It’s estimated that 1 in 4 employees in the UK have been affected by workplace bullying at some point in their career.
Bullying can be such a subtle process of emotional and psychological manipulation, and conducted over such a long period of time, that it can be difficult to detect.
Here are some obvious signs of bullying that you SHOULD be able to notice:
- Yelling, shouting or being aggressive
- Tampering with someone’s belongings or work-space, stalking or spying
- Forcing or persuading someone to do or say things against their will
- Punishing undeservedly, either by physical discipline, passive aggression or isolation
- Disparaging someone or their ideas, opinions or work
- Publicly embarrassing or humiliating someone
- Being vindictive or retaliating against an employee
- Threatening someone with dismissal, discipline or other punishment
- Offensive communication, demeaning jokes or gossip
- Launching a campaign to get rid of an employee
- Impeding progression or growth unfairly
Here are some signs that may be harder to notice:
- Repeatedly lying or not telling the truth
- Overt or veiled threats
- Purposefully ignoring someone
- Intentionally isolating someone
- Justifying or defending own behaviour
- Minimising other’s concerns or feelings
- Dodging issues or changing the subject to avoid it
- Shaming an employee for no reason
- Undermining another’s work
- Pitting employees against each other
- Taking away someone’s responsibilities without cause
- Setting impossible expectations, setting an employee up to fail
- Constantly changing expectations or boundaries
- Frequently changing moods
- Criticising others for unwarranted reasons
- Intentionally withholding information or giving misleading information
- Shifting blame to others, scapegoating
- Stealing credit for other’s ideas
- Excessive flattery and compliments
- Rarely delegating or communicating
It can be really hard for employees to realise they are being bullied – they may feel something is wrong that they can’t put their finger on, or they feel unfairly treated but can’t understand why. They may also start to fear coming to work and can become mentally and physically unwell.
Make sure you have a policy in place to cover bullying and ensure your managers are trained in how to identify and deal with workplace bullying.
Encourage employees to report problems and have a confidential way for them to do this.
Look for signs that an employee may be feeling distressed or uncomfortable and never pass a complaint off as a personality clash – be sure to investigate fairly and take appropriate action.