The Bully and the Pest

This is not the title of a new Hollywood movie or the title of a Disney Cartoon. This is serious and disturbing stuff.

What prompted me to look into the subject and write about it was the experience of a friend who suffered mentally and physically and had to resign from her job because of the behaviour of an arrogant and ignorant boss.

Bullying and sexual harassment at the work place are common daily occurrences which most of us have either witnessed or even experienced.

The typical bully is either an insecure colleague or a weak boss. Both try to assert themselves or boost their lacking authority by exercising power over others.

Bullying can take a variety of forms and shapes which include acts of verbal comments that could mentally and psychologically hurt a person or isolate that person in the work-place. It could be that the boss wants to force a person to leave or resign so he could appoint someone else in their place.

Bullying involves repeated incidents or a pattern of behaviour that is intended to intimidate, offend, degrade or humiliate a particular person.

Harassment, gossiping, verbal intimidation and demeaning others are the essential tools of the bully.

It is the assertion of power through aggression.

To illustrate the point further, I mention below a number of examples which are familiar to all of us:

-spreading malicious rumours, gossips and lies about a person the bully dislikes

-intimidate a person by verbal threats or abuse

-constantly change work guidelines

-make abusive and offensive jokes

-criticising a person persistently or constantly

-refer to a person’s religious denomination/nationality etc

-form alliances with others to further isolate the victim

Does it sound familiar?

Such tactics can cause stress, anxiety, fear, panic, illness or even force a person to leave.

What to do and how to deal with the bully?

Employment law practitioners suggest that the bullied person must confront the bully and explain to him how he or she feels.

Be calm, don’t yell or scream and don’t show signs of anger or aggression. (If you get angry and aggressive this will make things worse).

Legal experts advise that a person subjected to bullying should document even the smallest incidents, with times, dates and a brief summary of the incident. These incidents would become the most important pattern of bullying.

The bullied person needs to gather information which will become the tools to defend himself/herself to prove his/her case.

Sexual harassment

Sexual harassment is another minefield in the office environment which is also familiar to most of us.

Basically it is the unwelcome verbal, visual or physical conduct of a sexual nature. The key-word here is “unwelcome”. Conduct is not sexual harassment if it is welcome.

Sexual harassment can include inappropriate touching and embarrassing comments, sex-based jokes or innuendos.

It can also involve pressure being applied by the powerful person over the weaker person to provide sexual favours in exchange for promotion or a salary raise. The typical boss/secretary relationship comes to mind and here bullying and sexual harassment can overlap.

If the harasser who might be a boss or a co-worker makes you uncomfortable, you must tell him so in clear terms. If the harassment persists, the incidents must be documented and a complaint must be made to higher authority.

In conclusion and in the 21st century no one has to put up with bullying or sexual harassment at the work-place. The days when the boss can get away with bad behaviour are over.