Most of the time, individuals who are bullied believe that the attacks on them are personal, or that they are the only ones on the receiving end of the act. There is also the belief that bullies are just inherently bad people who enjoy inflicting pain on others. That may be true for others, but the reality is that the psychology of office bullying is complex. On the surface, office bullies want their victims to feel bad, but there are also systemic structures that enable bullies to do that.
Why office bullying is a systemic problem
Studies have shown that 75 per cent of employees surveyed have been affected by office bullying. In the United States, a survey from the US Workplace Bullying revealed that 60 per cent of workers were affected by it.
Why does office bullying occur? Companies are unaware that the structure of their organisation or their methods of recruitment enable office bullying. It is symptomatic of bad leadership when bosses resort to acts of bullying such as unfair criticism, abuse, micromanagement, humiliation, or degradation. It is also the result of deeply rooted toxic cultures in the workplace which have perpetuated through the years and have been ignored by those in authority.
How to get to the roots of office bullying
For Thom Dennis, a leader from Serenity of Leadership, there is a need to deeply understand and take systemic actions to tackle the issue of office bullying. He said that office bullying can often be rooted right into the core of a business. Persistence and commitment can alter the culture of bullying because it will show up in many forms, which means it will demand systemic solutions.
One thing that companies can do is to work at a systemic level for change. Office bullying must be seen as unacceptable, starting from the C-suite to the other departments.
Organisations should also promote diversity of race, age, gender, sexual orientation, social differences, and disability. Inclusivity must be encouraged because it has never been more vital to show the importance of belongingness and connection in a disconnected world.
Leaders should also learn to keep their authority in check. They must work without their egos so that they never abuse their powers. Egoless leaders are those who inspire and influence their workers the most. They work with accountability, transparency, and inclusivity.
Lastly, set up clear protocols at work regarding what workers should do if they are being bullied. There must be consequences for bullies with written policies, and a clear code of conduct to employees.
Office bullying must be confronted at the organisational level so that employees are not impacted by it. Getting to the roots of it will also require systemic changes.