Bullying is characterized by negative acts or words that are persistent (persistence is the single most important aspect that differentiates bullying from other forms of harassment), where the targets feel unable to defend themselves.
Bullying does not necessarily have to be intentional. Its effects on the victim and on bystanders are typically devastating, and extended sick leaves are often present. Here are some of the specific symptoms and their prevalence, according to a study by the Workplace Bullying Institute:
- Severe anxiety – 76%
- Disrupted sleep – 71%
- Loss of concentration – 71%
- Post-traumatic stress disorder – 47%
- Clinical depression – 39%
- Panic attacks – 32%
Most of the symptoms were experienced for the first time only after the bullying began.Discussion Questions
In your team, consider the following questions:
- The symptoms listed above have implications for key areas of organizational success. List three ways in which these symptoms can negatively affect each of the following: safety, customer service, innovation, teamwork, and retention of talented employees.
- Can you think of a time in your work life when you witnessed bullying? If you did not witness it yourself, think of a situation that was described to you by someone who you know.
(Please refrain from discussing situations that are personally familiar to others in the team. This exercise is not intended to deal with these types of situations). What were three bullying behaviours in this situation? How did the victim react over time? How were you and other bystanders impacted and how did you react??
- Individual bullying incidents may not seem important as single events but over time they have a serious effect. When is the right time to get a supervisor or HR involved? What might you say to that supervisor or to HR to get him or her to step in and act? How might you incorporate the above statistics in your efforts?
- Following are three behaviours that are often part of a bullying campaign: constantly criticizing for no good reason, making someone feel foolish in front of others, and spreading rumours about a person. Please name at least 5 more examples.
- Think about a time when you were frustrated or upset with someone at work (or even in your personal life). Be honest with yourself (you might want to do this part of the exercise in private….)
- Did you display any behaviors that could have been experienced by that person as some form of (even mild) bullying? What were those behaviours?
- What was the person’s reaction?
- As you reflect on the situation, what should you have done differently?
- Is there anything you need to do now to amend for what happened at the time? If so, what?
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