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Updated on October 20, 2020

Bullying Within The Workplace

When the term ‘bullying’ is being used in a conversation, we often think it in the context of school amongst children.   Little do we know that bullying can occur within the workplace as well.

What is workplace bullying?

Workplace bullying is defined by American Psychological Association (APA) as ‘a deliberate, repeated, health-endangering mistreatment of an employee by a supervisor or co-worker’. This means that it is not a one-off event and it does not happen ‘by accident’; the act by the bully is intentional, with motives of causing mental stress or harm to the victim.

Workplace bullying has gained recognition as a major public health concern. In a recent study done in Malaysia, 5235 employees from 47 organisations completed a survey questionnaire in relation to workplace bullying and psychological distress of employees. The study revealed that more than 1 in 3 employees had experienced workplace bullying.

This is considered alarming as bullying can lead to serious repercussion for the employees, as well as the organisation. Employees who are bullied severely may suffer a variety of health consequences such as depression and anxiety disorders.  It can also lead to low productivity and poor morale, which in turn may lead to increased absenteeism and high turnover of staff.

How does workplace bullying look like?  

Workplace bullying can be seen in the forms of direct or indirect bullying.  These actions are considered to be bullying when they are deliberate, recurring and causing you mental harm.

a) Examples of direct bullying are repeated yelling or criticising, verbal or written humiliation, deliberate social exclusion, tampering with the person’s personal belongings or work equipment and even physical abuse.

b) Examples of Indirect bullying are sabotaging other people’s work, spreading malicious rumours, gossips or innuendo, imposing unreasonable work demands which are designed to make the victim fail.

Click to watch video on How to Deal with a Bully at Work by Career Contessa

How can you help yourself out of the bullying situation?

1) First, do NOT blame yourself or stay silent and hope that the issue would go away.  Try to resolve the situation by firmly telling the person that his/her behaviour is unacceptable and that they have to stop. Use ‘I’ statements, e.g. ‘I feel upset when you say something nasty at me and I would appreciate it if you stop doing it’.  You can ask someone (such as your supervisor or colleague) to accompany you when you approach the person. Do not react to the person’s disruptive behaviour as it may escalate the situation and that it does not better help the situation.

2) If the person chooses to continue with the bullying behaviour, it is important to document all the events (what happened, when it happened, name of witnesses, what you have done and the outcome of event). This is because it would be helpful for you if you plan to report it to your human resource supervisor. 

3) Be familiar with the company’s policy, procedures, rules and regulation so that you will know your own rights as an employee and also can opt for the best course of action to deal with the bullying. 

4) Your well-being is your priority. If the situation does not get better even after you have escalated it to higher management, then tell yourself that you have done your best and that there is nothing else you can do but to leave the toxic work environment. This is because by continuing to work in the same place, it can definitely worsen your physical or psychological symptoms. Walking away from this place does not mean you’re weak, it means that you are courageous to take the step to say that THIS IS ENOUGH and able to focus more on taking care of yourself in a better environment at your next place of work.  

5) Remember that you are not alone in this toxic situation. Strengthen your social support outside of work with family and friends. If your physical or mental well-being is being affected due to the bullying incidents, do seek help from a medical or mental health professional.

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Disclaimer. TELEME blog posts contains general information about health conditions and treatments. It is not intended to be a substitute for professional medical advice, diagnosis or treatment. The information is not advice and should not be treated as such. 

If you think you may be suffering from any medical condition, you should seek immediate medical attention from your doctor or other professional healthcare providers. You should never delay seeking medical advice, disregard medical advice, or discontinue medical treatment because of information on this website.

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