Workplace violence (Bullying)
Workplace violence can be defined as an action that manifests itself in threatening behavior, physical assault, aggression or any other violent form that may be displayed at work setting and may be directed towards coworkers, managers or even the customers themselves. These aggressions can cause emotional or to great extent physical harm or both (USLegal Inc., 2011).
In the context of this paper, bullying as one of the aspects of workplace violence will be expunged upon. This is a situation where an individual engages in acts of intimidation or molestation of a c colleague or another worker more often in front of the others. Bullying more often than not is directed at a person who is younger or at a junior position than the bully (Directgov, 2011).
Bullying can assume various forms in a workplace setting ranging from posting sexual comments, using racist language, antireligious sentiments, attacking ones sexual orientation, teasing, malicious gossip, subjective and continued criticism, yelling and even use of abusive language. Bullying more often than not manifest itself in the aggressive form too like physical attacks though almost always takes a subtle form that makes it almost imposable to detect.
Of late, there have been various instances in the U.S. that have seen spillover effects of bullying into the entire society emanating from an individual or a single incidence.
One incidence that comes to mind is the Litchfield case where a number of red-haired students were physically molested by their colleagues, this incidence has been widely viewed as inspired by the show dubbed ‘South Park’ which depicts how a school district lost administrators due to harassment and bullying.
This incidence, as reported by Wittstein M. (2011) has solicited a lot of attention to the menace of bullying and how far it can go if left unhindered or if the perpetrators are not educated on the ills and the potential repercussions it can have not only to their institutions or localities but to a wide society as in the Litchfield case above.
It is worth noting that whatever form bullying takes, it is driven by the desire to control and have influence over another or others. This kind of behavior is not acceptable and very inappropriate in the work setting. Unfortunately there is no direct explicit federal law that prohibits bullying in whichever form.
Having looked at the concept of bullying and the various forms that bullying can take, the rest of the paper is purposed to look into the different manifestations of bullying, the consequences to the organization and individuals involved as well as proposing the various solutions to the problem of bullying in the American society as a whole.
2.1 Scope of the paper
The paper will be concentrating on finding answers to the issue of what the effects of bullying might have on the concerned parties would be and an analysis of them laid out and the extent of the effects that the vice can have looked into with an aim of bringing to light the evils of the vice and enhance civil knowledge of the same.
There will be an attempt to look at who the subjects of bullying are and their trend of thinking, the perpetrators of the evil and the people who condone it will also be looked at and their thought process looked into. The paper will further point out the possible ways that bullying can be managed or all together brought to an eventual end.
The paper will identify the issues that can contribute to the halting of this behavior at the employment sectors as it focuses on the steps and the successes that the government and the corporate world as well as the legal pavilion has achieved in an attempt to stop the vice.
A bully, according to the psychologists, is an individual who engages in acts of aggression intentionally so as to hurt another person physically or emotionally. The purpose of the act is always to gain psychological satisfaction and feeling of dominance over his victim. A bully will direct his acts at an individual he deems vulnerable and the aim of the bullying is to prove the vulnerability of the victim.
Hitherto, it was widely believed that the bullies were those who lacked self-confidence but this view has long been discarded since there are bullies even among the most prominent sports personalities and celebrities.
The bully is seen as an individual who is bent on achieving his own goals, they are self-centered people who only care for what benefits them regardless of the pain they subject the victim to. Psychologists say that bullying starts as early as at pre-school age among the young children where one of them would always want to have his way and others left with none.
From the Human Resource angle, workplace bullying can be defined as any harassment of intimidation that persists in the work setting that aims at humiliating person of a group (HRdictionary.com, 2011). This tends to presuppose that if it happens once then stops after even a warning then it is not bullying.
3.2 Aims of bullying
It is said that the bullies have various aims and they employ different means of getting to those aims and ends. However there are general traits that they share across the board which will definitely define almost all the bullies and their mindset. Some of the objectives of the offenders are to gain:
These offenders would like to prove to the vulnerable victims that they have the power over them and there is little or absolutely nothing they can do to change that. They always target victims who can appreciate their power and behold it in awe every time they are around and also makes them feel that the bully has a lot of power and influence at the workplace.
The bully will want to exert the feeling of control upon his victim. He will want the vulnerable victim to always feel he can manipulate him at any time he wants. The feeling that the bully can control what the victim does and when he does them in the workplace gives his satisfaction psychologically especially if he is not satisfied by his position and post at his workplace, this control will give him an outlet for the frustration of the unrealized goals.
The bully wants to have the sense of having the say in all important matters of the victims’ office existence and an arrogant aura of domination over the victim. The bully would like to indicate to the victims that he is above them in the organization or the particular workplace, in turn he will do anything including subjecting his victims to unreasonable petty errands just to keep reminding them that he holds the dominant position and can use them around as he wills.
Is another characteristic that almost all the bullies have. They always subject their victims to petty belittling and psychological manipulation such that the victim will always be a puppet of his that he can manipulate any time he will.
There is always the feeling of being the best or at least better than the victims and using this psychological comfort to allude to themselves that they ought to looked at as the best and the others the least.
3.3 Causes of bullying
Bullying at work place has several causes and triggers which makes it quite common. As noted above, the bullying can go on at work place even without the knowledge of the victim, the bully and the management as well. Among the causes of bullying at work place according to research carried out among the UNISON police support staff members by Rayner C., (2000: p11) are:
(a). Poor management
This happens to be one of the top causes and triggers of bullying among the members of staff. In the case of UNISON police, it catered for a whole 64% of the causes of bullying. When there is poor management, the bully will take advantage of the lapse in rules and regulation. The bullies adopt the option of being able to get away with it since they know how to weave their way out of the blame.
The other approach would be a frustrated staff due to the poor management structures that may be treating the staff harshly. This in turn spirals down to the weaker and vulnerable staff members who are used as an outlet of the pent up emotions.
(b). Workers scared to report it
The second cause of bullying at work place according to UNISON report lack of reporting of the vice. The fear of the repercussions from the bully and the anticipated lack of action from the management create despondency among the victims.
This fear then creates a situation where the bully will take advantage of the gap and perpetuate the vice even more, the vice in turn will be self perpetuating with vicious cycle going on forever till the silence is broken and appropriate steps taken.
(c). Personality clashes
There is a significant relevance and relationship between difference in personalities and the vice of bullying. The personality clash comes into play when an individual differs with another not because the other person is wrong but because of the emotional perceptions they hold about the other person.
A good instance is when a manager can constantly pick on an individual for being late for just 5 minutes and not on others since he has a perception that the individual is lazy, this is tantamount to bullying (Leadership and Motivation Training, 2010).
(d). Excessive workload
In many situations the workload that is given to the staff members and the set targets and expectations of delivery are unrealistic and hard to achieve. This overload can then lead to frustration among the members of staff who may in turn pass on the extra duty they are unable to accomplish to the vulnerable members of the staff.
This then is considered manifest bullying as a result of too much work allocation. The management will take the blame for such sources of bullying for they may not want to listen to staff complains and concerns about work load and pressure to meet deadlines hence perpetuating the bullying culture in their organization without knowing. The stress that the management exerts on the employees must, as a rule of nature, find a way out and unfortunately it ends up on innocent victims of the vice.
(e). Inadequate training for managers
This is another cause of bullying that comes from the top management in an organization. For instance in the UNISON police support staff case study, it was noted that there was inadequate training on the part of managers.
It was noted that most managers were not well knowledgeable on management strategies and staff handling, even the human resource departments are victims here, which in turn makes them mishandle their staff or subject their staff to psychologically depressing situations with or without their knowledge.
(f). Stressed colleagues
There are circumstances where the stress overflow in some individual may spill over to the colleagues or workmates at the same level or lower levels. Stress levels in any organization will have a negative impact of various sorts; it could be in terms of employee turnover, work quality, organizational weakness and even conflicts within the organization.
The conflicts will more often than not show up in terms of projection to other members of staff in form of bullying.
(g). Other reasons
There are several other reasons that contribute to bullying though not in large measure as inadequate training for staff, staff shortages, organizational culture, and job insecurity is exploited by others, lazy workers, stressed managers and short-term contracts. These happen once in a while and in very isolated cases.
Even though they are considered among the minor reasons they are not negligible and it is very crucial to take note of them since they need to be dealt with as soon as they show signs of emergence.
3.4 Possible repercussions of bullying
Having seen the various aims of bullies and the reasons why bullying is still prevalent in the work place, it is significant to look at the possible outcomes or results that bullying can lead to in reference to both the employer and the bully or even the organization.
There is particularly no law that defines and deals with bullying in totality but when an act of an organization or managers can be inferred to as contravening the rules for the protected group under Title VII, then there can be legal action that can ensue thereof.
The Title VII is a constitutional provision that protects the minority from discrimination in terms of race and color, national origin, sex, sexuality and pregnancy, religion and religious practices. If an act of bullying from colleagues or the management takes the form of any of these mentioned above and can be proven to have openly violated an individual’s rights as protected by the constitution, then in that case bullying can be said to have gone into discriminatory practice and legal action required.
Under the repercussions that an organization can face over bullying, there are several concerns that will emerge if there is tolerance of the bullying culture without regard to the ethical considerations. These points of concern are:
(a). Employee turnover
Where the vital component of a company or organization prefer to move to another organization rather than stand bullying from the current manager or colleagues. It is vital to know that the most precious assets to any organization are the employees.
There should be a ceaseless effort to not only retain them but keep them happy within the organization which will create an atmosphere that encourages creativity, innovativeness and productivity (Slocum J.W. & Hellriegel D., 1995: p196).
Employers should form strict rules that prohibit bullying since it is a vice that causes high employee turnover as well as absenteeism, illness and unproductiveness all of which are very expensive to the organization.
(b). Risks to employer
The vice of bullying if not put under control will result into legal and consequently financial risks when it comes to compensation of the workers.
When bullying can reach appoint of discrimination then the organization may be held liable and a legal proceeding filed against them which at the end of it all may have monetary impact on the firm.
(c). Risks to employees
There is also a possible consequence of bullying on the employees which is of great concern in this paper as the lives of employees could be in danger.
With extreme cases of persistent bullying, the employees may form suicidal tendencies or mental disturbance, or even resort to extreme violence among themselves or towards the administration (Heathfield S.M., 2011).
There are cases where employees get into distress due to stress which highly compromises their productiveness. These are negative impacts that can result into employees’ demoralization and eventual lack of confidence in the organization and quitting.
(d). Government intervention/legal action
This will come in when the bullying goes to the extreme and contravenes the Occupational Health and safety Legislation provisions. These provisions have it that, among others, the employer has a duty and obligation to take care of the employees in terms of health and safety hence have a duty to protect each employee from bullying, be it from the management or the staff members.
This is of great concern to the government and intervention from the government has always been realized when the vice goes on undeterred or emanates from the top management and the employees are unable to deal with it effectively.
(e). Union intervention
This is yet another point of concern when it comes to workplace bullying. The employers have a collective agreement with the workers union to ensure the general security and safety of the employees and as well a provision of a safe working environment.
If these agreements are breached and the employees subjected to harsh working conditions even in terms of bullying by the administration, there can emanate an industrial action from the unions and this must be avoided.
(f). Advocacy groups
These are groups and organizations that come in handy to educate and defend the workers in the various organizations. These advocacy groups like the Employee Advocacy Group (EAG) will ensure that each employee knows his rights as well as obligations to the welfare of themselves and the U.S.
These advocacy groups also strive to educate employees on the legal employment terms and legal provisions of the various employment acts and employee employer relationships.
3.5 Solutions to workplace bullying
Having seen the gravity of workplace bullying, the various ways through which it emanates or manifest itself and the main causes of the vice, it is important to look into the possible solutions to the same. It is a vice that the U.S. should not allow to continue in the workplace or anywhere else and hence the urgency in tackling it.
If the vice is not tackled early enough it may end us in absolute anarchy in the employment sector and an eventual employee crisis, a situation that may be too hard to reverse. If not put under control early enough, it may end up in a situation where brain drain to other countries may be the trend.
The number of solutions that can be applied to the vice are endless and will keep varying and changing according to the bullying trends and the different work environment. These will include though not limited to these discussed below:
(a). Management response
It has been noted that bullying will largely continue if and when endorsed by the management, this may be in form of indifferent response towards reported cases of bullying and casual handling of the bullying cases (Dr. Namie G., 2011).
To stop the vice, it is incumbent upon the administrators to deal with the bullying issue with the firmness it deserves, applying all the available legal interventions and they should not be seen to duck their responsibilities as concerns bullying.
(b). Termination of service
It is widely acknowledged that the bullies are too expensive to maintain in any organization. If all the available options have been explored to no positive end, it would be essential for the management to duly terminate the service of the employee rather than keep incurring the losses that the bully piles on the organization in terms of lawsuit or complaint settlements, unwanted turnover, disability claims, workers complains and absenteeism (Dr. Namie G., 2011).
Termination may be a hard and sad step to take but the company will be better off settling the dues owed to the individual and terminating his service rather than having to deal with the hefty expenses as stipulated above, which accumulate to not only impossible to pay monetary bills but irreparable esteem breakdown of the victims of the bully.
(c). Comprehensive training
It was noted that one of the main causes of workplace bullying is the lack of training among the mangers. There should be a comprehensive syllabus that trains the managers on the issue of bullying so as to avert the bullying crisis. When the top management is sensitized, then even the other sectors of the organization will have a positive ripple effect of the positivity about bullying.
There should be formation of more strict legislations that will explicitly describe and define what bullying is in its current contemporary form. This will be followed by watertight provisions on the implementation of the same among the administration quarters of the various organizations. For instance this solution worked very well in Quebec within a span of three years only after crucial passing of legislation that indicated that “Every employee has a right to work in an environment free from psychological harassment.
Employers must take reasonable action to prevent psychological harassment and, whenever they become aware of such behavior, to put a stop to it.” (Workplace Stress Initiative, 2007). In the UK all the employers are required by law to have a reasonable minimum provision for dispute resolution as a measure to stopping workplace bullying.
The piece of legislation was also put into force in Saskatchewan in 2007 which prohibited any type of psychological harassment under the Occupational Health and Safety Act and this should widen further to all the states in the U.S.
(e). Awareness campaign
It was noted earlier that some forms of bullying are so subtle that even the victim may not realize until they are extreme and the effects are irreversible. There is then the need to carry out an awareness campaign and civil education among the employees, employers and the legislative sector on what bullying is and how to effectively tackle it.
There is an absolute need for the government to support the prevention-based awareness drive to enlighten the employers and employees on the ills of bullying and its unacceptability in the contemporary society and work place.
(f). Inculcation of respectful workplace policy and culture
This will ensure that both the management and the workers are aware of the minimum expected workplace behavior and in breach of the same are held responsible for them. The policy will also ensure that any grievances on harassment, bullying or disrespect at work are promptly dealt with.
As stated above, this policy will again ensure that the management is equipped with knowledge of handling conflict at work place to bring bullying to a manageable level.
(g) Support for the bullied and bullies
It is apparent that the victims of bullying need psychological support through counseling so as to go through the trauma safely without contemplating suicide or resignation.
The bullies on the other hand also need support so as to walk out of the behavior. In this manner, there will be a slow but sure end to the vice.
Every employer should put in place Employee Assistance Programs that can assist the employees to access confidential counseling and support as they deal with issue of bullying.
4.0 Summary and conclusion
The statistics and facts behind the bullying menace at workplace are quite explicit and self explanatory. This trend that has been noted to cause losses that cannot be accounted for in term of money, time and lives is a reflection of what goes on in the wider society.
Bullying will be noted in various other sectors like in schools, at home, public facilities and even sports clubs and venues. There is an urgent need therefore to put into implementation the suggested solutions and many others so that the vice comes to an end.
This paper has indicated the entire thinking process of a bully and the drives into action that the bully has. It has also equipped the reader with the various signs of bullying and the possible repercussions of the act to employer, employee and organization in total and lastly the means and ways of ending the vice.
With these, the reader can effectively tackle the menace as he also help others join in the solution of the vice of bullying and workplace violence in general.
Better still in the new organizations that are just beginning their operations, it will be wise to curb the vice of bullying before it becomes a part of the culture and norm in the organization using the above discussed means and controls.
The behavioral scientists have proven that cultures are harder to change than to initiate. When the new organizations recognize the need to put into place systems that will not allow for bullying to even suffice, then the culture will die simultaneously. However, the putting in place of these legislations and policies must be followed quickly by a frequent evaluation and re-evaluation of the implementation of them all with emphasis on the need to stop bullying.
Directgov, (2011). Bullying in the workplace. Retrieved April 1, 2011 from http://www.direct.gov.uk/en/Employment/ResolvingWorkplaceDisputes/DiscriminationAtWork/DG_10026670
Dr. Namie G., (2011). Workplace Bullying Defined. Retrieved April 1, 2011 from http://www.workdoctor.com/problem.php
Heathfield S.M., (2011). What is Bullying? Retrieved April 1, 2011 from http://humanresources.about.com/od/glossaryb/g/bullying.htm
HRdictionary.com, (2011). Workplace Bullying. Retrieved April 1, 2011 from http://www.hrdictionary.com/definition/workplace-bullying.html
Leadership and Motivation Training, (2010). Types of Conflict in the Workplace. Retrieved April
1, 2011 from http://www.leadership-and-motivation-training.com/types-of-conflict-in-the-workplace.html
Rayner C., (2000). Bullying at Work Workplace Bullying Survey of Unison Police Support Staff
Members. London: Unison Communications Unit. P11. Retrieved April 1, 2011 from http://www.unison.org.uk/acrobat/11088.pdf
Slocum J.W. & Hellriegel D., (1995). Organizational Behavior. West Publishing Company; 7th
USLegal Inc., (2011). Workplace Violence Law & Legal Definition. Retrieved April 1, 2011
Wittstein M. (2011). Forum in Litchfield Targets Bullying. Retrieved April 1, 2011 from http://www.workplacebullying.org/
Workplace Stress Initiative, (2007). Workplace Bullying Causes and Solutions. Retrieved April
1, 2011 from http://www.workplacestressinitiative.ca/Bullying%20paper.pdf
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