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  • Writer's pictureJudith Moeckell

Are you an unconscious workplace bully? 10 questions to ask yourself

Workplace bullying defined

Research tells us that bullying in the workplace has tripled in the past thirty years, and that it’s the greatest cause of work-related stress, and not just for minority groups.

But what is bullying?

The Civil Service defines bullying as “intimidating or insulting behaviour that makes an individual feel uncomfortable, frightened, less respected or put down” while another definition is “repeated exposure to negative actions over time”.

Examples can include:

·       False accusations of mistakes

·       Constant criticism

·       Gaslighting them

·       Intentional exclusion from projects and meetings

·       Comments and suggestions being ignored or summarily dismissed

·       Being shouted at – especially in front of other people


 The impact of workplace bullying

And anyone suffering from that kind of behaviour could end up with physical health concerns, together with mental and emotional issues such as stress and depression.

And as for companies tolerating that kind of behaviour, impacts of workplace bullying include low morale, reduced productivity, increased absenteeism and high staff turnover.


Why deliberate workplace bullying happens

In many cases abusive and aggressive tactics are thought to be the only way to get results, despite codes of practice being in place. And those tactics are tolerated (and often subtly encouraged) by those higher up the managerial scale, while those lower down that scale button their lip and get on with their work without intervening themselves, or even reporting those tactics.


Not all workplace bullying is deliberate

Often there’s the failure to take cultural differences into account, such as the concept of personal space (proxemics), type of eye contact, facial expressions, tone and volume of voice and the words used.

Many workplace bullies aren’t even aware that they’re bullies

It’s easy for others to define workplace bullies by simply observing their actions, but those actions are so ingrained that bullies themselves aren’t aware of them any more.


How to tell if you’re an unconscious workplace bully

Ask yourself these questions:

1.     Do you actually listen to what colleagues are saying?

2.     Do you celebrate (or care about or even want to know about) your colleagues’ personal and professional accomplishments?

3.     Do you ever show appreciation for what colleagues have done?

4.     Do you respect people’s time?

5.     Do you value the well-being of your colleagues?

6.     Do you belittle current and past colleagues?

7.     Do you make people feel bad if they’ve made a mistake?

8.     Do you shout at colleagues either in private or in public?

9.     Do you think arguments are only about winning?

10. Do you think you’re surrounded by idiots and don’t hide that fact?

If you answered mainly “no” to questions 1-5, and mainly “yes” to questions 6-10 then there’s the distinct possibility you’re regarded as a workplace bully – even though it’s not something you’re doing deliberately. After all, how many people do you know who wake up every workday morning looking forward to a full and productive day of bullying their colleagues … and the resulting lack of those colleagues' productivity?


How we can help

When we’re asked to assist where a company believes there may be pockets or a general toxic culture of bullying we don’t go on a witch hunt to identify and shame individuals. We don’t believe anyone wakes up in the morning thinking ‘who can I bully today’.

Ascertaining the general culture of a company is of course key and there are a number of ways we can help do this.  Once we have identified the issues we can recommend solutions to change that culture and reward good line management where the focus is on coaching and development of staff.

Because when people don’t feel psychologically safe, they feel they can’t disagree with their line manager or present ideas of their own, so innovation is stifled and the organisation suffers as a whole.

If any of this sounds uncomfortably familiar, then do give us a call. We can talk it through together, and then we’ll work out the most suitable plan of action for you and your organisation.

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