Changing modern business environment brings new challenges that affect many aspects of management including Human Resource Management; one of such challenges is workplace bullying. According to Alexia, et al (2011), workplace bullying has received an increased attention from scholar in the last 10 years. This is largely due to its prevalence and; cost on productivity and profitability. Gardner & Johnson (2001) & Sypher (2004) established that workplace bullying costs U. S. organizations billions of dollars each year. The effects of workplace are not only monetary as it has more psychological and physical effect on the victims. Surprisingly, despite the obvious effect of workplace bullying, this behavior is often disregarded, endured, misconstrued, or even instigated by the organization as a deliberate management strategy (Sheehan, 1999). In this essay, we will be examining the concept of workplace bullying, its causes, consequences and remedies. Einarsen, Hoel, Zapf and Cooper (2003) defined workplace bullying as “harassing, offending, socially excluding someone or negatively affecting someone’s work tasks.
In order for the label bullying (or mobbing) to be applied to a particular activity, interaction or process it has to occur repeatedly and regularly (e. g. weekly) and over a period of time (e. g. about six months). Bullying is an escalated process in the course of which the person confronted ends up in an inferior position and becomes the target of systematic negative social acts. ” Mattice & Garman (2013) also define workplace bullying as methodical antagonistic communication, manipulation of work, and acts aimed at humiliating or degrading one or more individual that create an unhealthy and unprofessional power imbalance between bully and target(s), result in psychological consequences for targets and co-workers, and cost enormous monetary damage to an organization’s bottom line. Therefore, for any activity to be termed workplace bullying, it must be that which is done with malice, intended to have a negative impact on the victim’s performance and wellbeing; consistently and continuously repeated over time; and the victims usually lack the power to protect themselves (Coombs & Holladay, 2004; Einarsen, 1999; Keashly, 1998; Lutgen-Sandvik, 2006; Namie & Namie, 2003; Wornham, 2003). Although, workplace bullying occurs in different direction, the prevalence is usually from bosses to subordinates. There have been reported cases of peer to peer bullying, employer bullying, customer to employees bullying and even subordinate to superior bullying (Hoel & Cooper, 2000). Rayner, Hoel, & Cooper (2001) & Peyton (2003) categorized workplace bullying into five namely threat to professional status, threat to personal standing, isolation, overwork and destabilization. Bullies usually adopt one or combination of these categories.
Threat to personal standing bullies employ tactics such as public humiliation, verbal threats, shunning the target, and spreading gossip or rumors (Djurkovic, McCormack & Casimir, 2005; Keashly, 2004). Specific behaviors include cursing, screaming, and publicly criticizing the target (Keashly 2004); threat to professional status bullies withhold vital information, obstruct work, takie credit for the victim’s work, deny access to training, do not provide constructive feedback, and assign impossible tasks to targets; isolation type of bullies prevents access to opportunities, isolate victim physically or socially isolation, withholds necessary information, and excludes the target; and overworking bullies employs undue pressure, unnecessary disruptions and give impossible deadlines; while those in the destabilization category achieve their objectives through failure to acknowledge victim’s work, assigning meaningless tasks, setting victim up to fail, constant reminder of blunders, and frequent shifting of goal post. Many Scholars have attempted explaining the underlying causes of workplace bullying; one of such attempt is that of Zapf and Einarsen (2003), who posit that people bully for three reasons: the need to protect self-esteem; lack social competencies and power imbalances ( where organizations encourages fierce competition). While Boddy (2011) explained that psychopathy is a major cause of corporate bully, is his bid to classify workplace bully. Deteriorating economy can also contribute to workplace bullying. If the unemployment rises, bullies know targets cannot simply leave a job, it empowers them to keep victimizing their targets (Cohen, 2010).
Zapf and Einarsen (2003) also looked at the bullying from the point of view of the victims. They explained that some people do attract bullying through their bahaviours and dispositions. According to them, there three reasons, individuals can become subject of corporate bullying: the first of which is being outside a group, that is, not having a political/caucus belongings; secondly, having low self-esteem, and social competences can easily make one target of workplace bullying, a position that supported by (Matthiesen & Einarsen, 2007); and Finally, people who are seen as overachievers may also become victims workplace bully because the bully may feel threatened by the target’s competences. Lutgen-Sandvik and McDermott (2008), argued that organizational structures may encourage bullying by implementing “anti-employee policies” and laissez-faire management styles (Hauge, et al. 2007; Lutgen-Sandvik & McDermott, 2008). Interestingly, laissez-faire management, which is a detached approach to management, also intensifies bullying behavior because the manager may want the bully and target to sort their problems without interference.
Most of the time, organization’s executives either do not know how to deal with workplace bullying behaviors, or they do not understand the consequences of avoiding or mismanaging them (Salin, 2003). According to Gordon (2018), the consequences of workplace bullying are in three folds: health risk, performance risk and effect on the organization. These, he said are related. Targets of bullying can come down with physical and psychological health issues such as stress, anxiety, panic attacks, amnesia, cardiovascular diseases, and ulcers; which in turn lead to performance problems such as having trouble in making decisions, lack of capacity to concentrate, loss of self-esteem, and lower productivity. Bullied workers spend most of their time planning how to deal with the situation, trying to defend themselves, avoiding the bully, networking for support, thinking about the situation. Victims of workplace bully usually feel isolated traumatized, powerless, disoriented, helpless and confused. The overall detrimental effect of workplace bullying is not only apparent on the victims but also on the other employees who witnessed it (Lutgen-Sandvik, Tracy, & Alberts, 2007).
This has damaging effect of staff morale and can also affect productivity, lead to a hostile work environment, increase workers compensation claims, promote absenteeism and result to legal problems (Hauge, Skogstad, & Einarsen, 2007; Stress, 1999; Zapf & Gross, 2001). A bullied employee will use more sick leave, and can ultimately lead to staff turnover of both bullied staff and co-worker thought it could also happen to them; or loss of employees’ commitment and loyalty. There would also be additional cost of recruiting and training staff that replaced those that left. Also the organization’s public image will be negatively impacted. According to Pamela Lutgin-Sandvik (2003), workplace bullying lacks a common language to define it; and this is a problem because without a common term or phrase, individuals have difficulty defining their experiences of abuse, and therefore have trouble seeking justice against the bully. As rightly noted by Rayner & Cooper (2006) most workplace bullies usually operate within the established rules and policies of their organization. This makes it particularly difficult to codify in law, unlike its counterpart, sexual harassment. Some executive have come up with different euphemisms to trivialize corporate bullying, some of which include difficult people, incivility, disrespect, negative conduct, ill treatment and personality conflict; and most often, bullied employees have been labeled as insubordinate. Bowman & Zigmond (1997) noted that the degree, enormity, and prevalence of workplace bullying call for policy changes.
Rugala & Isaacs (n. d), suggested that organizations should develop internal conflict resolution plans that would include providing awareness and conflict resolution training to staff. Keashly and Neuman (2004) stated that if theses internal conflict resolution plans are to be successful, they must be data driven, have input from individuals at all levels of the organization, and be constantly supervised, evaluated, and the feedback adapted. It must collect information about types and prevalence of bullying behavior across the organization, which will include all employees, union leaders and organizational leaders. Carbo (n. d) in his submission, under collective recommended both statutory response and unionism. He posited that in order to protect the employees’ integrity to self-esteem, growth, and power the in the workplace, legislation is necessary. He argued that for the menace of workplace bullying to have persisted, organization leader were not willing to act; therefore, just as the case of sex abuse, legislations should be promulgated. He also advocated for collective actions by the unions; according to Yamada (2004), union should bargain for collective bargaining provisions that protect their members against workplace bullying. Yamada, (2000, 2004) also suggested the use of common law – law of tort. Even though this method has been highly unsuccessful, he advised that it should not be abandoned, but with the help of a very creative lawyer some claims can be made.
The lawyer may be able to claim such negligent supervision of a bullying superior, breach of contract claims, claims for allowing a dangerous working environment, may provide at least a partial solution to the problem with workplace bullyingThat some of these solutions have been explored in different climes (Canada and Sweden) and have worked to prevent workplace bullying shows that they work in other countries as well, most especially developing countries, however, their adoption should be pushed for outside the organization, most especially by non-government organizations. The best solution however is the organization having a system that checks workplace bullying in order to avoid unnecessary litigation. Policies should be in place to address the issue of bullying at work. There should be proper training for supervisors and employees for them to able to identify bullying, their rights and responsibility when they or their co-workers are been bullied. The management should also take prompt action by investigating and punishing bullies whenever any is found culpable to create a zero tolerance environment for such acts.
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