Bullying at work

February 18th, 2011

Bullying is a serious issue as it can negatively affect the victim’s health, safety and welfare, and reduce their productivity in the workplace. Anything from ignoring a colleague to outright abuse can be categorized as bullying. People who feel ignored by their colleagues or manager are 40 percent more likely to feel hostile towards their job and unhappy at work, according to studies conducted by Gallup, a Sydney-based management consulting firm. The issue of workplace bullying requires attention as it is deteriorating with a significant rise in the number of reports of bullying in Australian workplaces in the past few years.

Identify the problem

The first step to putting an end to bullying is to recognize what is happening. When bad days at work become consecutive, you should ask yourself a few questions:

  • Is the conflict enduring and repeated?
  • Is it inappropriate and aggressive?
  • Does it result in physical and psychological distress?
  • Are you made to feel as though your job is worthless?

These are not features of a healthy work environment, and if you answer ‘yes’ to any of these questions you may need to consider whether you are a victim of bullying.

Making Changes

There are a few ways to deal with people you identify as treating you with disrespect, which can manifest itself in many different ways. Firstly, don’t be afraid to say ‘no’. It doesn’t make you look unwilling or incapable, and just shows that you’re aware of your limits and capable of being firm when needed. However, when saying no to an unreasonable request, you should express interest in the task but insist that if you take it on, it would mean you could not do another important task to the standard that you would like.

If you feel as though you’re not getting enough support from your manager, ask for feedback on performance to initiate a dialogue that could lead to change. When expressing your concerns to the manager, try to stay positive, as people don’t tend to respond well to negativity and self-pity. If the source of the problem is someone of similar rank, Allan Watkinson, a principle consultant at Gallup, suggests turning difficult colleagues into allies by finding out what’s important to them. Try talking about what drives them and get to know them in general, but don’t allow disengaged co-workers to influence you, especially if you’re new to a company. This is because they may target you to make themselves feel better.

Ultimately, the NSW Occupational Health and Safety Act 2000 include legislation that states it is an employer’s duty of care to ensure their employees’ physical and emotional well-being. Thus, common law may be used to protect your rights and has been the case in past bullying incidents.