Mental Health in the workplace is just as important as physical health yet it is often overlooked.

According to the TUC, nearly a third of people are bullied at work, according to a study carried out by YouGov, identifies that women are more likely to be a victim of bullying than men, the highest number of cases of workplace bullying is among 40 to 59 year olds, in almost three quarters of cases, the bullying is carried out by a manager and alarmingly, more than one in three people who report being bullied at work, leave their job because of it.

In the same study, as a direct impact of work place bullying, nearly half of people affected say that it has had an adverse impact on their performance at work and the same proportion believe that it has a negative impact on their mental health.

More than 28% of people question said that it had a detrimental effect on them physically and 1/5 had to take time off work as a result of being bullied.

Workplace Bullying

For many people, bullying is something that is prevalent in the playground and at school but for many adults, bullying is a very real part of their everyday lives leaving them feeling like they have no escape.

According to bullyingstatistics.org, there are many reasons why people bully others. Cultural causes of bullying highlight that in a culture fascinated with winning, power, and violence, some experts suggest that it is unrealistic to expect that people will not be influenced to seek power in their own lives. Researchers believe that many young people grow up with the expectation that violence is an acceptable way to get what one wants – hence this culture spreading into the workplace environment.

Bullying may occur in the workplace if the organisation does not have high or strict standards of behaviour and how people should be treating each other , then it may be more likely to have an influence on why people bully.

In many instances, one gets more social recognition and attention for negative behaviours than for positive ones can contribute to the reasons as to why people bully. Jealousy, envy and lack of personal and social skills to deal with such feelings can be reasons as to why people feel compelled to bully others.

Family issues and home life can often cause an outpouring of negative emotion when these scenarios are less than ideal. People who suffer issues at home may use the workplace to outlet their anger/power issues.

Some research does indicate that having power in the workplace makes some people wield it in a specific or noticeable way however it may also be true that some people in a position of power have not been trained in appropriate leadership skills.

People who exhibit annoying and condescending attributes to others in an aggressive verbal manner or in any other way which cannot be picked up by those in authority may contribute to the dynamic that can be characterised by bullying by one individual but actually grows out of provocation by another individual.

The bully’s own personal history may also contribute to a factor of why someone feels compelled to bully others in a social or work place environment.

So what is classified as bullying? Bullying can take many forms but predominantly with the main purpose of harming a person’s dignity, safety and well-being. Ted Talks (Nov ’15) establishes that “the difference between a bully and a mistake is with the intent: the bully wants to wound, to have power over, to humiliate and destroy”. Bullying can take varying forms include name-calling, physical abuse and even cyberbullying. Bullying is classed as any form of abusive behaviour where an individual or group of people create an intimidating or humiliating work environment for another.

Very recently a story regarding a company in Selby, Yorkshire reporting of a member of staff who was targeted due to his religious beliefs, his work colleagues tied him to a makeshift cross, drawn on, and burnt by ignited aerosol in what his colleagues, on trial for assault, dismissed as a series of workplace pranks. The trial is currently on going (as of June 2016) however experts believe that this case is a criminal case against four individuals accused of bullying, the victim may also have a claim at the employment tribunal for harassment related to religion or belief.

Workplace bullying can cause it’s victims a great deal of stress and often triggers anxiety, depression and sometimes suicidal thoughts, bully doesn’t only affect an individual at work, it can often impact other aspects of their life as well.

So it’s all very well establishing how and why people are bullied at work but how do we deal with it and as an employer – what can you do?

As an employer, you must not dismiss or fail to see the legitimacy or effects that a bully can have on an individual. Bullying must not be dismissed as a simple ‘clash of personalities’, character building, a specific leadership style or something that the victim has ‘brought on themselves’. Employers should establish clear policies outlining what behaviour is and isn’t acceptable in the workplace, training should be provided to educate teams and individuals on diversity and compliant working practices and also communication is essential from management to ensure appropriate working conduct and non autocratic management styles.

Organisations should go above and beyond to promote a culture where there is zero tolerance to bullying and harassment.

As an individual, you are entitled to work in an environment free from bullying or harassment.

Bullying itself is not actually against the law however, some forms of bullying fall under the harassment banner which is illegal under the Equality Act 2010, harassment includes unwanted behaviours regarding age, gender, sexuality, sexual reference, marital status, religion, pregnancy, race or disability amongst others.

If you do find yourself within a scenario where you are being bullied or harassed at work, there are several routes of action available to you. Should you feel comfortable enough to approach the bully and discuss with them, then do so, many people don’t feel that this is an option for them and it will vary from case to case. Talk to someone about the issues you’re experiencing, whether it is a friend, colleague or family member, it will help to share your problems and gain support. Familiarise yourself with your companies policies on bullying and harassment in the workplace. If you do experience bullying or harassment, it is important to document the information in detail should you need to refer back. A great resource for anyone experiencing these issues in the workplace is www.acas.org.uk.

It is critical for employers and companies to ensure a safe and comfortable working environment for employees for personal wellbeing and a productive workplace – bullying and harassment can cause significant stress to those involved, an issue which in itself, can have major repercussions for any employer or business. We will be taking a closer look at work place stress in our next blog piece.

We at BN SHE Consultancy Ltd are dedicated to ensuring that businesses are compliant with health and safety laws and legislation. If you’re unsure about your obligations regarding bullying or harassment in the workplace or have any other questions, please don’t hesitate to get in touch and let us know; info@bnsheconsultancy.co.uk or 01981 540 197.

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