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Workplace Bullying: Meaning, Qualification, Types and Effects

Last Updated : 10 Jan, 2024
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What is Workplace Bullying?

Workplace Bullying is when someone keeps doing mean or harmful things over and over again to an individual or a group of individuals to humiliate or undermine them. This can have bad effects on employee morale. It is done in many ways such as by making fun of someone, spreading false rumors, excluding someone from social activities, through verbal abuse, threatening someone, etc. It will affect not only the productivity of the employee but also the performance and productivity of the whole organisation. As it affects the physical and mental health of employees. So it becomes very important to find signs of workplace bullying in an organisation and take necessary actions to stop them.


What Qualifies as Abuse in the Workplace?

1. Intimidation: It means threatening the employee through abuse, which can be verbal or physical. The main motive of that is creating fear in employees. It means manipulating the employees through fear to make them do things. It can lead to increased stress and anxiety in employees that’s why it is an abuse in the workplace.

2. Discrimination: It means treating people differently based on characteristics which can be a person’s caste, gender, race, etc. It is an abuse because these characteristics do not define the person’s performance, skills, or talent. Discrimination will lead to unequal opportunities for employees, which will negatively affect individuals and the image & working of the organisation.

3. Unreasonable Work Demands: This occurs when some employee is provided excessive workload or unrealistic expectations which leads to failure of the employee. Employees cannot reach up to those demands and will feel demotivated which will lead to an unhealthy work environment.

4. Sabotage: It means taking actions that are aimed at undermining employees’ courage, work, reputation, etc. This could include criticizing employees, making fun of employees’ personal lives, culture, and beliefs, spreading false rumors or information about employees, etc. These things are also considered abuse as these things not only damage employees but also affect the company’s reputation and productivity.

5. Exclusion: It means creating a sense of isolation for someone for spoiling their social life It is done by excluding the employees from attending workplace activities, functions conversations, or opportunities. They will feel disrespected and devalued. It will make them lose interest in the work. This will impact their social life and the productivity of the whole organisation.

Types of Workplace Bullying

1. Verbal Bullying: It is also known as oral bullying. It means spreading negativity for someone through your words. It is done by using harmful, inappropriate language for someone. It means insulting, threatening, or demeaning someone by words. Like making fun of someone’s name, raising a voice aggressively, or making comments on someone’s physical appearance or abilities. They are considered verbal bullying.

2. Physical Bullying: It means making harmful contact with the victim’s body, such as fighting, showing explicit gestures, physical assault, etc. It is one of the most extreme forms of bullying because it can lead to serious harm to the individual. It may be intended to gain control and dominance over a co-worker. It is less common in a professional environment like the workplace. But if it happens, then it is a serious concern and urgent action is needed.

3. Psychological Bullying: It means doing things that could have bad effects on the employee’s mental or emotional well-being. It includes things such as excluding the employee from workplace activities, opportunities, and functions, spreading rumours, taking credit for work, sabotaging professional relationships, setting unrealistic expectations, etc. Here, the main motive is to demotivate, isolate, and manipulate the employee.

4. Cyber Bullying: It is also a form of bullying that takes place digitally. It involves things like sending, posting, or sharing harmful or mean content about someone. It affects the morale and self-esteem of the employee. This is sometimes done to take revenge. It could be difficult to detect and stop. It also includes practices like sharing the discussion online, creating fake profiles, spreading rumours, etc.

5. Discriminatory Bullying: It means bullying based on a person’s caste, gender, race, religion, colour, nation, etc. It involves different treatment of some people due to these characteristics. Discrimination means treating people unequally in many things, such as their exclusion from opportunities, making fun of their characteristics, not talking properly, etc. This is considered discriminatory bullying.

Effects of Workplace Bullying

1. Physical and Mental Health Issues: Bullying can lead to many mental health issues, such as unnecessary stress, depression, anxiety, even suicidal thoughts, and low self-esteem issues. It can also lead to physical diseases, such as injuries, hypertension, stroke, etc. Individuals may experience difficulty in sleeping due to persistent thoughts about the bullying, making it hard for them to forget and find rest.

2. Effects on Work Performance: Any sort of bullying has a bad impact on work performance because employees cannot focus on work due to the bad things they are facing. Also, this will spoil their work environment. They might think of leaving the workplace. So, it will increase workplace sabotage, absenteeism, or turnover. This will increase problems for both employees and organisations. Productivity will decline because individuals experiencing bullying will struggle to focus and concentrate.

3. Effects on Family and Social Relationships: Bullying not only affects the employees’ professional lives but also their personal lives, as they are taking the negativity that they face by bullying to their homes. They might be angry or sad all the time. This will lead to a bad impact on their family and social relationships, which can lead to conflicts.

4. Organisation Reputation: All good employees love to work in a positive workplace where they are respected and valued. No good candidates will join the organisation if they know about bullying in organisation. Also, bullying will create a bad image of the organisation. People will not respect the organisation. Customers, investors, and employees will lose their attractiveness in the organisation.

Managing Workplace Bullying

1. Develop and Communicate Policies: Organisations need to make clear anti-bullying policies for preventing bullying. They should communicate the policies through seminars, workshops, or employment contracts. They should paste anti-bullying posters in different places in the organisation representing the consequences of bullying. Bullying is a serious offense so policies should be strict. The methods of reporting bullying should be made easy so people won’t hesitate to report if they face such things in the workplace.

2. Investigate Properly: If you’re being bullied, document the details like how often it happens, how severe it is, and how long it lasts. What harm it is causing whether it’s a professional or an emotional harm. You should document any evidence related to bullying such as dates, texts, emails, images, etc. This will help a lot in understanding the situation and taking action. The investigating team should review each piece of evidence properly to find the truth.

3. Supporting the Targets and Witnesses: The organisation should support the victims of bullying by providing them with a safe channel for reporting their problems. They should also ensure that the action is taken seriously and does not occur further in the future. For that, they should monitor the targets for some time. They can also organise counselling sessions for those who have faced bullying to cope with the impact of bullying.

4. Promote a Positive Work Culture: A positive work culture means a workplace where everyone has respect for each other and trusts each other. Recognise the factors which are causing stress to employees and address them. The organisation should also provide training for preventing, addressing, and reporting workplace bullying. This will also develop emotional intelligence and conflict-resolution skills.

Frequently Asked Questions (FAQs)

1. What is workplace bullying?

Repeated, unreasonable behavior meant to intimidate, humiliate, or undermine an employee.

2. Can a coworker bully me?

Yes, it may happen. Bullying can come from anyone, not only from superiors.

3. Can I sue for workplace bullying?

It depends on the severity and local laws. Consult a lawyer for specifics.

4. Can I prevent bullying from happening in the first place?

Companies can adopt anti-bullying policies, training, and open communication channels.

5. I’m not the victim, but I see bullying happening. What should I do?

Support the victim, offer to accompany them when reporting, and stand up for a healthy work environment.

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