In recent years I have been amazed at the increase in the number of people we see who are suffering as a result of bullying in their workplace.
When we think of bullying it often conjures up images of our schooldays. Many people have memories of schoolyard bullying and unfortunately some of those school bullies continue their aggressive behaviour into adulthood. Despite a growing awareness of bullying in the workplace, the practice remains widespread
Unlike harassment, bullying is an accumulation of a many small incidents over a long period of time. Each incident alone may not constitute grounds for disciplinary or grievance action, but the long term effect can be significant harm the victims physical and emotional health.
Workplace bullying is a repeated pattern of unprovoked, unwelcome hostile behaviour. that intentionally inflicts, or attempts to inflict, injury, hurt, humiliation or discomfort.
Workplace bullying may be physical which includes touching, hitting, pushing, kicking or worse. It may also be psychological which involves subtle, underhand strategies to undermine the victim mentally or emotionally. This may include constant criticism over trivial issues, refusal to acknowledge contributions and achievements, being treated differently to others, being belittled, demeaned or patronized, being overloaded with work or having work replaced with menial tasks. It can also include having warnings imposed for trivial or fabricated reasons, having leave unnecessarily refused, and the list goes on?
Every person is unique and will react to bullying in different ways. This may include physical health problems such as reduced immunity to infection, facial tics, dry mouth, hand tremors, skin disorders, high blood pressure, sweating and bowel problems. Emotional health problems may include severe anxiety, low self esteem, loss of confidence, stress and panic attacks. Behavioural effects may include excessive alcohol intake, heavier smoking, overeating and drug use.
Workplace bullying needs to be recognized and addressed in the workplace. Too often peoples concerns are dismissed and ignored resulting in greater long term harm.
Mitchell Brown is a Psychologist at Alpha Counselling Services: Eastwood & Five Dock