Bullying at workplace
YOU have just finished working on a project proposal for the office that you gave your heart and soul to during a weekend, not to mention the bouts of acidity attacks you had due to 10 cups of coffee to keep you awake, added with icy glares from your better half, only to come to work on Sunday and receive no acknowledgement for your hard work and efforts on the paper from your supervisor. Your line manager passes the (your) proposal to his superiors, very conveniently forgetting to mention your hard work in giving it a shape.
You sigh and stare at your desktop. This scene has become a common thing and you have faced this on a regular basis for the past several months; each time you gave additional effort into your work, you were silently hoping you would hear "great work" by your line manager. Sadly it never happened. You have almost given up and think of quitting your job.
But wait a minute, before you start doubting your competence or think of resigning, rewind/refresh your memory, your previous managers were happy with your work and you know that from past appraisals and the accolades your regularly received, and that employee of the year award. So you are indeed a good performer, not an average but a good one, hmm … you wonder what's the problem with this particular supervisor?
Is your manager constantly undermining your work and you can't remember the last time you heard a thank you from him? Is he/she not involving you in important meetings? Does the above scenario sound familiar to you?
If you have been deliberately undermined on a constant basis on your work by your line manager without citing specific reasons, never thanked for working extra hours, not given credit for the papers you work on, not received acknowledgment for your good pieces of work, faced constant criticism from your manager, and been intentionally ignored, you may be experiencing behaviour that is termed as "bullying at workplace."
Bullying may be characterised as offensive, intimidating, malevolent, or insulting behaviour, an abuse or misuse of power through means intended to undermine, humiliate, belittle or injure the recipient. Bullying or harassment may be by an individual against an individual (perhaps by someone in a position of authority such as a manager or supervisor) or involve groups of people. It may be obvious or it may be insidious. Whatever form it takes, it is unwarranted and unwelcome to the individual.
Bullying is a serious offence at the workplace, and a sadly ignored agenda in most of the organisations in Bangladesh. Those who are bullied suffer in silence. The impact of bullying on the worker ranges from mild to severe depression, loss of confidence and finally resignation.
Examples of bullying/harassing behaviour include but are not limited to:
Preventing subordinates from progressing by intentionally obstructing promotion or training opportunities;
Blaming someone for problems caused by others;
Exclusion or victimisation;
Always given too much to do, so that one regularly fails in one's work;
Regularly threats of sacking;
Unfair passing over for promotion;
Spreading nasty rumours;
Insulting someone by word or behaviour (particularly on the grounds of age, race, sex, disability, sexual orientation and religion or belief);
Misuse of supervision or of power or position;
Deliberately undermining a competent worker by overloading and constant criticism.
Bullying can involve arguments and rudeness, but it can also be more subtle. Excluding and ignoring people and their contribution, unacceptable criticism, and overloading people with work are other forms of covert bullying.
Bullying can make working life miserable. You lose all faith in yourself, you can feel ill and depressed, and find it hard to motivate yourself to work. This has an effect on your personal life; many divorces are results of depression at work.
Stress, loss of self-confidence and self-esteem caused by harassment or bullying can lead to job insecurity, illness, and absence from work, and even resignation.
Bullying isn't always caused by people's tribal instincts, or someone picking on the weak. Sometimes a person's strengths in the workplace can make the bullies feel threatened, and that triggers their insecurity and they bully to feel secured.
Talk to someone who you can trust at senior level in the organisation (many companies have a whistleblow policy) or to the trade union. The last resort is the employee grievance procedure, take advantage of that. If you find it difficult to cope, talk to your manager or supervisor. If your manager or supervisor is the bully talk to higher authorities.
If you can, talk to the persons in question, who may not realise how their behaviour has been affecting you. Work out what to say beforehand. Describe what has been happening and why you object to it. Stay calm and be polite. Often, bullies retreat from people who stand up to them.
Find yourself an ally. Don't be ashamed to tell people what's going on. Bullying is a serious offence and in many companies in the West there is a zero tolerance for bullying -- and it is a punishable act.
Before you lodge a formal complaint or speak to your supervisors take preparation. Write down details of every incident of bullying and harrasment and keep copies of any relevant documents as evidence.
One thing to constantly remind yourself is that most often those who bully want to crush your confidence. You need to understand and recognise that criticism or personal remarks are not connected to one's comptence or abilities. They reflect the bully's own weaknesses, and are meant to intimidate and control you.
Faria Naz Hossain is Consultant, Leaders Of Influence Programme ( LOI), The Asia Foundation.