Workplace bullying refers to frequent and unfair actions aimed at upsetting some individuals or groups. These actions are intended to threaten, degrade, undermine and disgrace the targeted individual, and may even cause a risk to health of an individual.
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Bullying is often caused by abuse and misuse of authority. This may create feelings of defenselessness and discrimination to the target because it demoralizes an individual’s right to self-esteem at work.
According to Tepper et al. (2006), bullying is not the same as aggression because aggression involves a single act whereas bullying involves frequent attacks against an individual, thus creating a continual pattern of behavior. For example, bullying occurs when some employees harass their peers and may even team up and target a certain worker.
Similarly, a supervisor may bully employees because of his authority. Other examples of bullying include fallacious criticism, blame without proof, being treated differently than others, being sworn at, social segregation, being dishonored or shouted at, being excessively monitored and being given unrealistic deadlines.
Corporate or institutional bullying takes place when an organization recognizes bullying in its culture. This type of bullying involves giving unreasonable expectations to employees, thus leading to dismissal when those expectations are unmet, dismissing workers who suffer from stress without establishing the cause, and encouraging workers to fabricate issues about their fellows.
Consequently, bullying causes stress among the employees and undermines productivity. It leads to low morale and employees can even quit their jobs, thus causing low staff turnover. Ferris (2009) insists that organizational leaders are supposed to intervene to create a collaborative and safe culture by being concerned with the bullying issues and creating time for employees so that they can speak up and have their problems solved.
Intervention levels include informal intervention, awareness intervention, authority intervention, and disciplinary intervention. Informal intervention is when for example a supervisor or a peer is involved in a brief review of what took place with the disruptive person. He listens to the disruptive person and asks for his perspective about the issue.
Moreover, Deutsch, Coleman, and Marcus (2006) argue that awareness intervention happens when a pattern of bullying develops in the workplace and surveillance team or system recognizes it, especially if it poses a threat to employees’ safety. Leaders share a compilation of workers complaints information and support them. Authority intervention should occur when the employees fail to respond to awareness intervention, and thus decide to continue with their behaviors.
Leaders should create an improvement and appraisal plan as well as accountability. They should specify behaviors that need to be rectified: the support services, timeline and what should be done if the outcome is not positive. This intervention must be supported because some of workers might want to improve, but family and work related stress might affect them.
Disciplinary intervention occurs when authority intervention fails. When bullying or disruptive behaviors are managed, there is improved workers satisfaction and retention, good reputation and workers are ready to speak up when faced with a problem (Ferris, 2009).
In conclusion, bullying can greatly affect employees’ performance because it may cause high levels of stress, low self-esteem, increased depression or self-blame, continuous replacement of workers. This is because some employees quit working due to fear of being bullied while work effort is reduced because employees they try to cope with bullying instead of being productive.
Leaders are encouraged to hold awareness campaigns about bullying and encourage employees to report when faced by bullies. They should also conduct employee attitude surveys and improve on organization abilities to dealing and responding to conflicts.
Ferris, P.A. (2009). The role of the consulting psychologist in the prevention, detection, and correction of bullying and mobbing in the workplace. Consulting Psychology Journal, 61(3), 169-189.
Deutsch, M., Coleman, P., & Marcus, E. C. (2006). The handbook of conflict resolution: Theory and Practice (2nd ed.). USA: Jossey-Bass.
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Tepper, B.J., Duffy, M.K., Henle, C.A., Lambert, L.S. (2006). Procedural injustice, victim, precipitation, and abusive supervision. Personnel Psychology, 59(1), 101-123.