Bullying and Harassment in the Workplace

Bullying at work is a serious issue that harms both individuals and the entire organization.

 – Sabira Ranjit –

Bullying or harassment is putting someone in a situation of discomfort. It could be as harsh as torture or big torment that could create conflicts among employees and serious disciplinary issues in an organization. There are many types of bullying and harassment, but in this article, we will discuss manager bullying.

Bullying at work is a serious issue that harms both individuals and the entire organization. Bullying of subordinates by managers can have a negative impact on the employees, such as an increase in staff turnover, decrease in productivity, quiet quitting and lowered morale. It is the duty and responsibility of managers to manage systems and processes in the workplace. They work to manage the workflow of their respective departments as well as the staff within the departments and to build good relationships with other departmental colleagues.

There could be various reasons for bullying. In a country like ours where diversity is vast when it comes to caste, gender, region, and language, it could create differences leading to bullying. Not everyone can understand the value of diversity. So, there could be possible chances of being bullied who are less in number in the organization by those who are in majority. That’s why we expect top-level management and the HR department to talk about diversity and embrace it. At the same time, we expect the department heads to treat everyone fairly avoiding favoritism. Though we want this, sometimes managers themselves lose respect towards their subordinates. There is a legal provision on how many percentages of different caste people should be accommodated in any organization, but it seems that none of the organizations are following the arrangements of the country’s labor law. We can see such legal arrangements implemented strictly in many countries of the world. Even the differently abled people get employment opportunities. In a rare example in this regard in Nepal, recently there was a post regarding a vacancy from the Academy of Culinary Arts for differently-abled individuals which is much appreciated.

While talking about bullying, even the best employee could be bullied. Fear of competition may be a factor in some bosses bullying their finest workers. A manager may feel intimidated by an employee’s high level of competence and talent, and in an effort to maintain their own sense of power and control, they may try to undermine and belittle the individual. This is one of the common issues in most organizations. This leads good employees to leave their jobs to search for better opportunities. However, many employees also do not confront the managers or at least give it try to improve the relationship with their managers. So, HR must create a platform where employees can raise their voices and will be heard.

The manager may be dealing with their own fears and low self-esteem, which is a plausible explanation. In this situation, people could try to counteract their feelings of inadequacy by harassing and undermining others, particularly those who are viewed as more successful or brilliant. This happens when you hire someone in a senior position without more experience than the existing employee. This is why it is always better to have an internal promotion that is cost-effective and demonstrates an opportunity for growth.

In some situations, the manager could not be aware of how their behavior is hurting their staff, and in those cases, a lack of empathy or emotional intelligence could also play a role. They could be so preoccupied with accomplishing their own objectives or living up to their own standards that they neglect to take into account the feelings and welfare of their workers. In my experience working with a company where 75 different nationalities were present, I felt employees occasionally feel bullied or uncomfortable due to language, cultural and ethical differences.

Also, some bosses might think that harassing their best workers will encourage them to work even harder. Yet, studies have shown that this strategy is ineffective and can instead result in burnout and lower productivity. I still remember in of the companies I worked where a manager bullied his subordinates to a level that we had to conduct a training called ‘Dignity & Respect.’ This kind of manager is usually those people who spent half of their lifetime in the company and got the position for their loyalty and not for their skills.

A manager who abuses their finest workers occasionally may be dealing with personal problems that are influencing their behavior. For instance, they might be lashing out at others because they are going through a tough personal situation, like going through a divorce or suffering from mental health problems. In this case, before hiring a manager, a reference check must be done. Especially, pre-employment tests like job knowledge, integrity, cognitive ability, personality, emotional intelligence, skill assessment, and physical ability tests must be carried out.

Nepotism or favoritism also provide some managers to act harshly. If they realize they can do anything, and no action will be taken against them for having a good connection to the owner or top management, they start interfering in every activity of the company and poke their nose in all the departments. They will try to show that they are an all-rounder and the one person who has serious concerns about the growth of the company. However, managers like these ruins the reputation of the organization.

Regardless of the causes of bullying, it is critical for businesses to combat it and support a respectful, professional workplace atmosphere. This can be accomplished by having clear-cut workplace policies and procedures, training for managers and staff on how to identify and stop bullying, and a commitment to holding those who engage in bullying behavior accountable. Avoiding these kinds of behavior from managers might lead the good employee to leave the company or remain demotivated.

Organizations can help assure the success of their top employees and the organization’s overall success by fostering a supportive and enjoyable work environment. Different methods of measure could be helpful to do so. Appraisals are one of the ways to measure the performance of employees. It provides employees and managers to discuss on drawbacks or skills of the employee. The appreciation and recognition programs also encourage staff to get motivated. A fair and satisfactory decision must be carried out by creating a checklist while choosing the best employee or doing appraisals.

Being in HR, we must follow up with all the employees occasionally or casually on how they are doing in their job or in the department. The welfare committee could be helpful for HR to monitor employee welfare. A platform for an employee to raise their voices and to be heard must be created. Different training on “anti-harassment” must be conducted across the organization. Everyone in an organization has the right to be respected and valued. Even to create a positive working environment, HR needs to have a progressive debate with those managers or top management teams who are unknowingly providing the space for bully or harassment to happen. Let’s stand together against “bullying & harassment” in any organization.

Ranjit is a Hospitality HR professional.

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