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Employee Wellness

Creating Safe Spaces: 5 Ways To Manage Workplace Bullying

Workplace bullying is defined as “repeated mistreatment of an employee by one or more employees; abusive conduct that is threatening, humiliating, or intimidating; work sabotage; or verbal abuse.” This is according to the Workplace Bullying Institute, the first and only organization in the United States dedicated to the eradication of workplace bullying.

Workplace bullying is more prevalent than we think. According to a worldwide poll conducted last October 2019 by global online employment solution firm Monster, 90% of respondents said they have been bullied at work. Of these 51% said they were bullied by their superiors, nearly 40% said their bullying came from a fellow coworker, while 4% said they were bullied by a client, customer, or someone else other than a coworker.

What workplace bullying looks like

According to MindNation psychologist Jessa Mae Rojas, examples of workplace bullying include targeted jokes, being purposely misled about work duties, continued denial of requests for time off without an appropriate or valid reason, threats, humiliation, and other verbal abuse, and excessive performance monitoring.

She clarifies, however, that criticism is not always bullying. “If the criticism is relayed objectively, constructively, and directly related to workplace behavior or job performance, then it is not workplace bullying,” she explains. “It becomes bullying only if the criticism is meant to intimidate, humiliate, or single someone out without reason.”

Effects of workplace bullying

A bullied employee can develop physical issues such as digestive problems,  high blood pressure, or have trouble sleeping. They may also suffer from mental health conditions like depression, anxiety, low self-esteem, and even suicidal thoughts. Business leaders need to address workplace bullying because it can impact the organization negatively in the following ways:

  • Financial loss resulting from legal costs or bullying investigations
  • Decreased productivity and morale
  • Increased employee absences
  • High turnover rates
  • Poor team dynamics
  • Reduced trust, effort, and loyalty from employees

What you can do

As a leader, here are some ways you can manage workplace bullying:

  1. Keep communication lines open. “Regularly check in with your team to find out if bullying is occurring, or if there are factors likely to increase the risk of workplace bullying,” Jessa explains.
  2. Offer employees easy-to-access, confidential mental health benefits with a focus on preventative tools and intervention.
  1. Address all concerns and all forms of aggression. Adopt a zero-tolerance policy towards inappropriate behavior. “Additionally, periodically review your organization’s anti-bullying policies and procedures so team members feel safe and supported in raising a complaint when it first arises,” she suggests.
  2. Arrange, support, and attend training. Teach staff how to resolve conflicts peacefully, give feedback constructively, or reduce their unconscious bias.
  3. Assess your leadership style. According to the Monster poll on bullying, more than half of bullied employees said that their workplace bully was their boss. “So review your own actions to know if your behavior might cross the line to bullying. Ask a trusted colleague for their opinion, and seek help if needed,” Jessa says.

Workplace bullying impacts the morale, retention, and productivity of everyone in the team. As a leader, don’t wait for workplace bullying to become a problem before you address it. Creating a safe space at work makes good sense from a physical, mental, and financial perspective. MindNation conducts virtual trainings on managing difficult conversations at work, reducing unconscious bias, and creating safe spaces at work so that your team can manage conflict peacefully and get along with others. Email [email protected] to book a training now!

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Featured Mental Health 101 Self Help

How to Stay Sane on Social Media (Cyberbullying)

Cyberbullying is defined as the use of electronic communication to torment a person, typically by sending hurtful or threatening messages. Other forms of cyberbullying include:

  • Posting sensitive, private information about a person for the purpose of hurting or embarrassing that person
  • Pretending to be someone else in order to make that person look bad and/or to intentionally exclude someone from an online group
  • Making cruel websites about a person
  • Spreading rumors online or through texting

Celebrities are the most common victims of cyberbullying because of their heightened online presence, but anyone with a social media account can be a target – men, women, and even children. 

If you are being attacked online, it can create anxiety and stress and even possibly lead to panic attacks and depression. Your self-esteem, confidence, and social skills can also be affected. But don’t worry, there are ways you can restore some control over the situation. Below are 10 steps you can take if you are being cyberbullied:

  1. Do not engage. Those who cyberbully want you to react. But if you respond angrily, the one doing the bullying may feed off of that response and continue (or even escalate the severity of) the cyberbullying. Plus, there could be consequences for your response – they might turn the tables and accuse YOU of bullying them.
  1. Block/delete/ban the bullies. Out of sight is out of mind. But if the bullying still persists, proceed to step 3. 
  1. Take screenshots of everything. Before you report the bully, keep evidence of all content (pictures, texts, emails, tweets, status updates, blog posts) that the person has sent or posted about you. You can even make screen recordings of Snapchat, Facebook, or Instagram Stories. You will need them as evidence when you proceed to step 4. 
  1. Report it to your employer or the police. If the person harassing you is a co-worker, then your employer needs to know about it because it is preventing you from doing your job. If threats of physical harm are made, or if the cyberbullying starts to get more dangerous, you can file charges with the police.

5) Report the bullying to the site or network on which it occurs. Every reputable website has a “Report” feature that allows you to tell them about behaviors that violate their terms of use. Guilty parties will then be banned. 

6) Tighten up your privacy settings. Make sure that only those personally known to you have access to your content. If this still fails, proceed to the next step.

7) Change your profile on social media. Set up a new online account completely. Use a different name, photo, and even contact details.

8) Talk about it with someone. Talking to someone about what you are going through, even if it is just to vent, can be very therapeutic. They might have gone through similar situations and could be able to give you advice. If you think you may be experiencing overwhelming depression or anxiety, seek out counselling. 

Never tolerate cyberbullying. Even a short duration of being a cyber-victim can impact your mental well-being. By taking the steps above, you can take back your right to live peacefully and safely.