Workplace bullying

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Source:  Bullying in the workplace | BlogHer

I found the above article by Laura Petrecc which I though may interest readers of my blog.  She talks about bullying, how often the first thought when bullying is mentioned is that of phyical form of bullying, next comes bullying within schools. Often overlooked is the fact that bullying also happens in the workplace.

She talks about how bullying is assumed to target others on the grounds of;

  • race,
  • ethnicity,
  • sexual-orientation,
  • or anything that is physically manifested such as disability or difference in appearance or behavior.

Work bullying does not restrict itself to that of colleagues but also comes from those who benefit from managerial positions.  Click on the link above to read her full article.


Many organisations including the public sector carry out staff surveys and sadly there is often a notable percentage of staff who have experienced or witnessed workplace bullying, additionally we often also see an percentage of staff surveyed who decline to comment on this.  What is the reason why someone would decline to comment on a confidential staff survey?  Is it because despite assurances from senior management that the workforce simply do not believe that ‘confidentiality’ is exactly that?

Another source who wished not to be named claimed that he, being a fresh graduate from the same company’s training of six months, had to request a sick leave due to stress after the manager demanded that he ought to make even more sales. He had made more than half-a-dozen sales in three weeks, a significant number for a ‘newbie.’

Do managers foster insecurity within the workforce?  Do employees live in fear that if they speak up because they or their colleagues are being bullied that, especially in the current financial climate, they would be putting their employment at risk of termination or that they themselves would also become a victim because they are speaking out in support of others?

Many organisations have HR departments who are there to protect managers but who does the employee have to turn too?  Many are told they can also turn to HR for assistance but how is the information utilised?  Where there is a conflict how does the HR person deal with it if both sides of a situation are turning to them for advice or support?

What is the percentage of staff who are experiencing stress and difficulties in the workplace which can be put down to the culture of the management and the way they run the organisation with focus purely on hitting targets and not valuing the workforce they have already or not investing in them?

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Workplace Bullying Survey results announced

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Read the full article here:  2010 WBI U.S. Workplace Bullying Survey, the National Poll

Check out these findings on work place bullying in America.  There is no place for bullying in todays society whether it be in the school yard, online social networking sites or in the workplace.  It is important people are given support and help when they speak up and out the bullies.

Key Findings

* 35% of workers have experienced bullying firsthand (37% in 2007, given the MOE, essentially equivalent)
* 62% of bullies are men; 58% of targets are women
* Women bullies target women in 80% of cases
* Bullying is 4X more prevalent than illegal harassment (2007)
* The majority (68%) of bullying is same-gender harassment

Prevalence of Workplace Bullying

35% of the U.S. workforce (an est. 53.5 million Americans) report being bullied at work; an additional 15% witness it. Half of all Americans have directly experienced it. Simultaneously, 50% report neither experiencing nor witnessing bullying. Hence, a “silent epidemic.”

Gender and Workplace Bullying

Both men and women bully, but the majority of bullying is same-gender harassment, which is mostly legal according to anti-discrimination laws and workplace policies. Women target women.
WPB Prevalence

Recommended Reading

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Is Gossiping Bullying

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Cover of Nasty People

ONE of Wall Street’s most feared traders declares that employees who gossip about co-workers will be fired for behaving like “slimy weasels”.

Self-made billionaire Ray Dalio’s list of rules to his 1000 employees detailing behaviour that he would not tolerate at his firm, Bridgewater Associates, was leaked onto the internet.

Mr Dalio, who is estimated to be worth $4.75 billion, said any staff members who were overhead gossiping maliciously about a colleague three times would be fired, The Australian reports.

“Never say anything about a person you wouldn’t say to him directly,” he wrote in the document, called ‘Dalio rules’.

“If you do, you are a slimy weasel.”

The rule cuts both ways, with company meetings stored in a “transparency library” so staff can find out what their managers are saying about them. In turn, bosses can hear any nasty nicknames they have acquired.

Mr Dalio said that his workers loved his anti-gossip rules which he claimed promoted honesty within the workplace.

Gossip is passive bullying

Gossip is considered a passive form of bullying, where the victim is undermined behind their back, experts say.

There are no exact figures on the level of workplace bullying in Australia but research shows that around one in five people have experienced bullying in the workplace.

One New York life coach, Beth Weissenberger, teaches executives to find the source of gossip and punish the rumour-monger.

“Everyone draws up their own definition of what makes harmful gossip,” Ms Weissenberger said.

“I am not talking about the silly stuff – celebrities are fair game – but the toxic spite and resentment which kills camaraderie and gets in the way of running a business.

“(However) I have not heard of people being fired for gossip: that is new.”

Article Source and to Read more: http://www.news.com.au/business/business-smarts/slimy-office-weasels-face-the-boot-says-billionaire-ray-dalio/story-e6frfm9r-1225887845362#ixzz0t2606Cm7

I read the above article with interest.  I am impressed with the stance thatelf-made billionaire Ray Dalio’s has taken however with 1000 employees this will be one company policy which will be hard to regulate.  Much will depend on whistle blowing by staff which in can can unsettle relationships between team members.  Sadly gossiping is something encountered amongs peers and colleagues, often playground behavour that has continued uncheck into adulthood and the workplace.  I will be interested to see how this is handled in practice and what the results are.


Recommended Reading

Bullying at Work: How to Confront and Overcome it

Fighting Back: How to Fight Bullying In the Workplace by David Graves

Nasty People by Jay Carter

Gossip Again and You’re Fired | Sterling Performance | BNET

One person’s ‘gossip‘ is another person’s way of networking, relationship building, sharing ideas and talking through technical problems. As an intravert, I love the idea of a peaceful office where I have more control over interruptions …

Publish Date: 07/06/2010 17:09


How to Deal With Office Gossip

There’s an office gossip in every company. The only employee who thinks gardening means tending the office grapevine. The person who knows so much you’d swear s/he is bugging your office, and filling in the blanks with National Inquirer …

Publish Date: 06/30/2010 8:44


Office Coffee Politics

The market for coffee machines are better than ever … and without these consumer devices, where we were to hold the meeting Office gossip … there really is no place better suited to office gossip and office gossip “coffee … but do …

Publish Date: 07/05/2010 6:39


Office Gossip

Founder of WORKS by Nicole Williams and author of best-selling career book Wildly Sophisiticated, Nicole Williams gives her unique perspective on what WORKS in the office. In this segment, Nicole Williams gives all the do’s and dont’s of office gossi…

Office Gossip

From the D-generation

Gossip In The Office And Workplace / Educational Video

Gossip In The Office And Workplace / Educational Video. Production Company: Calvin Company; Keywords: workplace politics. Gossip in the workplace is a form of social interaction between two or more co-workers in which speculation and opinion about ot…

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Dealing with workplace bullies.

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Article Source:  How to deal with workplace bullying – Resource centre – Employment news & views – Career FAQs

How to deal with workplace bullying
By Josie Chun

When you think of bullies, you may think of the beefy kid at school pushing and shoving the runt of the class. But bullies are no longer consigned to the school playground. They can be found in the workplace lurking around office cubicles, behind counters and desks or loitering around the water cooler – and more than your lunch money could be at stake.

Workplace bullying is not always overt; it can be subtle but insidious. It is a serious issue that not only causes a risk to the health and safety of the victim, but can also affect the whole business. And occasionally, as in the tragic case of 19-year-old Brodie Panlock who committed suicide as a response to workplace bullying, the consequences can be dire.
Bullying is more common than many people realise, with WorkSafe’s annual research consistently showing that 14 per cent of Victorian workers had experienced bullying.

No bullies in our house
While you may be extremely lucky to have a relaxed workplace, remember that not everyone shares the same sense of humour. People have different sensitivities and sometimes what is intended as playful joking can come across like a personal attack. Employees can be reluctant to tell employers how they feel for fear of causing trouble or losing their job. As an employer you may be unaware that bullying is taking place in your office, but it is your duty to provide a working environment that is safe and without risks to the health of your workers.

It is also the responsibility of co-workers to speak up if they witness bullying in the workplace. Workers have a duty to take reasonable care for their own health and safety, as well as the health and safety of others in the workplace. They also have a duty to cooperate with actions their employer takes to comply with OHS laws.

What is bullying?
Bullying can come in many forms but can generally be defined as repeated unreasonable behaviour directed towards a worker or a group of workers that creates a risk to health and safety. Whether intended or not, bullying is an OHS hazard.

Bullying behaviour can be direct and can run the gamut from verbal abuse and putting someone down to spreading rumours or innuendo about someone, or interfering with someone’s personal property or work equipment.

It can also be indirect and includes behaviours such as unjustified criticism or complaints, deliberately excluding someone from workplace activities, deliberately denying access to information or other resources, withholding information that is vital for effective work performance, setting tasks that are unreasonably above or below a worker’s ability, deliberately changing work arrangements, such as rosters and leave, to inconvenience a particular worker or workers, setting timelines that are very difficult to achieve, and excessive scrutiny at work.

Bullying does not, however, include things like constructive feedback, downsizing or deciding not to select a worker for promotion.

The effects of bullying
Bullying has profound effects on both individuals and organisations, leading to loss of productivity, high staff turnover, increased absenteeism, drops in employee performance, low morale and possible legal costs. These are not things that businesses can afford to ignore, either from a professional or ethical standpoint.

Bullied individuals can be physically or psychologically damaged and are more likely to make mistakes that lead to injuries. They can also experience increased muscular tension and are more likely to develop occupational overuse syndromes and low back pain.

Workplace policy
Workplaces need to develop and implement a policy on bullying prevention that sets out standards of behaviour and clearly identifies inappropriate behaviour that will not be tolerated.

Procedures should outline how reports of bullying will be dealt with and ensure that the process is objective, fair and transparent, as well as confidential.

The employer’s response should be guided by the following principles:

* Treat all matters seriously
* Act promptly
* Don’t victimise anyone who raises an issue of bullying
* Once a complaint has been made, all involved parties should be advised of available support and treated with sensitivity, respect and courtesy
* Act with impartiality towards all parties, avoiding any personal or professional bias
* Communicate with all parties about the process (how long it will take and what will happen), providing clear reasons for any actions taken
* Consult with health and safety representatives
* Treat all complaints with confidentiality, revealing details only to those directly involved
* Document the process, recording all meetings and interviews with details of who was present and agreed outcomes

How to deal with workplace bullying
Sometimes a clear and polite request to stop the behaviour, which can be made by the person affected, their supervisor or manager, or another appropriate person, is all that is required to stop the bullying behaviour. The supervisor or manager should document the request and its outcome.

In other cases, when the direct approach does not resolve the issue, mediation or discussion with a third party may be required. A neutral and independent person can assist resolution through discussion of the issues when all concerned parties agree to this approach.

When a serious allegation has been made, a formal investigation should be conducted to determine if the report of bullying is valid. At the end of an investigation, recommendations should be made about the measures that should be undertaken to resolve the matter, with the outcome communicated to the involved parties in a fair and unbiased way.

Strategies for resolution
There are a number of strategies that managers and employers can implement to put an end to bullying behaviour in the workplace:

* Gain a commitment from the perpetrator to cease the behaviour (direct approach)
* Move the perpetrator away from the affected person
* Require an apology
* Implement disciplinary action
* Mediation (where both parties agree to mediation and to the mediator)
* Provide coaching, counselling support and/or mentoring to the affected person
* Provide a structured program to reintegrate the person into the workplace
* Review workplace policy with all workers and managers
* Run an awareness update
* Provide workgroup and organisation-wide training

What is Workplace Bullying?

Join Valerie Cade as she explains the difference between working with workplace bullies vs. difficult people. Valerie is a workplace bullying expert, speaker and author of Bully Free at Work which is distributed in over 100 countries worldwide.

Vicious Cycle of Workplace Bullying

Slide show about the ineffectiveness of most organization’s dealing with a workplace bully.

WSJ: For businesses, bully lawsuits may pose new threat

A significant number of U.S. workers say they are— and soon those in New York may be able to sue their employers, including small businesses, for any suffering they experience at the hands of a toxic boss or other workplace bully. …

Publish Date: 05/26/2010 22:06


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Bullying and Intimidation at work

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Bully for you: Intimidation at work | Money | The Guardian

Bully for you: Intimidation at work

Personal intimidation in the workplace can be hard to define and doesn’t always come from above. Cath Janes looks at the grey area where bluntness ends and bullying begins

Bullying happens in many places, put is often hard to define in the workplace. Illustration: Simon Pemberton

The allegations levelled against Gordon Brown this week are a timely reminder that bullying is not ­simply the domain of the playground. Workplace bullying is on the rise, a by-product of the added pressure placed on workers and employers by the recession.

It can be hard to know where to draw the line between gruff management style and intimidation of a darker, more personal nature. Yet for some, the question of whether their boss is a bully needs no debate.

“Early in my career I had a boss so awful that I used to cry over the things he said,” says lawyer Julie English. “Nothing I did ever seemed good enough and he used to have tantrums and shout at people. Then two years later I found myself working with a boss who prided himself on his honesty. He was really brutal and I sometimes wondered if he too was deliberately trying to make me cry. Looking back, I was surrounded by dysfunctional people.”

It’s a familiar tale: tears, tantrums, the nagging feeling that you’re no good. So it may surprise you to know that English doesn’t believe this was bullying. “It never even occurred to me that this constituted bullying,” she says. “They were difficult colleagues but they made me raise my game and made me a better lawyer. I learned a lot of lessons from them that other, kinder bosses failed to teach me.”

Employers should have zero tolerance for intimidation or bullying, but does that mean there is no place for straight talking?

According to the Department of Trade and Industry, bullying is the intimidation of an employee by physical or verbal violence, abuse or humiliation. It includes being picked on, being unfairly treated or blamed for incidents, being routinely overworked and consistently denied career or training opportunities. It is behaviour that happens privately or in front of colleagues and in any form of communication.

It is an issue underpinned by startling statistics. A recent survey by the Unison union and Company magazine revealed one-third of young women claim to have been bullied, often by other women. The Chartered Management Institute (CMI) claims 70% of managers have witnessed bullying in the last three years and that bullying costs the UK £13.8bn per year.

Yet there is a danger in confusing bullying with straight talking. To assume that the latter is always the former could make us incapable of looking our colleagues in the eye for fear of unbalancing their delicate constitutions. So when is a bullying boss really only a gruff manager?

When their comments are connected to the work and not the person, says Mandy Rutter, clinical manager at Axa Icas, health and wellbeing specialist: “They won’t have personal criticisms about that person, won’t single them out and will be consistently straight talking with everybody. It may be difficult to hear comments connected to performance or behaviour but it is also adult-to-adult communication with evidence to back it up.”

Honesty can be warranted yet cruel and, according to Rutter, when we are under stress we respond emotionally.

There are occasions, though, when tough talking is needed. The recession has demonstrated this and redundancies, restructuring and bankruptcy have forced us to have the difficult conversations we’d rather avoid.

“We need to get better at having robust dialogue because difficult conversations about employee performance are one of the biggest challenges for managers and it’s too often avoided,” says Penny de Valk, chief executive of the Institute of Leadership and Management. “If there is not a performance culture in an organisation some employees will see this as bullying because they haven’t experienced it before. In fact it can be beneficial to have a frank approach and staff can thrive on that clarity. It is not bullying to address important issues, gain clarity or acknowledge what an employee has done to contribute to an issue. Softening the message too much means it can get lost.”

Nina Dar, founder of Cheeky Monkey, a change management consultancy, agrees. She admits she shocks clients’ employees because she is direct and honest, but believes this is the key to success.

“I’ve had grown men tell me that I’m scary. I’ve also seen people cry because of my comments. Yet increasingly we see employees who are happy to work with this style because they want to be treated like adults who can handle challenges,” she says.

“This is different to bullying, which means hurting someone, lashing out at them, being inconsistent and chipping away at their confidence. I recognise that if employees want to work as a team they have to talk to each other honestly. It’s about having adult conversations and enjoying the results.”

Yet tough talking can become bullying, an easy line to cross. Bullies erode an employee’s judgment, sometimes so subtly that it is hard to know what is unacceptable. The issue is further complicated by the stereotypes. We can be so busy scrutinising superiors for bullying behaviour we forget to scrutinise those alongside or below us.

“I took on a job with managerial responsibility and one colleague, to whom I was senior, caused me enormous problems,” says teacher Mike Durrant. “He was an awkward character and refused to co-­operate with the changes I was proposing. He’d deliberately miss meetings and refuse to share tasks. I complained to our line manager and was told to learn to deal with him.

“It got worse. He’d shout at me in classrooms or meetings and became determined to battle me. I also discovered that my predecessor had left because of him, as had someone more senior. I had no control over him and my managers did nothing either, so I had no one to turn to for help.”

Durrant developed such serious depression he had to be hospitalised and has been unable to work since 2008. He is in no doubt this bullying is responsible for his ill health.

According to a CMI survey, 63% of managers have witnessed bullying between peers and 30% have witnessed subordinates bullying their managers.

Yet while some behaviour, such as discrimination, threats or violence, is clearly defined legally, bullying is a grey area. Elin Pinnell, an employment law specialist at Capital Law LLP, says: “There should be zero tolerance of bullying in any workplace yet there is no rule book about what defines it. Take swearing. If you work on a building site and it is part of the daily banter, does this constitute bullying? You can debate it until you are blue in the face but it really does depend on the impact it has upon each employee.”

Also, those displaying this behaviour may be unaware of its impact. “I don’t know if he was being a bully,” says marketing manager Jim Davies of a former-colleague. “There were times when butter wouldn’t melt and he’d be upset to know he’d hurt you. But then his deviousness would be so transparent that he looked like a man who actually enjoyed bullying people.

“He was also very manipulative. He’d temper his comments with ‘I’m only being honest’, or ‘It’s not about you, it’s about the business’, which allowed him to say anything he liked. Work was one big guessing game and innocuous actions would cause him to explode. The shock meant you’d be incapable of responding to it.”

Remind you of anyone? There’s an argument that the management style of celebrities such as Gordon Ramsay, Sir Alan Sugar and Simon Cowell don’t help. Most people confronted by such an approach would feel humiliated yet we tune in to point and laugh at chefs, apprentices and singers who are clearly distressed. Is it any wonder that we struggle to distinguish tough talking from bullying?

“What works on TV just doesn’t work in reality,” says CMI chief executive Ruth Spellman. “You can recognise tough behaviour if you know how, though. Ask whether your colleague or boss is a tough listener as well as a tough talker. Can you have your say as much as they have theirs? And are you confident you can trust them, and that they are acting consistently? If so they’re not necessarily your enemy. That confidence, consistency and trust could benefit you in a way that a bully never could.”

Some names have been changed
What to do if you think you’re being bullied

First, talk it over with someone to establish whether the behaviour you are being subjected to really does constitute bullying. If you belong to a union, your rep should be able to help. DirectGov, Citizens Advice (0844 848 9600) and the Equality and Human Rights Commission (0845 604 6610) are also good contacts.

Acas, the Advisory, Conciliation and Arbitration Service (08457 474 747), offers advice and has a useful leaflet entitled Bullying and Harassment at Work, which is available by post or online. If you speak to an outside agency or charity, make sure it follows clear guidelines on maintaining confidentiality.

Once you are sure you are being bullied, take the following steps:

• Try to find out if anyone else you work with is suffering from or has ­witnessed bullying behaviour from the person concerned.

• Keep a diary of incidents, including dates, witnesses and your feelings at the time. Keep copies of emails you think form a wider pattern of bullying.

• Make the person aware of his or her behaviour and ask them to stop. You could ask a colleague or union official to act on your behalf.

• If you can’t confront the person, consider putting your objections to him or her in writing. Keep copies of any correspondence. Keep your tone unemotional, and stick to the facts.

• Employers are responsible for preventing bullying and harassment. If you decide to complain to your employer, ask for information on its grievance procedures.

• Instead of taking disciplinary action, your employer (or you) may wish to follow different ways of resolving the situation, such as mediation.

• If you have to resign due to bullying, take legal advice. You cannot make a legal claim directly about bullying, but you may be able to make a constructive dismissal claim against your employer on the grounds that it is neglecting its “duty of care”. You will have a better chance of success if you can show the tribunal you have followed the steps above and complied with any attempt by your employer to resolve the situation.

• Complaints can also sometimes be made under laws covering discrimination and harassment if, for example, you think you are being bullied on the grounds of age, sex, race, disability, religion, sexual orientation, nationality or any personal characteristic. Graham Snowdon

Workplace bullying – a problem for employer and employee alike

To minimise the risk of bullying, employers should encourage appropriate behaviour from all employees in the workplace. They should not tolerate unacceptable conduct, should address complaints promptly and appropriately, …

City lawyer seeking £19m over workplace bullying claim settles for …

A City lawyer who had claimed £19m in compensation over workplace bullying has settled for an undisclosed multi-million-pound sum. Gill Switalski, 54,

There is No Excuse for Bullies at Work (or Anywhere Else)

If you are a manager it is your responsibility to prevent workplace bullying. If you are a recipient of bullying, you are not alone, take action. If you are a witness to workplace bullying, you can do something about it. …

Further reading

Fighting Back: How to Fight Bullying In the Workplace by David Graves

A schools definition of ‘encouragement’ differs to mine.

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I spoke to the deputy head at my daughters school this afternoon.  She had spoken to my daughter, questioned her about why she did not want to go to school then made her apologise to the school staff for her behaviour.  Frankly I am SO ANNOYED.  I have always told my daughter never to hit first however she can lash out  in self defence.

The deputy head at the school said the staff members actions were of ‘encouragement’!!!!

Thanks to thefreedictionary.com I have a definition of encouragement;

Noun 1. encouragementencouragement – the expression of approval and support

commendation, approval – a message expressing a favorable opinion; “words of approval seldom passed his lips”
abetment, abettal, instigation – the verbal act of urging on
cheering, shouting – encouragement in the form of cheers from spectators; “it’s all over but the shouting”
advancement, furtherance, promotion – encouragement of the progress or growth or acceptance of something
fosterage, fostering – encouragement; aiding the development of something
goading, prod, prodding, spur, spurring, urging, goad – a verbalization that encourages you to attempt something; “the ceaseless prodding got on his nerves”
incitement, provocation – needed encouragement; “the result was a provocation of vigorous investigation”
vote of confidence – an expression of approval and encouragement; “they gave the chairman a vote of confidence”
discouragement – the expression of opposition and disapproval
2. encouragement – the act of giving hope or support to someone

assist, assistance, help, aid – the activity of contributing to the fulfillment of a need or furtherance of an effort or purpose; “he gave me an assist with the housework”; “could not walk without assistance”; “rescue party went to their aid”; “offered his help in unloading”
morale booster, morale building – anything that serves to increase morale; “the sight of flowers every morning was my morale builder”
3. encouragement – the feeling of being encouraged

hope – the general feeling that some desire will be fulfilled; “in spite of his troubles he never gave up hope”

Now I cannot see anything in the above definition that would support forcibly taking a very distressed child go into school away from her mother.

What really annoys me is that the teach did not speak to me or acknowledge my presence.  Her only interaction was with my daughter when she told her that she had to go into school and made an attempt to get hold of her.

I was already dealing with the situation, I was taking to my daughter and encouraging her to go into school voluntarily.  What the staff member did created an unnecessary situation and made things really bad.  Had she not intervened my daughter would have gone merrily into school as she always does.

A coaching focused approach would have resolved the situation swiftly.  What do I think she should have done?

Firstly not got involved.  I was dealing with the situation well enough and she should have kept out of it.  I am more than capable of getting my crying daughter into class.

Secondly if she wanted to become involved she should have spoken to me first, not ignored my presence and undermined me in front of my own daughter.

Thirdly she should not have made any attempt to physically take my child into school.

More things … yes loads.  She made no attempt to find out what was going on, why my daughter was upset, there may have been a family bereavement or she may have been unwell.  Without establishing the facts then she should have left well alone.  If I wanted assistance from staff then I would have asked for it.  An appropriate way to speak to my daughter would have been to lower herself to my young daughters height and talk to her nicely.

I found her manner towards my daughter intimidating and bullying.  All schools have a no bullying policy.  I believe that bullying is (amongst other things) when someone uses their age, position or size to mistreat or undermine another.  No one deserves to be bullied or harassed but it could happen to any of us and in some shape and form it probably has happened to most of us and it isn’t nice.

What signals was the staff member sending out?  She was saying that it is OK for an someone to be forcibly moved against their will.  To barge into a situation that did not involve them and try to take over without firstly establishing the facts.  I am sure they would have plenty to say if the school children were doing similar.

By making my daughter apologise to the school staff the deputy head has condoned their actions – and without speaking to me first to establish my viewpoint on what had happened.  No surprise there then.

I believe that if the school expects my daughter to treat her peers and school staff with dignity and respect they should afford the same back, this should apply to all children no matter their age or size.  School staff should not take advantage of their position to forcefully deal with a simple situation that does not involve them.

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When is grabbing a school child acceptable?

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I took my daughter to school this morning.  She was feeling a bit off colour and had a sore throat so I gave her some Calpol and hoped she would be fine.

In the school yard next to us was a little girl from my daughters class who also didn’t want to go school today.  When the bell ran the children file in but mine wouldn’t go in and started crying.  I stood talking to her at the next to the entrance to the school and tried to calm her down.  A member of the school staff intervened and made several attempts to grab my daughter to take her into school saying she had to go inside.  This got my daughter increasingly more upset and she lashed back saying to the staff member to leave her alone.

Whilst I not up for pandering to my daughter and would not condone her behaviour I have always said never to hit anyone but if struck she can hit back.

I do think that for a school with an anti-bullying policy the decision to grab first and not look at what is going on is deplorable.

I took my daughter into school, mentioned to the teacher she had a sore throat and had been given medication and she went merrily into class.  Sometimes it is just about taking a little of time to make the little one feel listened too and understood is all that is needed.

Interestingly too there was another child in the classroom with his mother not wanting to go to school.  Surely the school should be asking why 10% of the class (and there could be more I don’t know) do not want to go to class.  Is it coincidence or is there more too it?

Sadly this is not the first time it has happened to my daughter, and from what I have been told by other parents she is not the only child it has happened too.

But one question is really bothering me.  Why do teachers think it is acceptable to grab children in their care? It would not be tolerated by the school if the children were grabbing each other.  Does the simple fact they are ‘grown up’ and ‘staff’ allow them ‘special excemption’ to the non bullying environment which the education system and society has signed up to?

Relevant reading books

School Bullying: Insights and Perspectives by Sonia Sharp, Peter K Smith, and Peter Smith
Bullying in Schools: How Successful Can Interventions Be? by Debra Pepler, Ken Rigby Edited by Peter K. Smith, Peter K. Smith, Debra Pepler, and Ken Rigby
Bullying in Secondary Schools: What It Looks Like and How To Manage It (PCP Professional) by Dr Keith Sullivan, Mr Mark Cleary, and Dr Ginny Sullivan
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Employers have failed to help victims of workplace bullying

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Targets are brainwashed into feeling powerless and paralysed.

Magistrate Peter Lauritsen’s ruling on the culpability of those responsible for the subtle and sadistic workplace bullying that led to Brodie Panlock’s death in 2006 may reduce the acceptance of such behaviour in the workplace.

This is only a small indication of justice and the manner in which victims are further abused by adversarial employers and our insurance and medico-legal systems. Nevertheless, it is a sign things may be finally, although slowly, changing for the better.

But the most-asked question is why don’t people just leave a toxic workplace. It’s hard to understand how a victim can stay and become increasingly hurt.

Philip Zimbardo’s famous prison experiment, conducted at Stanford University in 1971 with bright, normal university students, demonstrated that they had emotionally deteriorated to the point where after six days of abuse by their peers he ceased the experiment.

We know about learnt helplessness, where women stay because they have lost the confidence to leave abusive relationships.

We know that some parents keep their children at the same school for years, despite their child’s constant complaints of being bullied. But why didn’t this young woman leave the cafe?

Bullying occurs at any level in the workplace and studies show that one in five employees will experience it, more in some workplaces.

Strangely, most employers don’t understand that employees who feel safe and respected work harder and achieve more.

The problem is that most employers don’t truly educate their staff to identify bullying, provide systemic solutions to rectify the causes, develop interventions and empower victims to create ways to block bullying behaviours. Most policies are superficial, formed without adequate staff collaboration, regular monitoring, comprehensive training programs, meaningful consequences or conciliatory, restorative dispute-resolution processes.

Instead of identifying bullying as a sign of a toxic culture and managerial incompetence, many employers address a bullying case by attacking the confused, hurt victim, whose brain has already been scrambled by the abuse from co-workers.

Thus the victims face a gauntlet of hazards. Do they ever get flowers, balloons or caring phone calls from their employer when they are home, too injured to work? In most cases, victims are sabotaged by adversarial, aggressive or passive managers keen to avoid liability.

Many wait for promissory notes about employee safety and justice to materialise. While they wait for assistance, the bullying escalates like a slow-growing cancer.

Most don’t understand that they are being bullied until they are injured.

Just like Humpty Dumpty or the terracotta warriors of Xian, they have fallen to pieces, curdled, disintegrated. Their spirit is broken, their good name trampled on; they have been humiliated in front of peers. Their fight/flight instinct is paralysed and they become stuck in time, obsessing over what is occurring but unable to take action.

According to Canadian psychologist Pat Ferris, brain scans will soon show the extent of their serious injuries. Unlike the victim of a hold-up, their injuries are often only validated when there is legal evidence of bullying, which is hard to prove when bullying is subtle or there are many minor acts, rather than by their medical and psychological symptoms.

Besides, the current state of research seriously restricts general practitioners and mental health professionals. Many can’t distinguish between the biochemically different injuries of stress versus trauma.

There are no adequate evidence-based diagnoses and consequently no suitable treatments for victims of workplace bullying trauma. Few mental-health professionals know how to identify their symptoms. No wonder victims face a potpourri of diagnoses when they confront a medico-legal examination. Few have had training to deal with this crippling injury, leading some to blame victims for their personalities, without assessing work culture, management, bullies, employers and bystanders.

Worksafe and Medicare pay scant attention to the needs of this seriously injured group and the many years of treatment they require. Many caring mental-health professionals make big financial sacrifices to treat them.

Despite the excellent work being done by the National Centre Against Bullying and by many schools, the rates of school bullying have not fallen significantly.

So what hope do victims of workplace bullying have when they are unaware of the hazards facing them, their employers don’t care, safety and legal justice is virtually impossible, mental-health professionals are under-resourced, bullying awareness programs are a farce and instead of restorative practices to deal with disputes, employers unleash a battery of adversarial tactics?

No wonder victims become brainwashed into feeling hopeless, powerless and paralysed.

Evelyn Field is a practising psychologist and author of Bully Blocking at Work, a self-help guide for employees, managers and mentors to be published next month.

Article Source:  Workplace Bullying And Brodie Panlock | Cafe Vamp

Workplace Bullying

Further Reading

Fighting Back: How to Fight Bullying In the Workplace by David Graves

Managing Workplace Bullying by Aryanne Oade

In Darkness Light Dawns: Exposing Workplace Bullying by Lisa Barrow

Employee Well-being Support: A Workplace Resource by Andrew Kinder, Rick Hughes, and Cary L. Cooper

Workplace policies must improve to check cyber-bullies

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By Donna Reynolds

CYBER-bullying is probably more closely associated with children and teenagers, but digital bullying represents an extension of traditional workplace bullying that has long been recognised as a widespread problem in UK plc.
Of course, the bullying of colleagues pre-dates the printing press. However, the growth of new technologies, and the anonymity offered by them, has dramatically increased the opportunity to bully and harass colleagues.

So when does trendy social or corporate networking become something else?

If there were 50 ways to leave your lover, there must be at least that number of opportunities for electronic intimidation. Even a list of methods quickly adds up: SMS and MMS messages, mobile telephone, instant messenger services, circulating photos or video clips or posting comments within Web 2.0 sites, blogs or chat rooms. And none of these methods switches off at 5pm. Now bullies can invade our private lives 24/7.

The good news is that many employers have sought to articulate anti-bullying principles and policies. The bad news is that some are failing to implement them effectively. In fairness, what is tagged as bullying by one person may be regarded by another as perfectly appropriate workplace behaviour. Team-building is great but when does banter become bullying?

Bullying is just so diverse; it may be as subtle as simply excluding a colleague from round robin e-mails or as demeaning as a supervisor launching into what is effectively a public dressing down by sending an e-mail. That said, the nature of bullies has not changed – just their modus operandi.

Unsurprisingly, however, many bewildered employers are simply at a loss how to tackle the issue.

There is no consolidated piece of legislation dealing with cyber-bullying but there are various ways in which employees can bring employment tribunal proceedings in relation to bullying for which the employer may be liable, either directly or vicariously, if the bullying is perpetrated by employees in the course of their employment.

These range from contractually based claims, such as failing to provide a safe system of work or a breach of the implied duty of mutual trust and confidence to the statutory rights afforded, for example, under the Employment Rights Act 1996 (both examples typically depending on the employee resigning and claiming constructive dismissal).

There is also discrimination legislation where the bullying or harassment is based on, or makes reference to, someone’s sex, age, race, sexual orientation, religion and/or disability. Sending racist jokes or pornographic pictures by text or e-mail to a colleague may, if perceived as offensive by the recipient, amount to harassment.

Additionally, employees may seek to address cyber-bullying by means of the Protection from Harassment Act 1997. Though originally intended to deal with the problem of stalking, it allows an employee to complain about a course of conduct pursued by a colleague that causes alarm or distress, even though it may not amount to harassment under discrimination legislation.

This is a criminal offence and substantial damages can be awarded where the conduct engaged in by employees is likely to cause harassment that has a close connection with their work.

But when are cyber-bullies misbehaving in the course of their employment? What people get up to in their private lives is largely their own business. However, if an employee conducts himself in a manner so described within the vicinity of the workplace, or during an occasion associated with the employer, which brings the employer into disrepute, it could result in a disciplinary warning or even dismissal.

Thus a negative characterisation of a colleague posted by a cyber-bully on a workplace blog or even internet sites such as Facebook or MySpace may conceivably be deemed to be in the course of employment, as could an admirer’s “test the water” text to a colleague from a work Blackberry.

Having said all of that, the law is unclear and off the pace. Until it catches up, the starting point for employers in minimising the risk is to devise a policy that makes it clear that there is zero tolerance towards bullying and harassment.

Giving a number of non-exhaustive examples is likely to be helpful. The policy should also provide employees with a safe and, at least in the first instance, private means of redress either through the grievance procedure or a specific procedure for allegations of bullying and harassment.

Employers may also wish to consider whether lawfully monitoring employees’ use of e-mail, internet and social networking sites might go some way to deterring bullies who use the employer’s technology.

• Donna Reynolds is head of employment at CCW Business Lawyers
Article source:
Workplace policies must improve to check cyber-bullies – Scotsman.com News

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Cyber Bullying

Workplace Bullying: Applying Psychological Torture at Work

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Workplace Bullying: Applying Psychological Torture at Work

Have you been the victim of a workplace bully?

What happens when a schoolyard bully grows up and enters the workforce? Or worse, what if that bully becomes your boss? The result can be outright aggressive behavior or a subtle psychological torture that can make the workplace a living hell.

Someone close to me is experiencing a horrible case of psychological bullying at work. In her case, the main bully is a supervisor, but the supervisor has created an “inner circle” that helps in applying the bullying tactics. Her story caused me to look back on other cases of bullying at work that I have encountered. Unfortunately, there have been far too many.

Workplace bullying is more common than you might expect. A 2007 Zogby survey found that 37% of workers – representing 54 million people — reported that they had been bullied at work. Some researchers have reported that workplace bullying is a greater problem than sexual harassment.

What are the effects of bullying? Targeted employees can experience fear and anxiety, depression, and can develop a kind of post-traumatic stress disorder – leading to psychological harm and actual physical illness. This leads to absenteeism and turnover as bullied employees avoid or flee the torturous workplace.

What are some of the tactics bullies use in the workplace?

Most commonly, bullies threaten the employment or career status of the employee. Threats of being fired, or in my friend’s case, a threat of “I will dock your pay!” can be particularly troubling (even though my friend is a union employee so her pay cannot actually be affected).

The Silent Treatment. Often a bully and his or her “inner circle” will ostracize victims to the extent of completely ignoring them – refusing to even acknowledge their presence. In other instances, the bullies will stop talking when the victim enters the room, but perhaps continue talking in hushed tones with furtive looks at the victim, giggling and/or making disapproving grunts. You know, the same kind of tactics used in the schoolyard.

Rumors and Gossip. Bullies love to spread lies and rumors about their victims, and these can sometimes be quite vicious. Although untrue, rumors and gossip can filter throughout the organization and actually tarnish an individual’s reputation. I’ve known many insidious cases where a bullied victim sought to fight back, and the bullies spread rumors that the victim was merely a “complainer” and a “problem employee.”

Sabotage. Bullies may go so far as sabotaging the victim’s work. This can be outright (e.g., destroying or stealing a work product, or more subtle (e.g., altering someone’s powerpoint presentation or omitting a page from a report).

What can you do if you are a victim of bullies? There is a very useful website, kickbully.com that discusses the causes and consequences of bullying and suggests how to fight back.

Let’s hear some of your stories of workplace bullies and how you fought back!

Article Source: http://www.psychologytoday.com/blog/cutting-edge-leadership/201002/workplace-bullying-applying-psychological-torture-work

Further Reading

Fighting Back: How to Fight Bullying In the Workplace by David Graves

Bully in Sight: How to Predict, Resist, Challenge and Combat Workplace Bullying – Overcoming the Silence and Denial by Which Abuse Thrives by Tim Field

The Essential Guide to Workplace Mediation and Conflict Resolution: Rebuilding Working Relationships by Nora Doherty and Marcelas Guyler

Bullying at Work: How to Confront and Overcome it by Andrea Adams

Bullied: A Survivor’s Handbook for People Affected by Domestic Violence, School Bullying and Work Place Bullying by Neville Evans

Employee Well-being Support: A Workplace Resource by Andrew Kinder, Rick Hughes, and Cary L. Cooper

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On the Threshold of Eternity
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Workplace bullying on the rise

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Culture of cuts is fertile ground for bullies – Scotsman.com News

Published Date: 16 January 2010
WORKPLACE bullying has increased because of the recession, costing British industry billions of pounds to sort out, according to a new study.

Psychologists have urged companies to be vigilant about “negative employee behaviour” before a problem escalates into a case of bullying, leading to legal action taken by victims.

The recession had led to understaffing, increased job demands and worries about cash, so that workers’ feelings were the last thing on a boss’s mind.

This produced a “fertile environment” for bullying, according to a paper discussed yesterday at a British Psychological Society conference in Brighton.

Workplace bullying trial begins

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AN EPIDEMIC of workplace bullying is sweeping through Germany, with as many as 1.5 million people a day affected and the economy haemorrhaging money.
Known in German as “mobbing”, the harassment in offices, call centres, factories, warehouses, police stations, doctors’ surgeries and hospitals has reached such a level that workplace bullying has been linked to numerous suicides.

The employment ministry says the problem is more acute than in other countries.

Several years ago, a specialist clinic opened to treat the victims of bullying, but to date it has had little impact.

The issue has resurfaced as a result of the case of Sedika Weingärtner, 45, who is suing her former employer, industry giant Siemens, for nearly £2 million.

Ms Weingärtner claims she was bullied for years by her bosses and discriminated against for being a woman and an Arab.

“I was put under massive pressure and was subject to subtle forms of abuse,” she said as her case began in a Nuremberg courtroom this week.

“I became so ill that I collapsed in the workplace and had to go to the hospital. I almost died.”

Ms Weingärtner came to Germany in 1991 as a single mother with three children after fleeing from Afghanistan, where she had worked in Kabul as a television journalist. She married a German, and in 2001 became a purchasing manager for Siemens, overseeing international projects in China, India and the United States.

Ms Weingärtner claims she was abused by her bosses, who called her names such as “dirt”, “sloppy” and “Arab”.

In 2004, Siemens asked her to sign an agreement to terminate her contract, but Ms Weingärtner refused.

“Harassment and discrimination cases are piling up, and people don’t know how they can defend themselves,” said her lawyer, Frank Jansen.

Trade unions and anti-mobbing groups say a fifth of all suicides in Germany – about 2,000 each year – are related to bullying at work.

Billions of pounds are spent in the world’s third-largest economy treating victims in hospitals and clinics.

The personnel consulting firm Hill International in Austria, where bullying is also a problem, said: “Mobbing leads to huge economic damage, due to the across-the-board costs it creates with hospital visits, therapies, unemployment assistance and early retirement.

“Above all, every case of mobbing means financial losses on a major scale for each individual firm.”

Bullying victims in Germany who have taken their own lives include a policewoman in Munich, a lawyer in Berlin and a hospital worker in Dortmund.

The typical workplace “mobber” is male, a supervisor and aged between 35 and 54.

Almost 44 per cent of victims fall ill because of mobbing, and half of them remain sick for more than six weeks.

Germany’s health system has warned that it will need billions more in funding in the near future if it is to treat successfully all the victims of abuse in the workplace.

Article source:  http://www.dw-world.de/dw/article/0,,5150735,00.htm

Further reading:

Fighting Back: How to Fight Bullying In the Workplace by David Graves

Workplace Bullying: What Do We Know, Who is to Blame and What Can We Do? by Helge Hoel

Managing Workplace Bullying by Aryanne Oade

Additional resourse on workplace bullying and suicide

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Workplace Bullying: The War of the Nerves

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I know of many people who have worked in companies for many years, occupying professional positions but when a new manager with whom they did not see “eye to eye” problems occured.  Sometimes they just couldn’t take it anymore especially if they didn’t share the same views on workplace policies.

It is not not so much what was said but often the manager would always made it a point to show that was disliked.  The staff member often ignores me or sneered at should they suggest something or express and opinion.  What often makes a bad situation worese is when colleagues are being influenced by the new manager or reluctant to speak us thus appearing to silently endorse the managers behaviour.  Failing to speak up against a bullying manager can be seen as imitating the bullying thus making the situation exculate.

There are many examples of workplace bullying.  The staff member who is being bullied or harassed often experiences anxiety and panic attacks.  According to research conducted by the The Workplace Bullying Institute,  workplace bullying is now among the causes of poor employee retention, resignation, and other organizational problems.  A third of the human-resource executives surveyed said that they had personally witnessed or experienced workplace bullying.

 “Bullying” is also known as “mobbing”, or a frequent and systematic form of harrassment. So-called school based bullying occurs when a child torments, taunts or intimidates another child  in school.  The workplace version may be looked at as en extension of that form of harassment into the world of adults in the office.  In the workplace, bullying comes in the form of criticism, teasing and even sarcasm directed an another employee. Harassment in the workplace ranges from antagonism and up to extreme acts that could even lead to physical injuries.  The target is subjected to character assassination, aggressive behavior, verbal abuse, and the cold-shoulder treatment. Some are deliberately singled out to do unpleasant or hard tasks. Colleagues may even try to sabotage the victims’ work, hampering his or her productivity even going so far as hacking the victims’ office computer, making their day at work more stressful and problematic, alienating them from department or staff activities etc.

The common stereotype of a bullied person is someone who is a loner or weak in character. However, there are cases when the one being bullied is a capable staff member and may even be well-liked by co-workers. The bully considers their capability a threat and, therefore, is determined to make that person’s work life miserable or so hard that the victim no longer poses as a threat to the bully’s career.

Effects of this harassment can cause victimes to suffer from stress, anxiety, and serious health problems. Absenteeism from work is one clear sign of a stress-related illness. Sleeping disorders, depression, and anxiety panic attacks are the most well-known consequences of harassment. The effects of harassment goes beyond the workplace as it also affects the victim’s marriage or personal life. 

A bully can contaminate a workplace environment by causing fear, anger, and low morale. About 80% of bullies are bosses.  Some co-workers and a few higher-ups can alsoo engage in bullying taactics.  A bully can either be a man or a woman.  Bullying affects productivity and, as a result, the bottomline of a company.  On the other hand, bullying can also be a source of problems for management especially when victims file law suits and compensation claims due to work-related stress.

To address bullying, there must be clear and strict workplace policies in order to stop or prevent this form of workplace harassment. Employers must conduct risk assessments and implement guidelines and stress management programs.  With better decision-making processes and policies,  the employer can prevent a potential “war zone” in the company.  This will take efforts that may entail the conduct of investigations and conflict resolution to prevent the escalation of a problem between employees.  Employers must always take allegations of harassment and bullying very seriously, this is often difficult where managers who bully do so with the protection of putting everything down to organisational issues, keep secret logs and notes on victims and build cases behind the staff members back which when produced as a record months or years down the line are very difficult for the employee to respond too.

Further Reading

Fighting Back: How to Fight Bullying In the Workplace by David Graves

in Sight: How to Predict, Resist, Challenge and Combat Workplace
Bullying – Overcoming the Silence and Denial by Which Abuse Thrives
by Tim Field

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Short contracts blamed for culture of bullying in public service

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Source of Article:
Short contracts blamed for culture of bullying in public service | The Australian

SHORT-TERM contracts are being blamed for poor management within the Northern Territory public service as the Henderson Labor government faces pressure to stamp out bullying and harassment among workers.

A survey of the Territory’s 17,000 public servants this week revealed 43 per cent say they’ve suffered workplace bullying and harassment,, although some of the alleged behaviour was no more serious than petty criticism of their work.

A quarter of all Territory public servants participated in the survey and only 54 per cent say bullying and harassment is not a problem in their office. Twenty-two per cent reported they were bullied or harassed in the past year. Of these workers, 67 per cent complained to someone in authority, but only 28 per cent said they were satisfied with how the matter was handled.

The most common source of alleged bullying was managers and supervisors, followed by other employees.

Workers accused management of intimidating body language, nitpicking, withholding vital job information and unfair treatment.

The Community and Public Sector Union’s regional director Paul Morris says many public servants were reluctant to participate in the survey because they feared the computerised answer system would allow their views to fall into the hands of superiors.

“People were worried there’d be some retribution from a manager if they were too open and honest,” Morris tells Inquirer.

Fully 26 per cent of managers in the Territory’s public service are on temporary contracts and are under pressure to prove themselves, Morris says. “Some of the managers are out to prove themselves in a short period of time and tend to get a little heavy-handed in order to hang on to their contract. This culture of short-term contracts can breed a culture of poor management [and] lead to a culture of bullying.”

He has called on the public employment commissioner to investigate the bullying allegations and invest more in training managers.

Territory Public Employment Commissioner Ken Simpson has given assurances that survey confidentiality will not be breached. He says comments to the contrary are unhelpful and may discourage people from participating in the next survey, due next year.

Simpson says while he takes note of the sentiments expressed, “there are always two sides to the story” in cases of bullying. “Many of the complaints that are raised using the word bullying quite often refer to issues that have arisen in a particular workplace around a person’s performance.”

He says the survey is a way of ensuring staff get proper feedback and at the same time it acts as a reminder of their obligations. “For the first time we’ve asked the question about what our staff think about the public service and it gives us a lead into areas we need to pay attention to.”

The Territory opposition has seized on the survey.

Country Liberal MP John Elferink has blamed the situation on a leadership vacuum within the government of Chief Minister Paul Henderson as reason for sour faces in the public service.

Aside from the personal cost, it’s estimated bullying incidents on average cost $20,000 to an organisation in lost productivity and output, Elferink says.


My comment.

The above article appeared in The Australian, I wonder how the statistics compare with the UK and the rest of Europe. 

Whatever the reason given for it, workplace bullying should not be tolerated, whether it be for reason of disability, race, sexuality or any other reason.  Workplace bullying can significantly effect a persons mental health through depression, stress and wellbeing, as well as lowering levels of confidence and self esteem, increased eating problems and sleepless nights.  It impacts not only on the victims ability to function at work but also on their home life and out of work relationships.

Adequate sanctions should be put in place to deter managers and colleagues from bullying staff members and all staff should be aware that complaints are treated confidentially, fairly and should a finding be made against the offending person that a punnishment made is suitable harsh that it sends out signals to others that the organisation will NOT tolerate behaviour of this nature by anyone.

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Bullying in the workplace on the rise

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I was concerned to read this article in the Guardian about workplace bullying.  Bullying has no place in todays society and to find it is on the increase must be a concern for many.  Typically the person who does the bullying is showing his or her power of size, mental quickness or position. 

Sadly bullies seek out the weak and vulnerable to focus on and target unwanted behaviour towards, they then can start a campaign of bullying against a collegue or worker which lasts months or even years.  But what of the victim?  Often workplace bullying can destroy their confidence and self esteem, afraid to speak out and unsure where to turn the feelings of isolation and desperation can lead to stress and depression.   

What is often worse that whistle-blowing whilst encouraged by many employers in writing is actually not practiced in many workplaces and those members who are brave enough to step forward to protect their co workers can often find themselves too at the receiving end of workplace future bullying and some fear of speaking up incase their own hopes of career progression are shattered. 

Dealing with the situation head on by employers will send out the right message, there is no place for bullying within the workforce, complaints will be taken seriously and bullies dealt with effectively.  The employers should then be taking steps to help the victims of workplace bullying to build up their confidence and self esteem, any staff absences due to the bullying should be set aside and regular training on workplace acceptable practices should be the norm. 

If you, or someone you know, has been bullied at work then coaching may help.  Personal coaching can help to deal with increasing the employee’s confidence and self esteem, team coaching can aid building relations between co-workers who no doubt have also been effected by what has happened and the bully if allowed to remain in post will benefit from coaching to understand the consequences of their actions and how to ensure their future conduct is acceptable within the workplace practices.  Contact me if you would like to discuss how coaching could help you.

I have posted the relevant article below with a link back to the original.

Bullying in the workplace on the rise | Money | The Guardian

Bullying in the workplace on the rise

• Cases have doubled in last six months, survey shows
• Lawyers say economic downturn is to blame

Incidences of workplace bullying have doubled over the past decade.

The recession has seen a big increase in bullying at work, the Guardian has learned. One in 10 employees experience workplace bullying and harassment, according to the conciliation service Acas, while a survey by the union Unison reports that more than one-third of workers said they were bullied in the past six months, double the number a decade ago.

“The fact that bullying has doubled in the past decade is shocking,” said Dave Prentis, the general secretary of Unison.

Fraser Younson, head of employment at the law firm Berwin Leighton Paisner, said: “In the last year or so, as running businesses has become more difficult, the way managers interface with their staff has become more demanding. Managers are chasing things up, being more critical. If they are not trained to deal with increased levels of stress, then we are seeing them do this in a way that makes staff feel bullied.”

Samantha Mangwana, an employment solicitor at Russell Jones & Walker, said: “We are getting a very high level of cases. Most of the people who come to us with a problem at work talk about bullying. It frequently arises in people’s line-manager relationship.”

Employment lawyers say allegations of bullying have become a frequent feature of claims for unfair dismissal and discrimination.

Support groups are struggling to cope with the rise in cases, with one helpline recently forced to close.

“We have been overwhelmed by a huge rise in complaints over the last two years,” said Lyn Witheridge, who ran the Andrea Adams Trust bullying helpline until last year. “We had to close the charity and the helpline because we couldn’t cope with the number of calls – they more than doubled to 70 a day.

“The recession has become a playground for many bullies who know they can get away with it. Under pressure, budgets have got to be met. Managers are bullying people as a way of forcing them out and getting costs down.”

News of the increase comes amid a number of high-profile employment tribunal cases, including a News of the World sports reporter, Matt Driscoll, who was awarded almost £800,000 by an east London tribunal after he suffered “a consistent pattern of bullying behaviour” from staff, including Andy Coulson, now David Cameron’s head of communications.

Last month two yeomen were sacked from the Tower of London after an inquiry revealed a campaign of bullying against Moira Cameron, the first female yeoman warder in the tower’s 1,000-year history.

“We see some cases of bullying in discrimination where the employer invokes what we colloquially call the ‘bastard defence’,” said Mangwana. “Their defence is that they were a bastard to everyone, so it’s not discriminatory.”

Academics have long warned of the link between economic conditions and bullying, with studies in the 1980s and 1990s predicting that workplace competition and the threat of redundancy were most likely to cause an increase. The decline of trade unions and of collective action has also been cited as a factor.

Experts also believe that press coverage of bullying cases has raised awareness, encouraging more employees to take advantage of what has been described as an “explosion” of individual employment rights over recent years.

Although “bullying” is not a legal term, cases of bullying at work have arisen through employment law, health and safety and protection from harassment legislation. But news of the rise in bullying cases across different jurisdictions, which research suggests contributes to the 13.7m working days lost every year as a result of stress and depression, has prompted criticism that the government has failed to adequately address the problem.

“The increase in tribunal claims this year is part of a lurch towards the American culture of litigation, but that is not necessarily the answer,” said Witheridge. “More should be done to resolve bullying disputes without litigation, and for people to be treated with the dignity they deserve at work, while also being strongly managed.”

The government said it was working to tackle the problem. Lord Young, the employment relations minister, said: “Workplace harassment and violence is unacceptable and the government is committed to addressing these problems.”

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