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Psychological harassment, which can also be called workplace bullying, involves hostile and unwelcome words or actions that affect an employee’s dignity or integrity, and results in a harmful workplace. A person bullies through direct or indirect comments and behaviours with the intention of attempting to harm a person’s psyche, morale, reputation or general well-being. Any behaviour, even unintentional behaviour, that intimidates, isolates, humiliates, threatens or discriminates against a targeted individual or individuals can be interpreted as psychological harassment or bullying.
People who are the targets of bullying behaviour may experience a wide range of physical, emotional and psychological effects.
Some of these reactions might be:
Harassment and bullying can also have a poisoned effect on the workplace as a whole. When a workplace is characterized by bullying, it is, by definition a poisoned work environment; a place people will naturally try to avoid or leave resulting in increased absenteeism and turnover along with decreased morale. With such a workplace environment, an employer can look forward to: increasingly substantial legal costs to increased costs for absenteeism and sick time; low recruitment and retention; increased use of healthcare benefits and employee assistance programs; increased risk of accidents and loss of reputation and goodwill.
It is no longer felt that individuals should learn how to handle bullying on their own or that enduring bullying can be a character builder. It is now recognized that bullies are toxic individuals who can exact a terrible toll on their targets.
The best way to prevent bullying behaviour is to develop workplace civility policies and communicate them to employees. Such civility codes in an employer’s handbook go beyond the usual anti-harassment factors. Employees would do well to define bullying to their own specifications in accordance with their corporate and industrial cultures.
The definition of workplace encompasses more than the four walls of the building. Workplace bullying, harassment, discrimination and violence can occur anywhere the business of the company is conducted. This includes places such as social functions, conferences, parking lots, and anywhere outside of the workplace if the discrimination and harassment has or could have workplace repercussions.
Even if a person being harassed does not verbally tell their harasser to stop, they may still express their discomfort or dislike through body language such as turning or walk away, crying, becoming silent or withdrawing from the conversation with the person/group. We all need to be aware of these signs.
It is important to understand that a supervisor or manager who provides professional direction, council, discipline or performance reviews as part of their job is not considered to be harassing their workers.
When an employee is being bullied, harassed or threatened and no one takes action to stop the behaviour, there is substantial impact on the entire workplace environment. Stress levels go up, other people feel at risk of being targeted, morale suffers, employees don’t feel safe, workers start looking for jobs at other organizations, absenteeism increases and job performance suffers, just to name a few. Most importantly, harassers or bullies are given the clear signal that they may continue their behaviour without fear or repercussion. Targets of harassment and bullying are often afraid to report their situation because they don’t want to rock the boat or are afraid they might not be believed or taken seriously, and might be disliked by their co-workers. They also often believe that they will be labeled as troublemakers or possibly lose out on promotions or even lose their job. In reality, all laws that cover harassment and bullying also provide for protection from any form of retaliation, reprisal or threat of reprisal for anyone who brings forward a complaint or is a witness in a complaint process.
There are a number of options available for employees who believe they are being harassed or the target of bullying behaviour or even violence, and for employees who have witnessed such behaviours.
Due diligence for employers requires that they:
Here are some simple tips and warning signs to help you determine if your or someone else’s behaviour has crossed the line into harassment bullying or violence:
Your employer expects everyone in the organization to contribute to a healthy, safe, and respectful workplace by using common sense in all work related situations. It sounds simple but workers don’t always think before they speak. Consider another person’s feelings or count to ten when feeling angry or overwhelmed.
The law says that it is everyone’s right to work in an environment free from harassment, bullying and violence. It is also everyone’s responsibility to contribute to such an environment.
On average, we spend as much time with our co-workers as we do our own families during the week. It is healthy to feel comfortable, accepted and safe within our group, unfortunately some workers start to feel too comfortable and start behaving in ways that are not appropriate in the workplace.