Bullying is conduct that cannot be objectively justified by a reasonable code of conduct, and whose likely or actual cumulative effect is to threaten, undermine, constrain, humiliate or harm another person or their property, reputation, self-esteem, self-confidence or ability to perform.
In badly run workplaces, bullying is the way that inadequate, incompetent and aggressive employees keep their jobs and obtain promotion. At the same time, bullying destroys teams and causes disenchantment, demoralisation, demotivation, disaffection and alienation. Organisations become dysfunctional and inefficient, where staff turnover and sickness absence are high whilst morale, productivity and profitability are low. Any perceived efficiency gains from bullying are a short term illusion: Bullying puts long term prospects at serious risk.
Most workplace bullying is traceable to a person with several identifiable traits, although some (such traits) might only be evident to those who are being or have been bullied themselves:
Acts of harassment usually centre around unwanted, offensive and intrusive behaviour with a sexual, racial or physical component. In the UK, harassment on specific grounds is outlawed by virtue of the Equality Act 2010. The Criminal Justice and Public Order Act 1994 and the Protection from Harassment Act (1997) have also influenced attitudes towards harassment. Significantly, the Protection from Harassment Act emphasises the target's perception of the conduct in question, rather than the perpetrator's intent.
Tim Field identified several different types of bullying at workplaces:
Bullying at work is readily capable of causing high levels of stress and anxiety, which can in turn make people ill with a variety of symptoms. Initially this might be poor concentration, impaired memory and fatigue. As the stress increases, other problems like reactive depression, irritability and loss of self-confidence can occur. Chronic excessive stress can lead to physical ailments too, including back pain, headaches, migrain, skin problems, infections, IBS and more.
You might think that the answer should be obvious, and it sometimes is, but some people are bullied for years without actually realising it. Many can see that they are being treated unfairly, but not all can put the nature of the unfairness into words. Some blame themselves for it. A common feature of psychological bullying is to make the target feel useless, guilty and to blame for their predicament, when they are not. How is someone to tell if they're being bullied, or the useless idiot they're made to feel like?
There are many reasons how and why bullies target others, and the reasons are consistent between different cases. There are many euphemisms used to describe bullying (e.g. firm management") and myths used to justify it (e.g. "victims are weak"). None of these are true. Bullying often repeats because bullies target their victims for the same reasons each time. This page may answer the question, "Why do I keep getting bullied?".
In most bullying situations, the target of bullying finds him or herself isolated and alone. Work colleagues, who may formerly have been friendly and supportive, melt away and the target is left feeling like a pariah and an outcast. There are many reasons why people at work have little or nothing to do with a colleague who's being bullied, especially where the bully has some authority. These reasons can be narrowed down to (1) ignorance (of bullying), (2) fear (of being bullied) and (3) complicity.
If you or someone you know is being bullied, these tips can help:
- Put your health before anything else
When someone complains about bullying or abuse, there will always be someone ready to suggest that is was the fault of the complainant, and they will dream up or regurgitate some of they myths and stereotypes in this list, suggesting that the bullying was actually some normal form of behaviour that other people are happy to accept, and/or that the complainant is too sensitive or weak or otherwise inadequate.
If you find yourself faced with some of these excuses, this page might lead you to the words you need to stand up for yourself.