As a counsellor people often come to me because they are suffering workplace bullying. And indeed I have witnessed it myself in my own working life. It is very important to realise that bullying is NOT just something that happens in the school playground. Workplace bullying is a very real and common occurrence that is both a legal minefield and incredibly difficult for a person to deal with. The effects, as with bullying among children and teenagers, can be completely devastating. This is the second in a series of blogs about bullying – I examine how does bullying in the workplace affect your life?
When you are at home
- You feel sick during the evening before the start of your working week
- Your partner/family and friends become frustrated because you spend so much time obsessing about work at home
- Days off are spent exhausted and lifeless, your desire to do anything is gone – your favourite activities and fun with family and friends are no longer appealing or enjoyable
When you are at work
- You are constantly feeling agitated and anxious, experiencing a sense of doom, waiting for bad things to happen
- It feels as though no matter what you do, you are never left alone to do your job without interference
- A lot of other people (colleagues, HR, other managers) may agree that your tormentor is a bully but there is nothing they will do about it.
Bullying in the Irish workplace is “like a cancer”
Bullying in the Irish workplace according to a 2016 Irish times article is “like a cancer”. The article reported that according to the Anti-Bullying Centre at Dublin City University, which was established to carry out research into the subject, the effects of workplace bullying on individuals are widespread and include stress, anxiety, depression, substance abuse and suicide.
The Effect on Workplaces
This research found that it isn’t just individuals who are affected by bullying. Workplaces as a whole suffer, with high levels of absenteeism and staff turnover, costly legal actions and tribunal proceedings, and a loss of public image if the bullying is revealed publicly.
Bullying or Conflict?
This is not an east question to answer. The Irish Times article quotes Dr Genevieve Murray, a consultant and mediator who has researched the topic for more than a decade: “In terms of national and international research, it’s very difficult to determine whether incidents of workplace conflict and bullying are increasing or declining. Both employees and employers are fearful of the negative connotations associated with this sensitive topic, the destruction it can unleash and the reputational damage it can leave in its wake. As workplace bullying can be subtle and cunning, it is difficult to measure with statistics,” she said.
A Silent Epidemic
Bullying has become “a silent epidemic” because so few individuals are willing to discuss it openly or to take action when finding themselves victims to it but according to Dr Murray, no statistics are available on the underreporting of workplace bullying.
“Individuals may complain to their families and friends about the problem, however not many are prepared to make a complaint or disclose the fact that they are being bullied to researchers. Adults feel that to admit to being bullied at work can be frowned upon and seen as a sign of weakness,” she said.
How do we define bullying in the Irish workplace?
Employers largely abide by the Health and Safety Authority’s (HSA) definition:
“Repeated inappropriate behaviour, direct or indirect, whether verbal, physical or otherwise, conducted by one or more persons against another or others, at the place of work and/or in the course of employment, which could reasonably be regarded as undermining the individual’s right to dignity at work”.
Need some advice and support?
If you are struggling with any of the issues raised in this article, or indeed any other emotional issues or life challenges and would like to talk things over in complete confidentiality, call Alison Winfield, Mindfully Well Counselling Cork on 087 9934541.
Book a counselling session today!