|Categories:||Human Resources Job Bullying|
Workplace mobbing is the act of using verbal or non-verbal abuse to create a hostile environment in the workplace towards another person or people in the workplace.
It is understandable that when people are confined to working closely together, interpersonal conflicts may arise due to the diversity of characters.
The key element of workplace mobbing is manifested in hostility. Workplace mobbing is fast rising as a recurrent social problem.
A 2012 online survey undertaken by JobsCentral established that 24% of the interviewed Singaporean employees reported being victims of workplace bullying (Crothers & Lipinski, 2014).
Expression of Workplace Bullying
In the case of physical abuse and verbal abuse, the mobbing is quite evident. These are rarely hidden by the aggressor and can be quickly pointed out by the victim (Einarsen, 2011).
However, there are other forms of bullying that are done with subtleness. An example is sexual harassment.
Employee under duress
A survey undertaken by the Association of Women for Action and Research (Aware) claims that over 50 % of Singaporean employees who took part in the study - 500 men and women reported having experienced sexual harassment at a point in their career. 30% said they had faced repeated unwanted sexual advances (Crothers & Lipinski, 2014).
The definition of harassment can be highly subjective. While a gentle pat on the rear end may be a playful gesture to some, others would regard it akin to molestation.
There is the use of suggestive comments and inappropriate undertones in the workplace. However much statistics implicate men as the most common aggressors in sexual harassment, women have also perpetrated a lot of sexual harassment (Caponecchia & Wyatt, 2011).
Another form of subtle harassment is the passive aggressive individual who has an underlying hostile attitude. They express themselves via a fake smile or a smirking face. They may also look daggers at the victim just to establish their feelings of adversity towards the victim.
There is also the abusive under-miner who takes it upon themselves to express their feeling of perceived or otherwise existing superiority. They analyze everything the victim does and provide criticism at every turn. The aggressor is usually biased and subjective.
Some pretend to be friendly and hospitable. They act nice and get to know their victim and the victims weaknesses. They then recoil by abruptly switching attitudes and adopting condescending or outright abusive attitudes. They have the advantage of knowing their victims weakness and use it to exploit the victim.
How much is Too Much?
The line between harassment and authority has been questioned severally especially when a senior berates a junior over a mistake (Duffy & Sperry, 2012).
The point at which the debate crosses the line from management style to harassment or verbal abuse is fine indeed.
Employee under pressure
The question of whether it is bullying if a supervisor incessantly swamps a junior with work remains a grey area.
To resolve this matter, the parameters of bullying have to be understood.
Aware defines bullying as not only making unwanted sexual advances, but also employing disparaging and demeaning terms. Moreover, there are threats to career and termination or withholding of benefits.
According to the Workplace Bullying Institute (WBI), bullying is the consistent, health afflicting exploitation of a person or people by an individual or group (Caponecchia & Wyatt, 2011). Intentional obstruction or sabotaging work activities is another manifestation of bullying.
Bullying triggers stress- related symptoms and induces emotional pain. Data from the Workplace Bullying Institute states that 32.3% of victims of bullying involved themselves in behavior that was harmful to their wellbeing (Crothers & Lipinski, 2014).
Among the most common forms of self-abuse were eating disorders, alcoholism, drug abuse and gambling. 30% of bullying victims shunned social contact (Crothers & Lipinski, 2014).
Why Dont They Leave?
The reason why victims of workplace mobbing stick around is not evident to onlookers. Quitting is perceived as a smart choice. However, the victims are usually worried about loss of opportunity or income.
A poll by the WBI established that out of 241 bullied individuals, 53% of them underwent economic setbacks after quitting the abusive workplace. 26% of those who quit their jobs did not find alternative employment again (Crothers & Lipinski, 2014).
Combatting Workplace Bullying
First, the victim should establish the presence of a pattern of abuse (Caponecchia & Wyatt, 2011). Document facts relating to the abuse such as incidents that triggered them, the type of words used or actions done and possibility of witnesses.
After establishing these facts, face up to the relevant authority to report the abuse. Where a superior is involved, there is always a dilemma.
Legislation such as the Protection from Harassment Bill signed in the Singapore parliament in March 2014 plays a pivotal role in protecting the victims and dealing with perpetrators of workplace harassment.
However, more needs to be done to combat harassment where the victim is junior to the perpetrator with regards to the threat of loss in benefits. Moreover, structure need to be put in place to offer counseling and mentoring to victims and perpetrators of workplace mobbing.
The added advantage of counseling is it will prevent the development of a vicious cycle of abuse.
Gibbs (1988) reflective is a common model used for reflection. It is composed of six stages that flow sequentially and provide a guideline to writing a reflection. The steps in order are: Description, Feelings, Evaluation, Analysis, Conclusion and Action Plan. Gibbs model is at times called an iterative model because it emphasizes learning by repetition.
In the recent past, a video of a Singaporean office supervisor slapping an intern repeatedly has gone viral on internet video sharing sites. The video has elicited responses from many people, most of which express outrage at the incident. The matter was presented before the police and the Ministry of Manpower. After watching the video, I could not refrain from recalling earlier days when I was an intern at a public hospital in a large town. The superintendent at the hospital was renowned for her short and unmanageable temper. She had previously once slammed a door to a meeting room till the handle broke, swore obscenities at interns, doctors and nurses alike. She also hurled foul utterances at patients and did not even flinch or show remorse for it. She also threatened physical abuse at anyone who crossed her stormy path.
The specific incident occurred when she barraged an intern with such severity, making the intern to breakdown in a flood of tears and was unable to carry out her duties for quite a while. The intern was quite a nervous wreck for weeks after that; afraid of upsetting anyone in any way. The behavior was clearly beyond tolerable in what defines workplace environment culture. As observed in the poster, the behavior was outright bullying by a senior staff member on junior.
I was completely galled at this behavior. My annoyance was with the superintendent and other staff who condoned the behavior. As observed by Lim, Lee, Xiao, & Atwater, there might exist a culture of silence when it comes to reacting to abusive behavior in the workplace. The perpetrator being a superior, many employees chose to turn a blind eye to her misgivings. As a result, the superintendent gained strength in her campaign of abuse. It was frustrating whenever I recalled the incident. I could not get the images off my mind. I was always sighing with frustration at the recollection of the memory.
I was completely appalled at the incident and desired the existence of a management structure- as proposed in the poster- that would not tolerate such behavior in the workplace. Such hostile behavior in the workplace impedes the provision of services by some members of the work force (Savage & Miller, 2011). I could not help but develop a negative attitude towards the superintendent because her behavior had seriously shocked me. I could not believe that such behavior was condoned in the workplace. Such behavior should not be socially acceptable.
On a positive note, I was subjected to shock therapy by the incident. Since I had witnessed an extreme case of harassment, wherever Id go, I would always be prepared for the worst. Moreover, I managed to talk to the intern who was victimized in an attempt to try remedying the situation. She got out of it stronger and less susceptible to succumb to pressure. At first, she had experienced denial, as highlighted by Tehrani, victims of abuse may at times blame themselves (2012). As a victim, the intern was convinced whatever it was, was completely her fault and the superintendent was only reacting to her terrible mistake. She was angry at herself for being imperfect. This is a state observed by Tehrani to affect victims of abuse which leaves a dent in their self-esteem and sense of self-worth.
The intern resorted to binging on food. As observed by Gillard, victims tend to resort to activities that either give them a sense of self-worth or consume their time so they cannot have negative thoughts (2014). As a result of this, many victims of harassment end up doing drugs, alcohol or get depressed, as observed in the poster.
The consequence of my observations was to realize that workplace mobbing was a prevalent problem that when allowed to persist settles in firmly I the workplace. The victims are left to suffer from a negative culture that has been allowed to embed itself in the workplace (Wumbus Corporation, 2010). The tradition of victimization rots itself firmly in the workplace to a point where other employees do not see it as abuse, but rather a common occurrence that is left to its own devices.
In addition, there is a tendency to turn a blind eye to the bullying practice that leads to its acceptance and consequent adoption by other people who previously did not exhibit such character (Prakash, 2012). The vicious cycle as described in the poster is completed when people who are bullied or accept abuse in the workplace turn into abusers themselves. As observed by Einarsen, people tolerant to abuse are prone to subconsciously adopt the practice and carry it out without guilty conscience because they are used to it as an acceptable practice (2011). The result is that it is difficult to tackle abuse in the workplace especially when it has been tolerated long enough to become acceptable practice. The psychological impact that leads to acceptance of workplace bullying is difficult to reverse.
Combatting workplace mobbing is an uphill task where it has manifested itself firmly. I could have risked my internship position and peace of mind or both and approached the superintendent and her superiors. Whichever option that I would take, -including doing nothing- had consequences. If I remained quiet, I would risk missing the opportunity to stop a growing threat to a tolerable working environment. The option of facing the superintendent would have either led to unfair dismissal, or attract the continued wrath of the monster. The option of facing the abuser is usually avoided where the perpetrator is a superior (Duffy & Sperry, 2012). The consequences of approaching a superior can be dire: including losing th...
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