This Friday is Pink Shirt Day, a day when people around the world wear a pink shirt to symbolise a stand against bullying, so this week we’ll be publishing a series of blog posts on workplace bullying. Specifically we’ll be talking about what bullying is, what to do when you’re being bullied, and how you can help someone who is being bullied.

Bullying is when someone keeps doing or saying things to have power over another person.

We all think we know bullying when we see it, but bullying can also be something we don’t see. Often, people who experience it feel invisible.

Calling someone names, saying or writing nasty things about them, leaving them out of activities, not talking to them, threatening them, making them feel uncomfortable or scared, taking or damaging their things, hitting or kicking them or making them do things they don’t want to do are all forms of bullying.

Generally bullying has the following features:

  • It is repeated – this may be single acts with different targets or many acts with the same target.
  • It involves a power imbalance – this means that there is an unequal relationship between the target and the bully, this could be because of physical size, age, gender or social status. By not stopping bullying we increase this power imbalance.
  • It is harmful.

Generally, we think that bullying is deliberate. It is difficult for those being bullied (targets) to defend themselves and it can often be difficult for those doing the bullying (initiators) to learn new social behaviours.

No matter what the reason is, nobody deserves to be bullied.

Bullying in the workplace.

Workplace bullying is repeated and unreasonable behaviour directed towards a worker or a group of workers that can lead to physical or psychological harm.

Repeated behaviour is persistent (occurs more than once) and can involve a range of actions over time. Unreasonable behaviour means actions that a reasonable person in the same circumstances would see as unreasonable. It includes victimising, humiliating, intimidating or threatening a person. Bullying may also include harassment, discrimination or violence.

According to The Citizens Advice Bureau bullies are often insecure people with low self-esteem, which they can hide well, and their targets are usually competent, honest and independent individuals who get along with colleagues.

According to Citizens Advice Bureau, bullying behaviours can include:

  • Constant put-downs, especially when it’s done in public
  • Frequent nit-picking and fault-finding, always discounting what the other person says
  • Using threatening language
  • Refusal to acknowledge the target’s contributions and achievements
  • Refusing to allow an employee to take breaks they are entitled to
  • Frequent embarrassing comments about an individual’s appearance
  • Being singled out and treated differently (worse) from other colleagues
  • Being overloaded with work, or having most of it taken away
  • Making threats about job security

Bullying in the workplace can negatively impact the entire workforce and result in:

  • Decreased worker health and wellbeing
  • Decreased worker motivation
  • Decreased worker performance
  • Decreased worker commitment
  • Increased sick leave
  • Increased worker turnover

In our next post, we’ll talk about what you can do if you’re being bullied.

One of the components in our Psychological First Aid course discusses the topic of bullying. To learn more about Psychological First Aid, click here.