Bullying at work - the art of making someone feel like a nobody
8th February 2010
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In the course of my work, I come across a great number of people who feel they're being bullied in the workplace. Whether they're being over-sensitive or have a genuine grievance is obviously down to the individual case, but generally there is much more awareness about discrimination and bullying in general, and people are speaking out.

Not so very long ago such things were dealt with very differently, and if the power went to a managers head - or they simply lacked the management skills required to deal properly with people - then it was employee beware. Their staff might feel propelled back to their schooldays and would spend the day metaphorically ducking the work-equivalent of a well-aimed board rubber.

Now there are rules in place, and modern Employment Law is there - or should be - to protect both the staff and business, and help get the best out of working relationships.

It's still a minefield though for people on both sides of the fence, and sometimes an objective third party should be introduced to make sure of fair play. Irenicon - based in Croydon - are employment law specialists and a great source of information, for instance. Irenicon have great newsletters and info available on their website, and a range of services available. Plus their initial 20 minutes advice is free - that might be enough to decide whether they can help you further.

Sometimes the sense of being bullied can start because the manager feels the employee is under-performing, and embarks on a course of 'performance management'. Setting unrealistic goals in order to 'encourage' someone to leave however is a big no-no, but a method frequently used and often not too subtly. Add to this a few tactless remarks or hostile behaviour, and bosses could end up in hot water.

Take the scenario of someone who dreaded going in to work every day, simply because he thought his boss was unnecessarily over-critical and frequently sarcastic towards him. Imagine this was 25 years ago and he ended up leaving for a (much better) job as a direct result of the constant harassment. Jump forward to the same situation today - he'd be able to take his firm to the cleaners because of his boss' behaviour. Lucky for them our scenario is set before attitudes towards work-place bullying changed eh.

The outcome for our unfortunate victim? His boss stayed in middle-management,  prefering to yell than learn to use email, and consistently fails to see the potential in his staff.

Our man however is now a Director in a successful engineering company with regular performance bonuses and a holiday home in the Cotswolds. I wonder which one has the most (job) satisfaction now?


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Katrina Monroe is a freelance writer and photographer with The Little White Studio.

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