On 14 July 2009, a 52-year-old employee of a telecoms company in Europe killed himself, leaving behind a note blaming “overwork” and “management by terror”. He wrote in his suicide note: “I am committing suicide because of my work. That’s the only reason.”
There are people who choose to end their life, not because they were weak, but because they identify their self-worth with how they are perceived and treated at work and they could not not take the public humiliation
Workplace bullying has been around for a long time. But nobody could pin point what it was. It was considered an acceptable style of management which was never challenged for the fear of losing the job.
What exactly is workplace bullying and why is there is so much media attention in recent times ?
Workplace bullying is a repeated event of harassment, intimidation, ridicule, belittling in an attempt to get rid of the target from the workplace. Bullying always existed in corporate life. It is getting increasing media attention as more people have shared their experience on many platforms. The health harming long term effects of bullying is being researched and understood only in the recent few years. Bullying causes psychological damage and symptoms are not visible hence often goes unnoticed.
The profile of the bully: The bully is often a supervisor who lacks any soft skills and only knows to manage people by threat and humiliation. They often have a good rapport with senior management and the go to person to deliver projects in ambitious timescales and often considered as someone who kicks butt to get their job done.
Both men and women are known to be bullies. Often, men bully men and women bully women.
The profile of the target who is being bullied: A bullied target is usually a very hard working, self-starter individual who puts his/her head down and does the job and is usually popular and has a good track record.
The target usually is a very quiet person who does not engage in office politics or brown nosing.
How does the target get bullied ?
The target is often confused why s/he is being reported as under-performance as they seem to be doing a good job. The target is told s/he lacks certain skills and her performance will be monitored closely. An e.g. ‘You don’t have business knowledge.’ ‘XYZ gave negative feedback about you.’ – which is often not true.
This leads to a series of micro-managing, excessive supervision, constant nit-picking, public humiliation which goes on until the target feels stressed and starts losing interest in his/her job.
The bully also setups by hiding information for the target to perform his job, does not involve the target in important meetings and discussions related to the project.
The bully also reports to management about target’s under-performance and blames the target for trivial issues and something the target is not in control of.
The bully then uses intimidation tactics to get the target to accept his/her short comings.
Why targets do not take any action against bullying ?
The target then starts to believe it was his/her fault and s/he needs to improve her performance. The target suffers from low self-esteem and confidence. His/her health starts deteriorating, has sleepless nights, loses concentration and focus and which affects her/his ability to do the job efficiently.
The target also gets isolated from work colleagues and left with no one to share his/her concerns about what is happening to them.
Why is bullying not the same as tough management ?
Competent managers will never resort to bullying. S/he knows when to draw the line between management and bullying. The bully is usually someone who hides his/her own insecurity by bullying the target.
How does workplace bullying affect their targets health ?
Many targets do not even realize that they were bullied. Bullying takes a severe toll on mental health of the target.
This happens for the first time victims. Self doubt and low confidence affects their ability to look out for another job. The target then lives with guilt and shame for a long time.
S/he cuts off socially from people and show distrust in people. Family life suffers. Family members notice the change in personality and they can’t figure out what went wrong with their loved ones.
People who are bullied for a long term suffer chronic depression, complex P.T.S.D. and debilitating anxiety and panic attacks. When a worker suffers from P.T.S.D., the workplace becomes a war zone.
The target also feels guilty for allowing the bullying to control them. However, while it happened there was nothing much they could have done about it.
Workplace bullying is rampant in Information Technology too
One would make the assumption that in knowledge industry such cases of bullying should be rare. However, bullying is rampant. Constant pressure to deliver in ambitious timescales. Lack of information, training to do the job. Lack of appreciation. Often blamed in public for minor errors. I.T. workers also get reported for under performance for no fault of theirs.
Why did I write this article ?
I don’t want anyone in the world to go through the experience that I have. I am advocating healthy workplace for the future and willing to join the efforts of institutes like Workplace Bullying Institute to eradicate bullying from workplace.
People who work for business entities have their right for respect and dignity. A workplace is a place to work as the name suggests and not a war zone.
I would like to see a safe and healthy workplace and is on top of my agenda once I launch my start up.
If you think you have been bullied at work and would like to seek advice how to handle the situation, feel free to contact me.
What is being done about workplace bullying globally ?
I will update this post soon.