Saturday, February 6, 2010

Workplace bullying and harrassment

Bullying in the workplace is endemic. A 2009 survey in the United States found that 37% of workers believed they had been bullied in some manner. Management expert and author, Professor Robert I Sutton believes that workplace bullying is bad for business as it leads to absenteeism, staff turnover and performance issues. That is not rocket science, as a management coach I have witnessed and coached those that have been the victims off, or impacted upon by workplace bullying.

Our schools have had anti-bullying policies and practices in place for years. Why is it when we become 'adults' we forsake such practices? Surely experience would show that even adults experience problems coping with the impact and consequences of workplace bullying. A story in The Age newspaper in Victoria highlighted the extreme consequences of workplace bullying when it reported on the recent death of 19-year old Brodie Panlock. As parents, none of us would want the grief experienced by Brodies family. Yet as adults and parents many of us have at some point engaged in some form of workplace harrassment. When 37% of the workforce believe they have been bullied it would be reasonable to suggest another 37% were involved as the bullies. For every victim there is a bully. That is 72% of the workforce wasting time engaged in an activity that robs people of their dignity and self respect.

It has been suggested by some that workplace bullying is more endemic and has an even greater overall impact than sexual harrassment yet in every workplace there is policies and practices designed to eliminate sexual harrassment. It is difficult to imagine 37% of the workforce having experienced sexual harrassment and this is not meant in any way to belittle those suffering the impact of sexual harrassment.

In 2006 a report by the British Medical Association found that 1 in 4 employees in the National Health Service had experienced some form of bullying while at work. Interestingly 16% of medical staff believed they had been bullied by nurses. Bullying included, belittling people, undermining work, withholding information and imposing impossible deadlines. These behaviours indicate that much workplace bullying results in mental distress rather than physical violence.

A 2009 report into bullying in the Australia health sector reported that as many as 50% of healthcare employees had experienced bullying. Similarly in New Zealand there have been reports of up to 50% of some sectors of healthcare having experienced workplace bullying. Other research has found that less than 37% of those impacted upon actually reported the bullying. This means a lot of people may be running around your organisation suffering the mental anguish from being bullied. Why have they not sought help? Is it because your organisation does not have a clear policy on workplace bullying? Is it because they don't believe they will be helped? Is it because they don't know where to get help?

Have you been a victim of bullying in the workplace? Speak up now. Name and shame the organisation. This is not something to remain silent about. Share your stories and also share with others what you did to seek help and to cope with the impact.

Let The Journey Continue
John Coxon

Taking You From Frontline Manager to CEO
Facebook: johncoxon1
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