You may think that the phenomenon of bullying is only present at educational institutions, but in reality, you will find bullies no matter where you go. This inexplicable inherent need (?) of some people to unmask a vindictive stance of provocation to another is something many would never understand.
Wherever one ends up in life, groupings and politics are bound to happen, and with that, this experience will most certainly come up unless you are blessed with an impossibly friendly work environment. But even when these problems are present, nobody ever explicitly talks about such things, be it the bullies, the bullied or an omnipresent third-party: the silent observers of the scenario.
Bullying is never usually a one-off event, which if happens would class as harassment. Mostly taking place in a private setting, bullying is intended to incite distress, anxiety or to merely assert domination of one party over the other. Sometimes, it so happens that the bullies just want to get their way with something and at other times, the events are termed by them as just “friendly banters” or idle pastimes.
“When suddenly one fine morning a couple of guys who I thought were my friends started bullying me on a matter as trivial as being the line-manager's favourite, I found it difficult to understand what was happening to me, or why they were behaving the way they were. Not sure whether to objectively term it as “workplace bullying," I was scared and worried to talk about it to another colleague and make this out to be a bigger deal than it was.” says Nehal Chowdhury*, a software development intern.
Similar stories have been shared by a number of students and employees, who have encountered bullying that made a lasting impact on their way of viewing the world around them. Walin Ahmed*, currently employed as a short-term consultant at a bank, shares his experience from the days when he faced institutional bullying. “I first came face-to-face with bullying back when I was a university student. My friends verbally abused me, that made me undermine my confidence and capability. The worst part of it was that they apparently did it just for the sake of doing it, without a motive. These repetitive events eventually damaged my sense of belongingness to this institution and its people. A place where healthy competition isn't practiced, and nobody is there to hear you out, is a place where I never felt at home.”
In several of the workplace bullying cases, the victims hesitate to voice their stories of abuses due to a lack of job security. Prevalent imbalanced power dynamics between the employer and employee provides an even more welcoming ground to abuse this relationship.
“I was an ambitious, young hard-worker when I joined my first job,” says Faisal Khan, brand manager at a reputed corporate. “A few months into it, my boss started bullying me, often in front of my peers. Back then, it never even occurred to me that I was being bullied. I thought he was just taking jabs at me for not being able to perform as per his expectations. But when it didn't stop even after I put in extra effort and improved my performance, his crude words got to me and made me demotivated. I started getting increasingly anxious about going to work every morning, and lost confidence in my own abilities.”
Workplace bullying knocks the self-esteem right out of even the most resourceful and confident of people, belittling them so that they are less trusting of their instincts and judgement and are consequently left unfit to work. A report in 2015 came up with a research that showed that job insecurity contributes to a climate that's severely conducive to negative behaviours. A rising gig economy, possibility of lay-offs, and unavailability of HR support and policies make workplaces all the more vulnerable to bullying culture.
But what have the bullies got to say about these? On talking to a recent graduate from a reputed university currently employed as an engineer, he admits to have bullied his close friends from time to time, “To just blow-off some tension every now and then. I never intend for my words to harm anybody, because I don't say these in a serious manner in the first place.” But you wouldn't know how the receiver is construing your words as, would you? To which he says, “If they just come up to me and communicate their feeling of discomfort, then I would definitely stop.”
This is what is often the most effective and at the same time, the most daunting step to undertake to put a stop to bullying. Confronting the bully about how you truly feel about the words being used against you, may go a long way to ensure they don't make a comeback. Acknowledge that there is a problem with the other party, instead of blaming yourself, your confidence, or your work. Then document the incident, strategise, and do not hesitate to undertake necessary actions.
As for companies who wish to put an end to such employee grievances, besides having strict organisational policies that punish bullying behaviours, reward-mechanisms can be put up for the ones who are brave enough to come forward with bullying complaints or problems and are able to point it out to the management's eyes. The workplace culture definitely needs to be one that allows employees to approach higher-ups as and when needed, because only then will the employees feel at home in a workplace.
*names have been changed to ensure discretion
Workplace trends 2016; Retrieved from: http://www.acas.org.uk/media/pdf/l/4/Workplace_trends_of_2016.pdf
Eshanee is a junior at IBA, DU. Send her some good vibes at email@example.com.