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Bullying culture

From Wikipedia, the free encyclopedia

Bullying culture refers to a context in which a pattern of bullying behavior has become ordinary or routine. Bullying cultures tend to emerge in work places, online, and in schools and can be emotion, physical, and verbal. Bullying culture can be particularly damaging because a group of people may act together to embarrass, threaten or intimidate others.[1]

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  • Workplace Bullying
  • Jordan Peterson: Being Tough and How to Deal With Harrasment an Bullying
  • Bullying: Fascinating Features and Intervention, with Prof. Alan Kazdin


Bullying at work is estimated to affect tens of millions of people in the U K and U S alone. It disfigures individual lives and it disfigures the workplaces in which it's allowed to take root from small family firms to world-renowned institutions. It thrives in silence: the silence of targets who are too intimidated to complain; of colleagues who witness bullying but don't speak up; of negligent employers who fail or refuse to deal with the problem. So let's bring the subject out into the open and talk about it. This video explains what workplace bullying is. It dispels some of the myths that bullies and their enablers use to try to play down the seriousness of the problem and looks at what employers should be doing to stamp it out. Workplace bullying is abusive behaviour that creates an intimidating or humiliating working environment with the purpose or effect of harming others' dignity, safety and well-being. It can take many forms: physical abuse; verbal abuse; making demands that go against terms of employment; isolating or excluding others; overloading; unfair monitoring; constant criticism; spreading malicious rumours; withholding information and resources; sabotaging someone else's work, or stealing credit for it; removing duties and responsibilities; and blocking advancement. There can be one or more targets or perpetrators and although bullying nearly always reveals itself in a pattern of behaviour it can consist of a single incident. Bullying is not a personality clash or a relationship conflict for which both parties are responsible. It's misconduct by the perpetrator. Nor do we need evidence of someone's intention before condemning *abusive* behaviour. There are standards of acceptable conduct; behaviour that violates those standards is unacceptable whether or not it's intentional and staying focused on behaviour also stops us getting tangled up in futile arguments about the motives of the perpetrator who is unlikely to admit intending to bully or cause harm. And contrary to what some would have us believe bullying is not a leadership style. It's the opposite of leadership. Leaders inspire and build functional teams. They value others, reward competence and encourage contribution. They set good examples holding themselves to the same high standards they expect of others. They aim for clarity, behave with integrity and maturity and take responsibility for their mistakes. They let others work without interfering. They resolve conflict. By contrast, bullies erode and disrupt functional teams. They may use team language but they're not team players. They devalue others, feel threatened by competent staff and stifle contribution. They set bad examples and exhibit hypocrisy. They pollute the workplace by projecting their own negative stuff onto others creating confusion and uncertainty. They lack integrity and maturity. They lie and blame others to disguise their own failings. They focus on petty fault-finding. They generate conflict. And when their bullying is rooted in personality problems their behaviour is unlikely to change. Bullying is bad news both for staff and for organisations. It causes staff stress-related illness and psychological injury. And it's extremely costly to employers losing them money and productivity through sickness absence. Failing to tackle bullying is a reliable way of losing good workers. Organisations that ignore it, allowing it to become a defining feature of the workplace lose loyalty, trust, good will, and valuable skills when staff leave. An employer's reputation also suffers when its neglect is publicly exposed. So there are many reasons why it's in the employer's interest to get rid of bullying. Employers who don't protect targets, who defend bullies and find excuses not to help not only fail their staff; they fail themselves. When bullying is reported, there's an opportunity for positive action. Employers who take bullying seriously protect targets act transparently and investigate thoroughly. They're also wise to the tricks bullies play, such as portraying themselves as victims when their targets complain. Making malicious allegations, a disciplinary offence in many companies is a well-known tactic to evade accountability and divert attention from the bully's misconduct, as shrewd employers are aware. On a broader level, responsible organisations develop specific anti-bullying policies incorporating informal and formal procedures. But policies are worthless if they're not followed. And as countless targets discover commitments declared in policy often don't translate into practice. Even world-famous organisations with awards for 'Investment in People' hide a shameful record of neglect when it comes to bullying. Instead of working to end it too many employers just get more creative at avoiding the issue forcing targets down formal grievance procedures rather than taking the matter in hand. Organisations committed to stamping out bullying are proactive; they don't make the injured party drive the process. If you're watching this video because you're being bullied and you're confused by your company's lack of action, be in no doubt: this is a familiar, predictable pattern. Many companies avoid action for months, even years so that targets already harmed by bullying will be so worn down they'll stop complaining or resign. But the scandalous reality is that what this inaction ends up doing all too often is leaving targets feeling suicidal. Bullying doesn't just damage companies and careers; it costs lives. Hadyn Olsen of Workplaces Against Violence in Employment - or WAVE a New Zealand organisation helping to make progress against bullying points out that it's one of the most common causes of workplace-related suicide noting the bitter irony that those who raise awareness about bullying are actually their companies' best friends championing the values of respect, dignity and safety. They're not trouble-makers but individuals who have the courage to speak up and seek change. How do employers handle bullying destructively? Some ignore it. Some fail to gather all the evidence, overlooking the scale of the problem. Some invent false advice to minimise the problem. One tactic here is to limit what people can report by excluding witness statements, for example. Any organisation truly concerned about abuse will want to know when it's going on from whoever sees it. Witness statements are a normal part of any genuine investigation. There's no reason to exclude them. Another tactic is to tell targets they can't refer to incidents already reported. This again is invalid advice to be roundly rejected. With bullying, all incidents remain relevant, because they establish a pattern. Some employers use buzzwords to discount complaints dismissing the issue as "a matter of perception", for example. But in fact, when we're talking about accepted standards of conduct all perceptions are not equally valid. There will be facts about how a bully has behaved. If they've breached accepted standards they should change their behaviour or leave the organisation. One route commonly suggested to targets of bullying is mediation a voluntary process in which an independent mediator helps two or more parties resolve a problem in a way that's acceptable to everyone. Mediators can speak with parties separately or together. Their role is not to judge or impose solutions, but to facilitate healthy communication. Mediation is a private process; parties normally sign an agreement to keep everything said during the process confidential. It can help resolve many kinds of dispute. But it's not a suitable method for addressing bullying. Leah McLay, a mediator working in New Zealand points out that, "Because of its confidential nature mediation doesn’t contribute to setting community standards of behaviour." Bullying, especially chronic bullying involving several targets is a form of violence, needing clear intervention. It should not be shrouded in a private process and it's not the target's responsibility to solve the perpetrator's behaviour problems. As Gary Namie, head of the Workplace Bullying Institute, points out: "The target is already compromised; you don't compromise the compromised." Certainly, bullies who've lied and denied their abuse have already destroyed the trust needed for mediation to work. We can also question mediation's emphasis on using neutral language. Bullying is not a neutral matter, and trying to reframe it in neutral terms will misrepresent the issue in the bully's favour. In this way, far from containing the problem, mediation can end up contaminating it. Often, targets of bullying need facts of the past acknowledged. Indeed, a bully's denial of facts is usually a key feature of the problem. However, mediation isn't geared to settling factual disputes but to achieving agreements about the future: another reason why investigation is more appropriate. Lastly, if your employer's already responded poorly to your complaint mediation may be mishandled too. It's not unknown, for example, for incompetent or biased employers who set up mediation to arrange it so the mediator speaks to the bully first. How can companies get it right? WAVE has published an interview with a C E O who shared how they rectified a toxic work culture. The Officer had been there two weeks when an employee came forward, terrified to report long-term bullying by a line supervisor. The previous General Manager had been asked to investigate by various people including members of the target's family. But despite having detailed bullying policies, the GM hadn't apply them. The new Officer acted swiftly, becoming the target's supervisor instead of the bully and organising an immediate formal investigation. The Officer assured the target there'd be a first response within seven days and kept to this timeline. By documenting everything in a diary the Officer was able to identify the bully's lies about the past. It was recommended that the bully start counselling which seemed to help her understand her bullying and what triggered it. But when her abuse worsened shortly after the counselling ended it was realised she wasn't going to change, and she was required to leave at which point the Officer noted how the bully who had at first presented herself as vulnerable and pathetic became "hard as nails". Her victim act evaporated in a transformation the Officer described as "incredible". This story has some classic elements that will be familiar to many targets of bullying. A company with detailed policies that hadn't been applied. A manager who buried complaints. A bully who feigned victimhood and lied. But in this case, thanks to the Chief Officer's principled approach a new, positive culture emerged. The situation was turned around because the bullying was properly investigated and the target was protected. This is genuine investment in people, not just in word but in deed. As the Officer explained, "If you just try and sweep it under the rug it will come out somewhere else. If you don’t address it when it's first handed to you it will get bigger and people will suffer more. As a manager you have a social responsibility to take on the needs of your team when they come to you for help." In the words of Steven Pinker, "There are standards for fair treatment and this is something that other people care about." Bullying is never a pleasant thing to deal with. But everything depends on how organisations respond when it's reported. Employers have a duty not to ignore or cover up this behaviour but to tackle it decisively. With too many organisations colluding with bullies to hide this abuse effectively deceiving their staff by boasting grand commitments in policy and routinely flouting them in practice we must break the silence and make a collective stand against this international disgrace creating Bully-Intolerant Workplaces that are healthy and productive and demanding that employers meet their duty of care. No one should be expected to put up with bullying or have their careers or well-being jeopardised in any way because of someone else's misconduct. The time is long overdue for us to educate our workforces about unacceptable behaviour and establish reliable systems that protect everyone from this scourge of our workplaces. We can and must do better.


Bullying in the Workplace and Other Organizations

Main articles: Organizational culture and Workplace bullying

Bullying in organizations occurs when employees and managers carry out abusive behavior. The Workplace Bullying Institute, defines workplace bullying as "...repeated, health-harming mistreatment of one or more persons (the targets) by one or more perpetrators".[2] Some of the characteristics of workplace bullying include, but are not limited to humiliation, intimidation, sabotage, verbal abuse, and more. Bullying is prevalent in organizations where employees and managers feel that they have the support or implicit blessing of senior managers to carry on their abusive behavior.[4]

The impact of bullying in the workplace can be highly negative. According to the 2017 WBI U.S. Workplace Bullying Survey, "Bullied individuals pay dearly with the loss of their economic livelihood to stop it. In the absence of legal prohibitions against it, employers are failing to take responsibility for its prevention and correction."[3]

Online Bullying

Online or cyber bullying has a broad definition. It is defined as, "...using electronic means to harm intentionally an intended target (victim)".[4] Cyber bullying is considered different from traditional bullying because of several distinguishing factors. One thing that makes cyber bullying different from traditional bullying is that it is not face to face; cyber bullying can happen anywhere and anytime. Cyber bullying can have a greater impact on the victim than traditional bullying because it is public and anyone can witness it. It is also unique in that material used in cyber bullying "is difficult, if not impossible, to eliminate".[5]

School Bullying

Bullying in school usually involves but is not limited to teasing, insulting, tormenting, intimidating, or behaving verbally or physically aggressive toward a victim. Bullying can be carried out by a child or a group of children. The dynamic between the bully and victim causes an imbalance of power, which makes it difficult for the victim to seek help or defend themselves.[6] The culture of bullying in schools is directly related to the climate of a school's community. A 2002-2009 statistic indicated that "10 percent of middle and high school students have had hate terms used against them, and over one third have seen hateful graffiti messages".[7]

Although schools may promote positive behavior, in order to eliminate bullying, a school must create a positive setting outside the school and throughout the community.  


  1. ^ "beyondblue". Retrieved 2018-09-26.
  2. ^ " Definition". Retrieved 2018-09-26.
  3. ^ "Workplace Bullying Institute Survey 2017". Retrieved 2018-09-26.
  4. ^ Bonanno, Rina A; Hymel, Shelley. "Cyber Bullying and Internalizing Difficulties: Above and Beyond the Impact of Traditional Forms of Bullying". Journal of Youth and Adolescence. 42 – via ProQuest.
  5. ^ "Cyber Bullying Statistics".
  6. ^ "Gale - Product Login". Retrieved 2018-09-12.
  7. ^ "Bullying Statistics - Culture and Youth Studies". Culture and Youth Studies. 2014-03-04. Retrieved 2018-09-29.
This page was last edited on 28 October 2018, at 07:51
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