Why Does Bullying in the Workplace Still Persist?

Bullying in the workplace smLet’s step away from retail this week and talk about another topic that has been a topic of conversation in business…

Over the last few years, schoolyard bullying has, for a number of reasons, received a great deal of attention. Now, more than ever before, parents and school officials are taking steps to ensure children are safe at school and children themselves are being encouraged to end bullying whenever they see it. But the schoolyard isn’t the only place where bullying takes place. Bullying in the workplace has also been given more attention in recent years. Although it is often neglected, or at the very least considered the elephant in the room, it needs to be addressed and dealt with.

How, when you are dealing with adults rather than children, and often more passive aggressive bullying than outright bullying, do you approach such a situation? Ignoring it won’t make it go away, and the impacts of such an approach can be far-reaching. Even worse, workplace bullying could more accurately be termed harassment in many situations, and leaves companies open to lawsuits left, right and centre. Legislation which attempts to curb this trend has been implemented, but it isn’t enough.

Back in February, CBC News addressed this issue in an article, ‘Why Bullying Persists in the Workplace.’ In an interview with workplace psychologist Jennifer Newman, the CBC noted that bullying, while being addressed in the academic environment, still persists in the workplace. Newman responded: “Just as in the school yard, those in authority roles have to lead the way. That means setting a tone of civility and respect, and intervening when uncivil, disrespectful or harmful behaviour is occurring. So, it’s up to leaders, managers and supervisors to insist on appropriate workplace behaviour. If they find it difficult to do so, bullying can quickly take hold in an organization.”

It isn’t just individuals within the same workplace either. In retail, the supplier/purchaser relationship is one that can’t be avoided, but according to Supply Management, “88 per cent of purchasers believe the “bullying” tactics of supermarket buyers are giving procurement professionals a bad name, according to exclusive research”. Read more on this here: http://www.cips.org/supply-management/news/2015/march/almost-nine-out-of-10-buyers-say-supermarket-bullying-of-suppliers-damages-the-procurement-professions-reputation/

While the responsibility can’t be placed solely at the feet of those in leadership positions, it is up to those with the authority to do so to take a no-tolerance approach. An open environment which encourages teamwork as well as transparency, one that gives employees the ability to feel safe and protected, but also able to speak out when that safety is challenged, is the best way to break down the cycle.

It is a great read and you can check it out in full here: http://www.cbc.ca/news/canada/british-columbia/jennifer-newman-why-bullying-persists-in-the-workplace-1.3468466.

As society seems to be doing with schools, the same needs to happen at work. Bullying in the workplace is such a systemic problem, one that often goes unchecked or unchallenged, and needs to be addressed head-on.

Knowing this problem exists, how can we, as a society, aim to tackle it as we are with regard to the schoolyard. After all, the workplace really is just another institution with a different name…

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