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It’s prominent in most workplaces, it’s one of the most talked about aspects of working life, yet, it is still on the rise and evidently, we aren’t doing enough to prevent it.

Workplace bullying

Maybe we don’t raise the awareness of workplace bullying and harassment enough, maybe we just don’t know what to look for when at work or maybe we just accept it as part of everyday working life and it has become something of the norm?

The UK continues to lose approximately £120 million a year due to disputes and around £13 billion per annum from sickness absences which may be directly associated with workplace bullying and stress. It simply isn’t good enough.

Working closely with board members at the National Anti-Bullying Workplace Award (NABWA), we have put together a list of 5 common ‘signs’ to look out for when trying to spot workplace bullying and harassment. You never know, it might be happening right under your nose, you just don’t realise it…

1: Unnecessary shouting, aggressive behaviour or threats.

It’s obvious! Aggression is an ultimate sign of workplace bullying. If you see someone becoming aggressive towards one of your colleagues, you should take it upon yourself to raise this issue by following the correct internal procedures and reporting it to management. Do not interfere, however, try and defuse the situation in a professional manner if possible.

One thing to remember is that the perpetrator may be suffering from workplace related stress issues themselves, causing them to act irrationally. They may need additional support and help too.

2: Misuse of power or position to make someone feel uncomfortable or victimised.

Mis-management is one of the main causes of workplace bullying, that’s a fact.

Managers (or persons of power) in an organisation may not have received correct or suitable training in effective people management. They may have suffered themselves and use these past experiences as motivation to enforce power over their staff.

On some occasions, managers can assert their power in deliberate ways to make an individual uncomfortable at work. This particular act can be classified as workplace bullying.

The manager may be unaware of the effects of their actions and may genuinely believe that they are managing in the way they are expected to by the organisation. It is not until the issue is raised that most managers change their management style and adapt their behaviours to get the best out of their employees.

Raising the awareness of effective management techniques will ensure that managers are in a good position to develop their own staff, thus creating a positive and more productive workplace.

3: Blocking promotion or progress from their current position.

Most of us have witnessed this. A person exists who is amazing at their job, but they are continually overlooked for possible promotion opportunities. Primarily, this may be because they are outstanding in their current role, which you could say is a good thing, but standing in someone’s way of a promotion is certainly unreasonable when that person is actively looking to take the next step in their career.

Some managers may also feel ‘threatened’ by a person applying for promotion and may continually overlook them for their own job security.

4: Being put down or made to feel like the ‘butt of the joke’.

Some workplace bullies are smart. They deliberately make jokes and put specific members of staff down about different aspects of their work, personal life or even their appearance.

Occasionally, these workplace bullies crack jokes about fellow staff thinking it is keeping the workplace lively and fun, but, little do they know, it is having the opposite effect and the victims will quickly become despondent and disillusioned with their working environment.

If you notice someone who is always the butt of the joke, think. How are they feeling? How are they responding to the ‘banter’? A classic response is unreserved laughing and leaving the room shortly after the jokes begin.

It’s not about killing the banter, it’s about preserving someone’s feelings and welfare at work.

5: Making threats about job security without any basis or substance.

This is another typical, covert sign of workplace bullying. We recently filmed an amateur video ‘The Episodes of Dennis’ at our NABWA headquarters. Dennis is an example of a poor man manager and he likes to remind staff that they can be replaced in a heartbeat. Although this was exaggerated for comedy value, it represents a common occurrence in workplaces across the UK. It would be fair to state that some managers think this type of behaviour is ascertaining their authority, rather than workplace bullying.

These are just 5 of the many signs to look out for. Workplace bullying is undoubtedly taking its toll on individuals’ mental health and wellbeing. These unwanted figures continue to rise as competition heats up for jobs and pay rises across all organisations. The effects of bullying don’t just stop with the victim, it spreads to their family and beyond.

It’s now down to us as individuals, employees, business leaders, members of parliament, charity workers and public figures to take a united stand and put a stop to workplace bullying.

This week is National Anti-Bullying Week 2017, making it more of a reason to make a positive change in your organisation today. Think before you act, think before you speak. You never know what’s going on around you!

Mark Anderson, Managing Director, ACG Compliance

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