Everyone, no doubt, has memories from their school days about the school bully. He was probably bigger and stronger than everyone else and seemed to have more power than anyone in the school. Just the sight of him heading in your direction could turn an otherwise happy day into a misery. Have you ever wondered what happened to that bully? Did he ever grow up and grow out of his childish ways? Unfortunately, many don't. Is it possible that some of those childhood bullies are still causing misery to others right in your shop?
Employee harassment is an increasingly reported problem in today's workplace. It can be referred to as mobbing or bullying. A report from the International Labor Organization (ILO) on workplace violence noted that physical and mental abuse are the amongst the biggest issues facing employees today. In fact, in Germany bullying is so common that one health insurance company had to open a hotline to field calls from distraught
So that raises the question - what is bullying? Most people think of bullying as someone getting beat up or physically harmed in some way. This can, and does happen, but more often the bullying is subtler. It usually involves some form of harassment that undermines the morale of an employee, such as:
1. Talking about someone behind their back.
2. Interrupting others while they are speaking.
3. Giving others the silent treatment.
4. Insulting and yelling at someone.
Have you ever had something like that happen to you at work? If you have, you know how stressful it can be. If you had to deal with the stress of harassment every day, your work would no doubt suffer. Studies definitely bear this out. One study by the university of North Carolina showed that, of people who felt they had been harassed at work, 52 percent lost time from work worrying about the problem, and 28 percent stayed away from work trying to avoid the bully. You can see how this could have a big impact on your company's productivity.
Why would someone bully others in the workplace? While it is not in the scope of this article to examine all the psychology behind bullying, one thing is most certainly at the root of most bullies' problems - insecurity. Most of these bullies are not the stereotypical muscle man on the beach kicking sand in to the face of a 90-lb. weakling. They are usually people that for one reason or another are feeling insecure about their own abilities. Often their targets are the people they perceive as a threat to their jobs.
How does a manager know if bullying is a problem in his own workplace? Some of the signs may be a large staff turnover, low morale, or ongoing absenteeism. Consider the following points carefully to see if you may be guilty of bullying.
1. Do you as the manager treat all your employees with the same consideration, or are you inconsistent and show favoritism?
2. Do you take all the credit or allow others to do so, rather than sharing the success with everyone who contributes?
3. Do you try to generate a spirit of teamwork and respect for other peoples' ideas, or do you force your own opinions dogmatically onto others?