Breaking the silence on workplace bullying
The head of department constantly interrupts and actively prevents others from speaking in meetings. He scoffs when they share ideas or make suggestions.
A manager at a financial services company publicly trashes another manager’s new strategy, tearing it apart without taking time to truly understand what she is saying.
The lead supervisor at a security firm makes snide remarks about a colleague during team meetings. He publicly denounces other supervisors, too.
What the three have in common is that they are bullies.
Bullies at the workplace are described as people who will take any opportunity to publicly humiliate other people on something they consider a weakness or imperfection.
They will manufacture lies out of the blues and spread them around the office with an aim of mentally torturing the victim.
The point is to make victims feel unequal. Sometimes they will constantly be physically assaultive and other times micromanaging other colleagues.
Bullies scare, shock, embarrass and far too often are tolerated at the workplace.
Mostly because everyone avoids to deal with them, colleagues do not want the attack or face a conflict and the discomfort of confronting such as a person.
So, they either pretend the bully is not wreaking havoc or they grit their teeth and tolerate him.
Working as a cabin crew with a local airline, Sheiroze Vitolah was forced to quit her job after months of bullying by her supervisor.
The bullying was so bad that she would be denied breaks from work forcing her to work a full week without rest.
“I would be scheduled to fly with literally no breaks at all. It was so hectic for me travelling every day. I had no time for myself and my family. I definitely felt bullied by the supervisor,” she says.
Vitolah says there was nothing she could do about the said supervisor. One day, she could not take the bullying anymore and so she tendered her resignation. Today, she runs her own beauty line.
For Beata Mbula, a mother of two and hotelier, she did not have the luxury of quitting her job as much as she was being bullied at her workplace.
“I once worked with a manager who always frustrated my efforts at a hotel I worked in as a cashier.
She would deliberately schedule me to work on the less busy days so that I could come off as incompetent to my bosses,” shares Beata.
Beata says her manager’s snide remarks made her feel unwanted. “She would tell the bosses that I couldn’t handle the desk when we had many clients, but in reality, she wasn’t giving me a chance,” she painfully recalls.
However, unlike Vitolah who chose to take the exit route, Beata decided to face her bully head on.
“I resolved to ignore the supervisor completely, mentally blocked her actions from affecting my performance and worked hard to prove to my bosses and the rest of my colleagues that I was not the weakling that the manager was trying to paint about me,” she adds. She succeeded.
Beatrice Muragire, a psychologist points out that adult bullies at the workplace are normally assertive, outgoing and confident.
In the corporate world, these traits are highly valued. Consequently employers may not be keen to address cases of harassment relating to their high performing employees.
She says adults can become bullies as a result of work related stress, flawed personality and upbringing.
“Some bullies may have narcissistic personality disorder, whereby the individual possesses an exaggerated sense of self importance, entitlement and lack of empathy for others.
A narcissist supervisor or colleague may exploit junior employees by withholding information that affects their performance so that they fail in the assigned task,” she explains.
They take no criticism and that is why some of them may physically assault anyone questioning their decisions. They also possess poor anger management skills.
Muragire further notes that when aggression is used as a parenting style in childhood, this is likely to present in adulthood.
The child may imitate aggression that was modelled by the parents hence becoming a bully in adulthood.
“In adulthood the adult may become a bully because they assumed that position since childhood,” she says.
And sometimes, pressure at the workplace may prompt some people to project their frustrations to others.