Bullying is widespread in the work place and causes great distress to those who suffer it

It is important to recognise the wide variety of abusive behaviours in the workplace. They range from verbal, emotional, physical, and sexual to financial, all designed to exert power and control. Emotional bullying is the hardest to prove, which is why it is likely to be the most common. It is closely allied to verbal bullying. The entire process undermines a person, by intimidation and slander, or by giving one person’s work to another. Boycotting, isolation, sarcasm, whispering about a person in their presence, and making loud negative comments about their “incompetence” are all part of the abuser’s tactics. Spying, deceit, and stalking may accompany these behaviours. Perpetrators glare, they are rude, they scream, and they use threats of violence to render their victims helpless. Sexual abuse includes unwanted touching, fondling, kissing, lewd and sexual remarks or jokes. These actions may culminate in sexual assault and rape.
Workplace bullying is global, and like domestic abuse, it is greatly underreported. Females are more likely to be bullied than men are, although both men and women are equally likely to be bullies. Statistics vary greatly in different countries and in different careers. Statistics reported from the US are disturbing. At least 23 million workers are subject to bullying during their working lives, and the poison it engenders affects millions of families. A Dublin based study suggests that 5% of workers in the EU endure bullying. Careers in health, social work, education, public administration, and transport, are the most affected sectors. Studies in Finland show that workplace bullying, especially for women, has increased significantly since the 1990s. Unfortunately, as Margaret Kohut reveals in her blog, Understanding, Controlling, and Stopping Bullies & Bullying at Work, many victims eventually lose or leave their jobs.
Bullying wreaks havoc on how a company operates. It creates low morale, depression, tension, reduced efficiency, a high number of court cases, and a high rate of absenteeism. In 2005, UK businesses lost 18 million working days because of bullying. Absenteeism and lost productivity due to workplace harassment cost more than €100 million in the British health service alone.
And who are the people who cause such distress? They are the same people who can cause misery in intimate relationships, because workplace bullying is similar in many respects to domestic abuse. Therefore, understanding the abusive personality type and the organisational ethos of a company helps to explain workplace bullying. Margaret Kohut paints a portrait of bullies based on personality disorders that offers a valuable approach to understanding them. As with domestic abusers, workplace abusers may have a Jekyll and Hyde personality – vicious and vindictive in private yet charming in front of others. Workplace abusers are shallow, articulate, dishonourable, and poisonous. These cowards are impulsive, irresponsible, and attention seeking. They fawn before superiors, behave inappropriately with colleagues, and exploit the weaknesses and vulnerability of others. They are mean-spirited, devious and manipulative. They lack generosity, taking all the credit for workplace performance. They single people out, show favouritism, and co-opt henchmen. They devalue, disrespect, and exclude others. Their arrogance and insecurity demand domination. Workplace bullies have a low level of sensitivity and poor interpersonal skills. They care only about themselves and are intolerant of others. Like domestic abusers, they are divisive, dictatorial, and dishonest. They are predators who take pleasure from exerting power over others.
Adapted from Jim O’Shea’s book Abuse. Domestic Violence, Workplace and School Bullying published by Cork University Press

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