiors, in many cases bullies show a ‘good side’ to managers and superiors, therefore management must rely on and listen to reports from other employees.

Complaints from employees that state an individual or group has displayed verbal abuse, physical abuse, name calling, screaming, subjected others to public humiliation, sabotage, isolation and other forms of unacceptable behavior should raise a red flag.  But there are other more subtle forms of bullying to watch out for such as sarcasm, interruptions, insults, dominant behavior, body language and tone of voice.

More subtle forms of bullying can be noticed even within the board room, for example when Frank clicks his pen constantly or rolls his eyes when Jeff is speaking and only when Jeff is speaking, he is non-verbally communicating some type of tension or lack of respect towards Jeff.  As a manager, been mindful to those around you and how they non-verbally communicate can certainly give you a ‘heads up’ on what may be happening within other business units or on the floor.

There is another more subtle form of bullying which is often hidden under the veil of ‘humor’ known as ‘mobbing’, usually when a group of people tease or torment another person, but generally get away with such behavior as ‘it’s only a joke’ or ‘can’t you take a joke’.

In my next post I shall take a more detailed look at the impact of bullying and how to spot the ‘bully’ within you. Please share your thoughts below.

I am a Stress Management Coach (also a Holistic & Natural therapist and teacher). I am dedicated to managing stress, resilience and well-being, my training courses and consultancy are designed to help create a working (or home) environment where resilience is enhanced and well-being is protected, allowing people to respond positively to challenges and perform at their best. I provide in-house training courses, consultancy and workshops to private and public sector organisations (also one-on-one sessions). I specialise in providing practical training for managers and employees aimed at minimising the risk of stress and enhancing well-being within the organisation.

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  • Hi Catherine, Great great post and thank you for raising this issue through Bloggertone. nnI’d like to add something equally sinister to the mix here and that’s online bullying, and I don’t mean between teenagers here. Unfortunately I’ve witnessed what I would call bullying on sites such as Twitter on more than one occasion, and coming from people who really should know really much better.nnI’ve also noticed that these Twitter bullies tend to come with a lot of hangers on, followers who continue to harass the person after the initial incident/s because they want to be noticed by the initial bully.nnI talked to people who were upset to the point of tears after these incidents and some have left Twitter because of the vile nature and behavior of some of the people on there. nnPerhaps some type of campaign is needed to stamp out online bullying between adults is needed?

  • Madeleine

    Hi Catherine,a thought provoking post,good to see the issue raised.nnnSadly it appears that bullying occurs in all walks of life, I have seen it happen in voluntary groups,where an individual who is working for the common good is targeted by another individual who has ulterior motives for being in that group.Sadly this can go unnoticed by the main body of the organisation for a long time,to the point where the person being bullied leaves the group,to avoid causing fuss and discord,where in actual fact it is the bully who should be removed.nnSome system of accountability in every group or organisation is needed,even something as simple as a comments box…n

  • Hi Madeleine, nnThe subject of bullying is so vast that this post is not even the tip of the iceberg, it can and does happen in almost every setting that life can place us in, from school to home life, from sports teams to recreational groups, from school/university to work place environments and everything in between.nnI intend to write much more on this subject and am very thankful for your comment and for sharing.nnCatherine

  • Hi Niall,nnI had intended to write about this very subect in the near future, like you I’ve witnessed this type of ‘mob’/’gang’ bullying on sites such as twitter over the last few years and have often found myself surprised at those who partake. nnI would just like to say -nn* Repect others – Behind the profiles (Twitter, Facebook etc) there is a live person with very real feelings, even though you can’t see someones face nor witness ‘face to face’ the consequences of online bullying does not mean that the shock, upset, tears, fright or stress the victim receives is not real either. Every person deserves respect and we all have the right to our own opinions based on our knowledge and experience, and yes, we can sometimes (respectfully) share a difference of opinion.nn* Remember who you are – The words you write are read by more than just the victim, once written they are hard to erase, even after you ‘delete’ your comment/tweet the words live on for a very long time in memories (a place where the delete button does not exist). nnMore and more research is now taking place around the subect of cyberbullying and cyberstalking, according to some of this early research approx 1 out of 10 adults have been the victims of online bullying, sadly the rate is higher for teenagers and children, with at least 4 examples in the United States where teenage suicide has been linked to online bullying.

  • Great post Catherine. As someone who was bullied in nearly all walks of life at some stage, I think one of the best ways of counter-acting it is to teach the bullied person the skills to be able to deflect it so that it doesn’t have the desired effect. It was only when I stood up to the bullies that they left me alone. An understanding of why they are bullying in the first place and correcting that would also nip it in the bud.nnnCan’t wait for the following posts 🙂 n

  • nice post Catherine. I shared it over on LinkedIn too as thought it a good place to have the issued raised too. n

  • Hi Catherine,nnA well deserved post raising an important and increasing issue, especially as mentioned below with cyber bullying. I have also witnessed adult online bullying and harassment. It is unacceptable, yet like other forms of bullying, can go unnoticed.nnnUnfortunately victims are chosen for that very trait – ability to be victimised. A very simple thought can change how they see/view a bully.nnnIf someone is being bullied, they simply need to realise that the bully’s behaviour is more about them (the bully) than the person being bullied. Often, receivers of such behaviour think they have done something wrong, whereas the behaviour is so subjective, it is often relating to hurt experienced by the bully.nnnWithout offering sympathy for a bully, I empathise with their pain, it must be extreme for them to behave so badly towards another person. That lack of respect comes from within, not without.nnnI recently helped a client overcome such behaviour by a group of people in her workplace. Once she realised they were not strong, and in fact she had a stronger character, she was able to rise above it and dispel the negative behaviour towards her. It was such a release after 3 years of accepting that behaviour.nnnLooking forward to your next post already :)n

  • Thanks you for such a wonderfully thought out response. I think the Bloggertone community should do something about this?

  • Thanks you for such a wonderfully thought out response. I think the Bloggertone community should do something about this?

  • Anonymous

    Thanks for the thoughtful post Catherine. I’ve been lucky enough to avoid bullying of myself in the workplace, however there have been a few occasions where people have tried to drag me into a bullying mentality. Thankfully, probably because I was bullied at school i’ve been able to see what’s happening and have wanted no part of it. It’s behaviour I can’t bear and i’ll always go out of my way to make sure that a victim is not left alone.nnLoing forward to the rest of your posts in this series.

  • Thank you very much Beverleyu00a0

  • A very good point Mairead and one which I willu00a0address in future posts on the subject.

  • A really important topic Catherine. I recently had a huge response to this on my own blog with many readers telling their own tale of workplace bullying. Reading through the comments, the same themes came up – a feeling of powerless, a concern that the person being bullied was somehow to blame, and a diminishing of self esteem. Other readers shared advice on how to cope and again the same theme reoccured – you must stand up to the bully and take back control.

  • Great article! I worked in an organization that had a terrible bully who messed with dozens of people in the organization. u00a0I eventually left and they have kept the bully. u00a0Why? u00a0Because she is a producer. u00a0The amount and quality of work she provides isu00a0unbelievable. So they put up with her. u00a0Interesting, isn’t it?

  • I will be out of communication from 1st June u0096 10th June 2011. I will replyrnto your email after my return.rn rnBest regards,rn rnMairu00e9ad KellyrnEncouraging ExcellencernRealising your Potential rn http://www.encouragingexcellence.iern(+353) 086 1702010rn rnLink to us on LinkedIn:rnrn us on Facebook: rn us on Twitter: rn

  • Anonymous

    Hi,nu00a0 u00a0 u00a0 u00a0 u00a0 u00a0 Thanks for information about How to Identify a Bully…………Thanks,

  • Derbhile

    Good to widen the definition of bullying – shows people that they’re not just going mad.

  • Depressed Jane Doe

    Hello I just need to get this off my chest. This guy and his buddy at my work keeps bullying me just because I don’t want to date him. He and his buddy goes around saying I am gay just because I don’t want to date him. Even when I had a boyfriend he kept calling me gay. I thought telling him that I have a boyfriend would make them stop but apparently it makes it worse. His buddy has a history of bullying he has bullied two other women before me and my company doesn’t do anything about it.  I notice that everytime he selects a target all the other employees in the department also hates that target. I have tried everything to make it stop but unfortuantely it is making it worse. I also made the mistake of glaring at him at one of our work meetings which made one of my supervisor be on his side. This supervisor ( not my immediate supevisor) is now bullying me as well because of the glaring saying he is going to get me fired. Apparently I have to have sex with this guy in order to work there! Worse yet my co-workers seem to be on his side saying I should either date him (just because  we are both asian) or to lead him on which I have a hard time doing because I don’t like to pretend. Plus I am so mad that he keeps saying shit about me.  Also, he keeps saying he can control who I date and I can’t date any other guy but him or else. Or this other single girl  at my work has to steal my boyfriend away from me because I don’t deserve a boyfriend if I don’t date him. I have told my immediate supervisor I feel like she believes me but the other supervisors keep saying I am making it up for attention or because I am mentally insane  or I bring it on myself because of the way I dress so I dont want to pursue it further. I have talked to my family about it and they told me to ignore them because work and money is important so don’t quit. just learn to pretend everything is ok because you need money to pay the rent so to speak.

    Thanks for listening I needed this . I just spent all last night crying because of these two jerks. It isn’t even approriate to have sex with guys you work with. Thanks again I just need to get this off my chest.

  • Thanks for the comment, and I truly believe the best defense of our own sanity, is to take control, make up a workable system and stick with it, and it becomes easier to manage, remember and protect. Relying on password generators is fine, some people mistrust them, so there needs to be proactive alternatives 🙂

  • Brilliant post Elaine, as usual and a very, very important subject too. When teaching my clients I suggest that they use a password generator, I recommend and that they pick ONE obscure password to remember, the one to log into LastPass. You can still generate your own passwords or let it generate one for you for all your sites. The nice thing is when my laptop crashed and died, I simply logged in from a different computer and could still get access to the different sites I normally use.

  • Great post Elaine. I’m with Debbie: I would be completely lost without Lastpass. Premium account is about 5 quid a year and you don’t even need that. Highest level of security around so as long as you make sure your lastpass password is something memorable but strong then you’re all set.

    Also it has a pass generator tool that creates really strong passwords and the great thing is that because it works with all browsers and remembers all of your websites there is only one password in your life that needs to be something you can actually remember.

  • John Twohig

    Great post, Elaine. I am one of the lazy ones, I am going to review this on Monday and look at Last Pass as recommended by Neil. Thanks for the wake up call.

  • rakkas18

    Wow It was Great Information to us, Because password protection is very very important to all peoples.Keep on posting.Thanks for sharing this information.

  • Well Neil, I think anyone reading this post, you have them sold! As the world knows by now – there is an app for everything. And it’s amazing how there are still so many that simply do not trust generators, or don’t understand them.
    Thankfully, as we become more aware and savvy, that is changing 🙂

  • Thanks John,
    I recommend you view with diligence, as protection our credentials online is becoming ever more important, and ever more easy, although many people are not aware of the tools that are out there for our convenience (and our safety).

  • Sarah Ryan

    Great post Elaine. Thanks for sharing. Off to check out LastPast myself now!

  • Great post and so practical – should be in social media 101 lessons everywhere

  • thanks and glad you found it useful!

  • Hi Mairead,
    Thanks for sharing that resource, I have been using it the past week, and initially it was great at saving pages. It seems to have gone to sleep now, so I will need to look into that. Thanks for contributing to the conversation 🙂

  • Thanks Sarah, great that you found the post useful

  • Thanks Elish, It’s a topic that can bring hives out in many. Employees are the least likely to use outside resources, and still often rely on variations of “pasword”

  • Due to not thinking about this properly, we humans now are forced to use passwords (e.g. must have a capital, must have a number) that are difficult for us to remember and actually relatively easy for a computer to crack. A proper password schema would be something that requires a much larger number of characters but allows us to write in natural English. ‘my first girlfriend’s name was Rebecca’ is much more secure than R3b3cca. And you only have to mix it up a tiny bit to make it all but uncrackable with current tech. And I, for one, can type the first in less time than the second.

  • That’s a great suggestion for a schema, considering the web is supposed to become more user friendly. We can get bogged down by being scared of the web, trolls, viruses, phishing, scams etc. and forget that the web is there for the people.
    Interesting point about ease of typing – especially touch typists – your suggestion makes sense – many many more characters, easier to type.
    Thanks for the contribution Lord Haw Haw

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