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How to deal with work bullies

Career Tips
 How to deal with work bullies (Photo: iStock)

You may think you have put the scars of childhood bullying behind you, only for them to linger well into adulthood, shaping your interactions and self-esteem.

But what happens when those aggressive behaviours don't fade with adolescence? Unfortunately, this phenomenon of bullying can sometimes go beyond the school compound into the professional setting.

A 2021 study by the Workplace Bullying Institute (WBI) revealed that a staggering 77 per cent of those who experience bullying ultimately leave their jobs. This not only disrupts the employee's career trajectory but also incurs significant financial costs for the organisation in terms of recruitment and training replacements.

Workplace bullying can take many forms, often cloaked in a veneer of professionalism. It might manifest as subtle put-downs, public humiliation or the persistent undermining of one's work. In some cases, it can involve social exclusion or the deliberate sabotaging of projects.

The target might be a new hire, a high performer perceived as a threat or someone simply deemed different from the dominant social group.

If that sounds familiar you need to pay keen attention on the possibility that you could be falling prey to these predators.

The effects of workplace bullying are far-reaching. It could put you through anxiety, depression and even sleep disturbances at the thought of going to work the next day. 

According to a 2019 study published in the Journal of Occupational and Environmental Medicine, researchers found a strong correlation between workplace bullying and increased absenteeism as well as a higher likelihood of developing chronic health conditions.

Companies have a critical role to play in establishing a culture of respect and fostering open communication.

Implementing clear anti-bullying policies and providing accessible reporting channels are essential first steps especially if there is any form of sexual assault. Training managers to recognise and address bullying behaviour is equally important and should be encouraged.

Even with that said, the responsibility does not solely lie with employers. Employees who witness bullying behaviour have a powerful role to play.

Speak up! Report bullying incidents to a supervisor or Human Resource representative and hopefully proper action will be taken. If this is done, it will help foster a climate of zero tolerance for such immature behaviour.

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