Bullying …

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Bullying appears to have reached epidemic proportions
Bullying appears to have reached epidemic proportions

As of late, stories about bullying seem to be at the fore, be it in conversations, social media, newspapers and blogs; and at local, national and international level. It appears to have reached epidemic proportions, and it seems that those that are in a position to prevent further bullying are choosing to turn a blind eye, leaving the bullied to fend for themselves.

Take for example the results from the recent National Museum of Ireland stress audit. The psychotherapist who was employed by the National Museum to provide an employee assistance
programme raised concerns about widespread bullying within the organisation. These concerns appear to have been ignored by senior management, leading to heightened psychosocial risk factors (organisational factors that impact the psychological safety and health of employees), resulting in employees experiencing high levels of anxiety and depression.

From an occupational health perspective, there are 6 primary psychosocial risk factors:

  • Demands
  • Control
  • Support
  • Relationships
  • Role
  • Change

The stress source that tops all others in this case is relationships, and how bullying was allowed to continue without exploration of problems & development of solutions, despite being flagged as high-risk in the stress audit. When paired with lack of support from management, how can we expect bullied employees to cope with the demands being placed on them? And for their wellbeing to thrive?

As well as the ethical costs to individuals who are bullied, the total direct cost of bullying in Ireland and of bullying related suicides is estimated at €1.5 billion per annum. There is a great business case for nipping bullying in the bud. To allow it to fester within our organisations is not only damaging the individual at the receiving end of the bullying, but also the morale and engagement within the organisation as the onlookers see unacceptable behaviour being accepted by people in positions of influence.

Let us not forget the legal case. If an employee informs an employer of symptoms of stress, anxiety or depression, as they may well experience if exposed to bullying, they are now protected by the Disability legislation and the employer has a higher duty of care towards that employee.
We can like and share posts online promoting mental health, and on encouraging others to open up and talk about their problems. In our day to day activities, do our actions align with our social media presence? Are we standing up to bullies in our organisations and letting the bullied know we’re on their side? That we’ve got their back? Are there policies and systems in place to encourage employees to report inappropriate behaviour within our organisations? If so, have they been communicated well and are they really of benefit to your employees, protecting their wellbeing? Or are they sitting on a shelf, waiting to be dusted down the day of an inspection?

It is encouraging to see widespread coverage of bullying in the media, as along with this coverage comes awareness of the legal requirement to risk assess all hazards in the workplace, including psychosocial ones. Here’s hoping this information will encourage employers and employees to do what’s right and call a stop to this toxic social phenomena that is bullying.

One way to find out if bullying is a problem in your organisation is to do a stress audit. If this is something you are interested in please call us, we are here to help.

Phone no. +353 87 6409975
E-mail. info(at)upstreamhealthandsafety.com

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