How to Tackle the Negative Impacts of Workplace Bullying

According to research, bullying in the workplace not just impacts the happiness of the individual, but also injures their self-confidence, productivity and health, leaving the victim feeling powerless and stuck.

No company is immune to bullying. Bullying in the workplace has evolved as an underhanded strategy to force employees to resign voluntarily. In general, many employees get bullied while at work daily. Intimidation, threats and isolation are some of the tactics that bullies employ to strip an individual of their dignity and identity.

Usually, the main reason for bullying in the workplace could be the feeling of insecurity with the other individual’s personality or successes. Sometimes, even their mere presence can make a bully feel insecure.

More often, the language, tactics and behaviours used by bullies can change a friendly and welcoming environment into a negative and fearful one. According to research, bullying in the workplace not just impacts the happiness of the individual, but also injures their self-confidence, productivity and health, leaving the victim feeling powerless and stuck.

While there are many types of bullying, it is important to focus on ways to curb it. The management or the recruitment agency supporting the company must take steps to put an end to bullying in the organization.

Effects of bullying in the workplace

Employees who face bullying in the workplace on a daily basis face various health risks like:

  • Ulcers
  • High blood pressure
  • Sleeping problems
  • Panic attacks
  • Anxiety problems
  • Stress disorders

Bullying can also have a negative impact on an employee’s job performance in the following ways:

  • They are unable to concentrate on work
  • They find it difficult to do the task in a better way
  • They have trouble making a decision
  • They face lower productivity
  • They experience lower self-esteem in all their work interactions

Bullied employees lose out on time and motivation at work because, most of the time, their mind is preoccupied with:

  • How to avoid the bully
  • Planning to stand up for themselves
  • Devising ways to handle the situation
  • Engrossed in deep thoughts about the state of affairs
  • Networking with fellow employees for support

Bullying can make the victim feel helpless, confused, disoriented and powerless.

Effects of bullying on the employer

Bullying in the workplace can be detrimental to the employer too. It disrupts the work atmosphere and impacts the morale of the employee. Workplace bullying can:

  • Promote absenteeism
  • Reduce productivity
  • Make the work environment fearful and hostile
  • Impact the compensation claims of employees
  • Generate negative publicity and project the company in poor light
  • Lead to additional costs on recruiting and training new employees
  • Affect employee commitment and loyalty
  • Increase the rate of attrition among employees

With a lot riding on the employer, any kind of bullying in the workplace poses a serious risk to the growth and sustainability of the business. Thus, the employer has to tackle such problems efficiently to ensure it doesn’t affect the performance and make the workplace positive and interactive.

Effective ways to tackle bullying in the workplace

Bullying is not a collective activity. It is an individual activity, wherein only two people are involved — the bully and the victim. So, employers may find it difficult to find instances of bullying, as few employees come out to report the problem. However, employers can tackle the problem by creating a robust work environment where the employees are aware of their rights and can speak up if they face any issues. Certain tips that employers can encourage their employees to do are:

  • Check individual actions

If an employee feels bullied at the workplace, they should first check whether they are contributing to the activity in any way. They don’t have to victimise themselves, rather evaluate whether they have acted in a way that invited bullying from a colleague or the senior. If the employees find the reason for such behaviour, then they can find effective ways to handle the situation. It is better to examine the situation rather than aimlessly fall into bullying.

Tip: Humans make mistakes. So, the employee should take some time to assess the situation. If the act of bullying was a one-off incident arising out of anger or frustration, consider ignoring it and moving past it.

  • Address the issue before it starts to impact negatively

Many employees who get bullied prefer not to bring it up at all. They are concerned about how others will react and think about this. Things get worse when the bully in question is their manager or somebody who holds a higher position, as the livelihood of the employee is at stake. Plus, continuous bullying negatively impacts the health and overall wellbeing of the employee.

So, the employer should encourage their employees to speak up and develop a plan of action to tackle such a situation. Once you face it directly, the power of the adversary reduces.

  • Communicate with HR or higher management

If an employee doesn’t find it comfortable to speak with the workplace bully, then encourage them to talk to the higher management or the HR. At this point, it is important to make the employee feel comfortable and not force them into more distressing situations.

Tip: While addressing the concerns, employees should stay away from indulging in the blame game. Instead, they should devise a plan on how to effectively address the issue and focus on how this will positively impact their morale, productivity and wellbeing.

  • Face the problem head-on

Running away from the problem is not an effective solution. Employees should be encouraged to face the workplace bully head-on, rather than hide from them. It may not always be comfortable, but employees should make their point and stand their ground while communicating with their bully.

Tip: Employees can use the right phrases to make your point in front of the bully. Examples of such phrases are:
“Let us indulge in a productive conversation.”
“Kindly don’t speak to me in this manner.”
“Let us meet later to discuss something more constructive.”

  • Document it in detail

Employees should be encouraged to document every oppressive act of their bully, including the timeline and the sequence of events. This documentation will help an employee recall the information when needed while addressing the issue.

Lack of documentation encourages the workplace bully to become more aggressive and undisciplined in their behaviour. Documenting their behaviour gives you the confidence to face them when the need arises. Plus, it is the best way to present evidence to the HR or the concerned authority about the issue.

Tip: If the workplace bully is making an employee look bad in front of others and implying that the employee doesn’t do the job properly, then employers can encourage the employee to seek a written confirmation from the bully about their performance. Further, they should ask the employee to communicate with the bully via emails to document the process.

Employers should show active interest to curb bullying in the workplace. A healthy banter or one-time teasing for fun is fine. But long-term and targeted bullying should be prevented and avoided at all costs. After all, it will impact the overall work atmosphere and workplace productivity.

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