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Issue No. 3


Workplace bullying

A common, yet destructive situation that apparently has become one of the most undocumented and most tolerated problems in the past years.  First, what is workplace bullying?  This is a situation that per Yandrick is a problem that is least noted, yet apparently is tolerated by most individuals, mainly the employees, due to the lack of knowledge by those who are affected.  Second, to note the costs of bullying, a study was performed in 1998 that indicated interesting conclusion on the effects of bullying.  This study was inclusive of individual targets and witnesses to the act of bullying.  Third, Human Resources can play an important role in the prevention and "early-intervention" stages of bullying.  James Scaringi reviews eight steps that if implemented would aid in the reduction of bullying, end result being the decrease of employee turnover.  Fourth, Yandrick concludes with points referencing the legal issues that are involved with the act of bullying.  References are made to the avenues that the employees now have at hand with the various laws so as to protect the employee environment.

Yandrick utilizes his title of his article well to describe the situation of the workplace bully - "Lurking In The Shadows".  The situation of the workplace bully does get ignored in many organizations, which is mainly due to the lack of education of the employees on how to deal with these types of individuals.  Workplace bullying is a behavior that can be brought out in various forms such as verbal abuse, sexual harassment and discrimination.  The overall affect of this type of behavior reflects towards the employees (targets) in that stress-related illnesses become common.  Other affects include, but are not limited to, high turnover rates, defective work, decreased creativity, and over time, the actual targets having their careers destroyed from the after affects.

Yandrick notes several examples of bullying behaviors, which, without the employee being educated on these types of behaviors and how to handle them, would continue for the tenure of the employment.  Human Resources can easily be able to develop educational programs for the employees so as to allow them to understand the methods of dealing with these behaviors and the steps that should be followed in reporting such.  In return, programs such as these might assist the individuals who apparently have these traits understand how they might improve their demeanor or even seek other means of assistance so as to decrease their tendencies to show these traits.  An example of this type of behavior may be yelling at or ridiculing an employee in public yet in return showing absolute silence in private.             

Other examples could be undermining an individual with words or actions that would in turn humiliate the individual; stalking; implied threat of physical attack which would apply to males more than to females per Yandrick.  Another interesting example of bullying might be the supervisor in turn "dumping" work or unpleasant job assignments onto the employee.

Yandrick makes mention to comments from Gary Namie, coordinator of the nonprofit organization Campaign Against Workplace Bullying, which reference that bullying most often occurs in a workplace that is continual crisis mode.  This is an excellent reference in the fact that when the workplace is in this type of mode, the tension/stress levels of the superiors are reflected downward, in turn, the employees react at times in a negative manner.  This continual type of behavior will over time bring the organization to a point of non-production; end results could lead to the demise of the organization.  Namie notes that if an individual was to attempt to approach the problem individual, the manager may in turn dictate to the employee to "Work out the interpersonal conflict between yourselves because I don't want to get involved."  When this type of statement/attitude is portrayed to the employee, this then allows the manager in question (the bully) to take the absolute advantage of the situation and continue with the bullying behavior.  Generally bullying will not result in any type of open confrontation by the target and any witnesses to these acts turn toward the mode of silence.

Namie makes excellent reference to a predictable process for the success of the bully in seven steps.  First, the individual initiates the behavior by using such methods of making remarks about an individual's competency or character.  Second, the individual will build a base for support in private by talking to other employees individually and suggest to them that he is the target himself.  Third, when the co-workers and witnesses begin to learn the truth, they will begin to pull back due to the fear of becoming a target themselves.  Fourth, relationships between the target and co-workers diminish outside of the workplace.  Fifth, the co-workers begin to blame the target for the situation.  Sixth, over time the co-workers and witnesses turn and begin to support the bully.  Seventh, eventually other individuals within the organization may begin to assume similar bullying behavior.

Namie had performed a research project in 1998 involving gathering information from targets of and witnesses to workplace bullying.  The results of 154 responses were quite interesting showing some high percentages in the overall effects of bullying.  The areas that were prominent were stress and anxiety, depression, exhaustion, insecurity and self-doubt, shame, embarrassment and guilt, obsessive thinking and nightmares, poor concentration, and sleeplessness.  Along with Namie's study, Christine Pearson, a management professor at the University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill, did a study in 1998 surveying targets of bullying and found that the targets may actually penalize their employer instead of seeking retaliation towards the bully.  The results indicated some of the actions that the targets would take such as changing jobs, intentionally decreasing their quality of work, decreasing their work efforts, losing work time so as to avoid the bully. 
Rudy M. Yandrick, "Lurking In The Shadows" HR Magazine, October 1999, Vol. 44, No. 10 (Online)


HR Magazine, October 1999

I want you to realize you wouldn't have a job if it wasn't for me.  Don't question what I say."

"Common, yet destructive situation that apparently has become the most undocumented & most tolerated problem.."