When we enter the adult world we encounter many new challenges—raising kids, advancing a career, dealing with financial matters, but bullying? Really? According to a CIO.com article by Sharon Florentine, the reality is more shocking than one would think. As a Forbes article reports, an astonishing 96% of employees have experienced some form of bullying in the past.
What is Bullying?
Such a high figure suggests that there are varying degrees of the phenomenon, and that perception plays a large role in how we define it. At the Workplace Bullying Institute (WBI), it is characterized as:
…repeated mistreatment and abusive conduct that is threatening, humiliating, or intimidating, work sabotage or verbal abuse.
Why is Bullying so Prevalent?
The dynamic between bullies and their victims is often one of power and silencing. If the bully is a person’s boss (as 56% of bullies are), this pressure becomes even greater. Standing up to one’s boss takes courage. There’s always the potential of losing one’s job or, perhaps worse, that the bullying will escalate if the abusive boss is reported but no action is taken to restore a normal work relationship.
Who are the Bullies?
To further problematize the issue, the WBI finds that some of the biggest bullies are also some of the best workplace performers. This may not come as such a surprise, since many negative characteristics of bullies—ruthlessness, cunning, pushiness, and a winner-takes-all attitude—become positive competitive traits when put to use for the business. However, as workplace health advocates note, these “beneficial” traits will only hurt the organization in the long term, since they create an atmosphere of hostility, low productivity, and high employee turnover.
How to Stop Bullying
The primary measure for handling workplace bullying consists of maintaining a structure of accountability around office relationships. Since the abuse tends to come from above, from middle management especially, having an ethics committee or similar body available to circumvent the empowered bully is essential. In the event that no workplace mechanism is available for the embattled employee, there are always ways to seek outside legal recourse.