Why Workplace Bullying is Real and How Organizations Can Tackle This Menace

What is Workplace Bullying and how it is Different from Sexual Harassment

More often than not, we hear about organizations having strict policies against harassment and discrimination which are primarily dealing with Sexual and Gender based harassment at the workplace.

However, there is another element of workplace harassment and it is the very real menace of bullying that takes place in both formal and informal settings and is often insidious, to say the least.

Workplace Bullying encompasses making fun of colleagues and those who work under managers as well as includes coloured remarks and otherwise inappropriate language and gestures aimed at employees in order to play power games and harass them.

The reason why we are stressing on Workplace Bullying as distinct from other forms of harassment is that it happens across the spectrum and across genders and roles.

For instance, while most corporates are focused on preventing harassment of women and racial and sexual minorities, Workplace Bullying happens to Men and more importantly, anyone who is considered different from others.

Indeed, bullying male workers can happen for any number of reasons including the place they come from, the religion they belong to, their income and class among other markers.

How the Polarized and Hyper Partisan Times Enable Workplace Bullying and Harassment

To say the least, all organizations have Bullies who take pleasure in harassing their co-workers.

While workplace bullying is very real, more often than not, it is dismissed as Boys will be Boys and hence, ragging and harassing co-workers is taken as something that happens all the time.

In addition, most employees do not report bullying as it is considered unmanly and effeminate to report instances of such harassment.

What is worse is that there are real instances of employees quitting organizations as they were bullied to no end leading to frustration and a feeling of powerlessness.

Indeed, it is high time corporates learnt to take action against this menace lest it becomes a huge problem for them.

Moreover, in these polarized and hyper partisan times, employees belonging to racial and class minorities are often at the receiving end of such harassment that makes them more vulnerable.

A key characteristic of Workplace Bullying is that it happens out in the Open as distinct from Sexual Harassment that is usually Out of the Glare.

Another aspect of workplace bullying, especially in Asian countries, is that Linguistic, Cultural, and Regional, Religious, as well as Class differences provide a Fertile ground for harassment.

The Bro Code, Breaking the Silence, and How Corporates Can Tackle Bullying

The way to tackle workplace bullying is to send a stern and a strict message down the organizational hierarchy that harassment of any type would be severely punished.

In addition, there must be focused policies targeting the bullies wherein both Verbal and Nonverbal cues aimed at bullying others are prohibited and more importantly, punished.

Of course, preventing workplace bullying is sometimes difficult when it happens in informal settings such as during Coffee Breaks, Lunchtime conversations, and more importantly, outside office hours and in settings such as parties and casual get-togethers.

Indeed, this is the reason why Human Resources managers often throw up their hands in despair as bullying in informal settings is hard to prove and worse, the victims do not speak up as well due to the Bro Code.

This term Bro Code is usually applied to the Unspoken Pacts between employees wherein they work towards preserving the overall behaviours of the groups they belong to and going against the Code is akin to Betraying Your Brothers, meaning other co-workers.

Therefore, there is more than ever a need for corporates to be vigilant against workplace bullying as it can lead to a culture of impudence and overall vitiated atmosphere.

Harmless Banter, Co-worker Bonding, and When Bullying Has Serious Repercussions

Having said that, there are also reasons to be circumspect about cracking down on workplace bullying harshly without considering whether that is banter or harassment.

To explain, bonding between co-workers happens when they are comfortable with each other and this involves a high degree of familiarity with each other that can also lead to some types of bullying one other that is often Part of the Game.

However, the danger lies when it is taken too far and this is the reason why we need sensitive managers who can distinguish between harmless banter and targeted bullying.

Moreover, there can be repercussions to the organizations as the victims might take revenge on their harassers in other ways including attacking them with members of their own community and the like.

Indeed, in India, there have been several serious cases of such violence wherein the victims of workplace bullying retaliated in ways that are often law violating and which drag the corporates into the issue.

This is the reason why it is Now or Never for many firms worldwide, especially in the United States as well, since the external negativity can spill over into the workplace leading to trouble for all the stakeholders.

Carrot and Stick Policy

Last, in our working experience, we have often found that co-workers do not differentiate between harmless banter and serious bullying and more so, targeting employees on linguistic and ethnic markers of identity.

While this is often hard to prevent, it is also the case that corporates can crack down on this menace through sensitisation programs and on the other hand, a strict vigil by senior employees.

Indeed, a Carrot and Stick Policy would be the best approach to prevent Workplace Bullying.

To conclude, organizational productivity depends on a healthy workplace and hence, harassment and bullying must be prevented and punished.

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