Different Types of Workplace Bullying & How to Recognise It
It’s easy to think that bullying is a just playground problem, but this is far from the case. While the sort of physical bullying that goes on in schools might be a little easier to recognise, the psychological bullying that occurs throughout the workplace and beyond can be just as damaging.
This month, the HST team is going to be covering the different types of workplace bullying and how managers can recognise and put a stop to it.
Is workplace bullying illegal?
Unfortunately, workplace bullying, or bullying of any kind, isn’t actually considered illegal; harassment, on the other hand, is. While bullying and harassment are terms that are often used interchangeably, it’s best to consider bullying as a type of harassment.
The legal definition of harassment, outlined by the Equality Act, is as follows:
- unwanted conduct related to a relevant protected characteristic, with the purpose of:
- violating someone’s dignity, or
- creating an intimidating, hostile, degrading, humiliating, or offensive environment
The different types of workplace bullying
Let’s look at some of the different ways that bullying can manifest itself in the workplace:
Withholding information: while this is a more subtle and less direct style of bullying, it can still have a profound effect on the person. Withholding information pertinent to someone’s role can make the affected person feel alienated. It can also significantly affect that person’s ability to perform their job to a high standard and could affect their career trajectory in the long run.
The solution: If, as a manager, you notice someone seems out of the loop with respect to work, try and find out if there is blockage somewhere in the information funnel. It could well be that someone hasn’t been updating them.
Tasking someone with work that is below their competence level: one way that workplace bullies might try and humiliate someone is by assigning them menial tasks which are unrelated to, or could be considered beneath, their job role.
The solution: Look out for junior or mid-level staff who don’t seem to be progressing much in their job role. It could be the case that there’s someone intentionally holding them back.
Spreading rumours: If you thought the playground was bad for rumours, the office can be much worse. Rumours can be spread based on leaked information that was shared in confidence, on pure speculation, or even outright lies.
The solution: If you notice rumours being spread about someone in your office, be quick to stamp it out. Staff should be educated on the harmful effects that rumours can have on someone’s career and mental wellbeing.
Practical jokes or pranks: Not only can practical jokes be humiliating, they also put the affected person under the spotlight, something which only serves to accentuate that humiliation.
The solution: One of the most difficult aspects of being a manager is trying to distinguish between harmless fun and intentional cruelty. While the two sound miles apart, in reality, the lines are often blurred. When you notice a practical joke playing out, try and see how the person on the receiving end reacts. Did they find it funny? Do they look like they are trying to find it funny to save face? If they look anguished in any way, then it’s time to intervene.
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