Workplace bullying: Who really is the king of the castle?

By Silke Rathbone

There is a zero-tolerance for bullying worldwide. More recently, and specifically, there’s been a zero-tolerance for bullying in the workplace.

While many will think of workplace harassment as a sexual act or abusive language directed to others, it extends to so much more. Yes, these are serious and need to be dealt with, however, the less likely culprits often get overlooked and are not generally akin to bullying or harassment.

Picture this: The new manager tasks you to make sure a particular project is completed and ready for handover by the 30th of the current month.  You ensure due diligence and make sure all is running smoothly.  You have many people to manage but, so far, all is going well.  The morning of the 29th arrives, and you stroll into work only to be met by a scowling CEO who demands to know why the project did not go out the day before. You calmly explain that it is only due on the 30th.  You’re sure you hear a snigger from the manager’s office when the CEO shows you a printed email from the client complaining that they did not receive the work on the due date as agreed. As you sit down at your desk, you realise that this is not the first time your manager has given you the wrong date and not the first time he has made sure you were held responsible with clever paperwork.

This is workplace bullying!

Another scenario: You have been diagnosed with Type 2 diabetes which means you cannot eat any of the workplace lunches on offer. Although you are one of two employees with eating issues, you find that they have not updated the type of food which is made available.

This is similar to discrimination but also borders on bullying.

Sometimes the incidents can be subtle, and the victims would feel odd complaining. However, it is essential that clear lines of communication be set up and with guidelines on what bullying entails.


Who are the bullies?

The Workplace Bullying Institute (yes, such a place exists) published researched which showed that:

  • 60% of bullying was delivered by managers, supervisors and bosses to their subordinates
  • 30% was from co-workers to their colleagues
  • A small percentage was from lower-level employees who were seen to be bullying their supervisors
  • A high percentage (70%) were male, and only 30% female


How to make sure your workplace eliminates bullies

  1. Put a clear policy in place about what is unacceptable employee and employer behaviour
  2. Have regular communication portals set up where everyone can openly discuss issues – and allow for anonymous communication too
  3. Analyse stress levels and how to alleviate them as many times bullying is brought on by highly stressed people and situations


Labour Excel specialises in offering a variety of Labour Law and HR Solutions.  Silke Rathbone, one of the Principal Partners, has crafted and honed her skillset and assists corporates and individuals along the Labour journey to ensure they understand what is required of them at all levels.

Written by Editor


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