Tips for managers, supervisors and team leaders to identify the often subtle signs of bullying in the workplace.
By: Alison Valente, L&D Consultant - HR and Legal specialist
Bullying in the workplace can often go unnoticed as it is usually the culmination of multiple acts of intimidating and threatening behaviour over an extended period of time. This can make proactively dealing with cases of bullying difficult.
But there are signs to look out for that can help you identify if the actions of some employees including managers are taking a bullying shape:
- Acts of deceit – More than just a little white lie, bullying can often be the result of acts of deception, with an individual repeatedly creating false career hopes or blatantly lying to get their own way. This can include the bully deliberately withholding information from their victim in a way that impacts the victim’s ability to perform in their job. Blame shifting and scapegoating are also indicators of this pattern of deception.
- Ignoring and isolating – Forgetting to add a member of staff to certain meetings sometimes happens. When this kind of behaviour is deliberate and repeated, it amounts to bullying. This also takes the shape of the bully selectively greeting or interacting with people other than their victim, making them feel socially or physically isolated from a group. Additionally, withholding information or even providing the wrong information can be another possible sign.
- Undermining or minimising - Deliberately delaying and blocking an employee’s work or progress, or repeatedly undermining their decisions in work related choices, is another clear sign. This is usually accompanied by deliberate acts by the bully to minimise any concerns the victim raises about their treatment, or to rationalise and defend the bullying behavior. In some cases, undermining can also take the form of actively removing the victim’s responsibilities in certain work projects and repeatedly criticising the work they are involved in which may be in private or in front of colleagues, peers and clients.
- Shame and guilt - Making an employee constantly feel that they are the problem when issues arise, and actively shaming or making them feel inadequate and unworthy is another clear bullying tactic that, combined with undermining, can lead to serious problems. Related to this is repeatedly taking credit for that person’s successes.
- Constant change and inconsistency – Inconsistent behaviour including mood swings from supportive to patronising, along with constant changes in expectations, guidelines and scope of assignments are other signs to be aware of.
- Verbal abuse - This mainly includes the bully raising their voice inappropriately to a victim, which may include swearing or making inappropriate comments which are offensive or demeaning.
Dealing with workplace bullying can be a complex and sensitive matter. If you are unsure of what to do, then get in touch with EEF’s team of HR and legal professionals. Our team is on hand with expert advice to add strength to your own team with decades of experience in dealing with the issues that matter to you.