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Bullying is a huge problem and happens anytime, anywhere and to anyone. From children at school, people using Social Media OR even adults in the workplace, bullying has become a huge problem in the society we live in. Ms Elmarie Pretorius, International speaker, trainer, author and owner of The Mindspa Institute (a soft skills training company) advises on how to help detect, prevent and deal with the bullying in the workplace.

You may have work colleagues who are bullies OR a boss from hell! We have all seen the movie “Horrible Bosses”, so we know they exists and we know they are all over the world and can be in any work environment at any management level. Bullying cuts across all socioeconomic, racial, gender and ethnic boundaries.

Intimidation and abuse in the workplace by bully bosses and bully colleagues is a growing problem. However seldom documented or reported. Why has the workplace become a place of harassment? Simply put workplaces have become competitive playgrounds where more and more people step on each other and do not allow a ray of sunshine on anyone else. Also a lack of emotional intelligence can be seen in such environments. The ‘victims’ hardly report such incidents because it is so easily dismissed as being a ‘disgruntled’ employee. Labeling like this prevents them from being taken seriously. Very few employees being bullied have the luxury of ‘walking away’ in these stressful economic times where finding jobs are hard.

Workplace trauma has devastating effects. It hampers productivity and breaks people emotionally and has a direct influence on their physical health. Such situations become uncontrollable and lead to extreme stress and depression. The American Workplace Bullying Institute defines workplace bullying as “repeated, health-harming mistreatment, verbal abuse or conduct which is threating, humiliating and intimidating or sabotage that interferes with work”.

Do you have a bully at work? Are you being bullied at work? Are you the bully?

The bullying at work can occur without provocation. Mostly destructive communication is used either to demean or humiliate the ‘victim’. Bullying always comes from weakness. Here are some of the symptoms bullies are identified with:

  • Yelling/cursing or swearing at the ‘victim’ – verbal abuse
  • Blaming that specific ‘victim’ for mistakes not his/hers and by doing so create misperceptions
  • Taking the credit for someone else’s work
  • Attacks on the victim’s self-esteem. Humiliating them in meetings and in front of bosses etc.
  • Refuse to delegate work OR burdening the ‘victim’ with all the work
  • Setting unrealistic deadlines and work demands like working unnecessary hours

There is a lot of research that indicates that employees/bosses who are prone to bullying and harass others are jealous, impulsive, and emotionally reactive and have little or no self-esteem. They feel that their self-worth is being attack. It is evident that poor or limited human resource management allows bullying to go unpunished and unaddressed.

To reduce the incidence of bullying, programs to promote emotional intelligence leadership capability work well. Our program develops leaders who support the needs of their teams and empathize with the members, while managing their own emotions effectively. They are able to develop good relationships with others and build strong teams within an organisation.

Workplace bullying can have severe personal and organisational effects. Companies need to recognise these symptoms, be prepared to take the necessary actions to prevent or combat the impact which harassment like this might have on productivity.