Bullying in the workplace can lead to high levels of mental stress, ill health and injury as indicated in a report released last year by The Economic and Social Research Institute. This is not a recent revelation as severe and continuous bullying in the workplace has been debilitating people at work long before studies on the subject were formalised.

This article gives a deeper understanding of the mentality behind bullying in the workplace and some preventative techniques and advice that may limit the negative interaction that currently exists in many office and work environments in Ireland.

The Bullied

Many people are susceptible to bullying in the workplace and this includes both men and women. The bully will always be able to identify who they can bully; this does not happen by chance. The reason why the bully is always able to target their victim is because the victim portrays a weakness that the bully can identify, the bully resonates the same fear, the same weakness, but through his/her life has managed to overcome this fear and weakness by a veneer of authority and aggression, and thus has become a bully.

When you analyse the bully and peer through the veneer and travel backwards through their life, you will find that the bully suffers from low self esteem, probably bullied as a child, they may have had strained or abusive parental relationships, they show no empathy as no empathy has been shown to them and they lack in social skills. The core of the problem, low self worth.

Let’s look at an example: Tom is a gentle soft man who works in an office. Tom was bullied when he was in school, in fact all of his school life, he was also bullied by his brothers and sisters, he was bullied by his parents, his friends bullied him, he married and his wife bullied him and in the work place, the same vicious cycle occurs. Tom is a prime target victim for any bully and bullies will seek the likes of Tom out and prey on his weakness.

You will very seldom see that a man who is in his forties is SUDDENLY being bullied at work. Why does this happen? In the majority of cases, it’s been a lifelong problem; a person is a target of bullying due to low self-esteem.

Low Self-Esteem

bullying Bullying in the WorkplaceIf our self-esteem is operating at below 50% we have a tendency to suffer all types of consequences of low self worth along with being bullied. This applies both in and out of the workplace. Just because you are in the corporate world and all the men and women are in suits and it all looks sophisticated and civilized, does not mean it is safe; it can be savage. Corporate bullying is manipulation at its finest and the bully will always identify its prey and will then manipulate. The bully will be able to identify the weak points of the bullied and will be able to hone in on those.

The manipulation will be so curt and underhand but inconsequential to other people.

The bullied can go home and feel so small and so low in themselves as a result of what has been said or done in the day. The manipulation of another human being is so destructive that the person who is being manipulated or bullied has no power over the process. As they feel powerless they are walking into an environment with a big red flag over their heads saying ‘I’m powerless, please come and bully me. ‘

The Bully

Why do people bully?

A bully is created purely from fear.

The bully is terrified all of the time and, surprisingly enough, the bully has no confidence and no self-esteem. He is devoid of both; he is also devoid of empathy and lacks social skills. But to hide this, he creates this ego persona of a very aggressive domineering person who is able to control others. It’s through his control of others that he feeds his energy.

If you look back over the years, the bully may have always gone through life bullying people. It was a mechanism learnt as a child that this was the only way the bully could get attention, affection and any sense of love. Any type of affection or attention is better than no affection or attention.

If we analyse how we train our children, we reward the child for good behaviour and we punish the child for bad behaviour. If a child can only get attention through bad behaviour then they will continue to use this tactic along their journey. The bully grows learning that bullying is a way, perhaps the only way to gain both affection and attention within his life.

Prevention of Bullying

The first step is to recognise that you are being bullied and acknowledge it with the acceptance of the occurrence. The next step is to decide what to do about it.

For a man that can be very hard to do, yet just because it has now been recognised and acknowledged, it doesn’t mean that the person is being weak. It simply means that they have recognised something that is causing them pain. The bully feeds on this emotional pain.

Consider that both the bully and the bullied are coming from a place of fear, the same place of low self worth. But the bully uses his control as a coping mechanism for low self-esteem whilst the bullied has suppressed his anger in fear of low self-esteem. The coping mechanism is engineered in a different way for survival.

The best way to alleviate the tendency to be bullied in the workplace is through rebuilding your own confidence and self-esteem to a level above 50%. The most productive approach to dealing with confidence issues is through counselling and hypnosis. A professional therapist will also be able to furnish the client the tools necessary to be able to manage their working environment and indeed their lives in a positive way.

Managing a Bully

bullyingOnce your confidence has been built up or re-established, you are able to deal with the bully. One of the techniques you can use is confrontation. The bully may begin their manipulative dialogue and you simply ask them ‘Why are you afraid of me?’

‘What is it about me that makes you afraid? why would you be afraid of me? What harm can I present to you? other than to know that you are deeply afraid, afraid of being exposed for the coward that you are.’

‘You are afraid of me for some reason. I bring out some form of fear. What is that?’

The bully will try to continue to control and own the conversation but, as long as you are strong enough and continually keep asking questions back to the bully.

With a manager you should say similar things in a less confrontational way. You say ‘I am recognising that you are a bully and I am also recognising that you can no longer bully me. If you choose to continue going down this road, then I will have to document all that has happened and I will have to bring it to the next level.’ I am no longer afraid of you!

By doing this you have shown to the manager that you have strength. If you are strong and if what you are saying is truth, then you should not be worried about what the manager is going to do.

You may decide not bring it to the next level but the manager does not knows your intention, but if he continues communicating with you using the same bullying tactics, then you can choose to expose him.

Many people in business, banking officials, and indeed government officials seem to find ways to incorporate bully boy tactics into their business practices in order to get their own way or what they want. The answer should always be “NO”.

All this can only be done though if you have taken the steps to build your confidence up over 50%. As your confidence grows above that, you can really, really challenge whoever or whatever you feel is creating that bullying energy towards you.

Take note though that although you may grow your own confidence enough to shut down a bully THEY are by no means fixed. YOU are fixed but they will just go and find another person to bully. The bully needs to talk about the problem and get the help they need to remedy that behaviour.

You may have identified you are being bullied, accepted it and sought help to change it; yet remember that it is much harder for the bully to do those three things. Awareness is 90% of the problem, now they must accept their role as a bully and take steps to get help.

The Corporate industry has to stand up and say I will not tolerate bullies.  We live in a time where we say that we will not tolerate bullying in the workplace, or anywhere. Some companies are actually very active about dealing with bullying but there are companies who let it slide and that is not acceptable.

Once the corporate world takes action against all types of bullying in the workplace they will find that productivity, motivation and positivity becomes the workplace norm. This will have a huge impact on both ROI and the working environment, which is what every business should want.