Wednesday, 19 November 2014

Tackling bullying at work

Our posts this week, for Anti-Bullying Week, have focused so far on bullying between children or adolescents. However, unfortunately bullying does not stop when we 'grow up' or leave school. Bullying happens among adults of all ages and in organisations of all sizes too.

A report by the Chartered Institute of Personnel and Development (CIPD) states that between 83-90% of UK organisations have anti-bullying policies, yet bullying is still happening. So what constitutes bullying at work?

Common bullying behaviours

  • Being insulting: personally criticising someone or making them feel small by ridiculing, humiliating or making demeaning comments.
  • Harassment: with-holding information; overloading someone with work; taking the credit for someone else's work; or removing responsibility from someone without discussing it with them first.
  • Exclusion: scapegoating, isolation or victimisation.
  • Intimidation: threats of physical violence or psychological intimidation.

Bullying may continue over a long period before it is recognised as such and it may be that the bully is not aware of how their actions are perceived.

The impact of bullying at work

It has been estimated that bullying may cost the UK over £2 billion a year. For the employee, it can lead to social and psychological problems in the present and longer term too.

"People who are bullied, particularly for longer periods, often struggle with feelings of low self-esteem, stress, anxiety and depression, says "Professor Ewan Gillon, Clinical Director of First Psychology Scotland, who has worked with many clients who have experienced bullying at work. "They may end up feeling completely exhausted and suffer physically as well as feeling traumatised by the experience."

When the situation starts to take its toll, people often resort to taking sick leave. In the end they may  feel the situation is intolerable and leave the organisation, without another job to go to.

How can organisations help?

Work to promote and uphold positive values and behaviour in the workplace: this is important as it ensures everyone knows what is acceptable behaviour and what is not.

Support employees: the provision of accessible and professional support for employees in the form of counselling, CBT and coaching can aid the resilience of employees who feel bullied. In addition, employees who are aware of their inappropriate behaviour may be assisted by working with a professional to change how they interact with others.

Group training: training in a group or team can be an effective way of building mutual respect between colleagues and can help foster an environment of group responsibility. Training in issues such as stress awareness can help employees recognise the signs of stress in themselves and others and can help them build strategies for dealing with stress effectively.

First Psychology Scotland offers a wide range of services for organisations through its First Psychology Assistance brand. For further details visit

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