Spotting the Signs of Workplace Bullying

Spotting the signs of workplace bullying can give you an insight into employee behaviour, giving you the chance to intervene between bullies and victims. In the work environment there will always be a mixture of backgrounds, personalities, and tendencies within your workforce. Sometimes, some personalities can be more bullish than others, and this can sometimes lead to clashes. When someone who is a bully picks up on a weaker member of the team, it can sometimes lead to workplace bullying. In this article we will discuss how to spot the signs of workplace bullying, both common and more subtle. We will also explore the culture of bully tactics at work, and how they can be used to manipulate a workforce or an individual. Dealing with workplace bullying can be a sensitive issue and having good employment relations in place is vital to ensure you can handle the situation promptly and fairly.

What are bully tactics at work?

Bully tactics at work are often used in order to get an individual or a group of people to feel devalued, demeaned or helpless. These tactics can be used by any employee or the business founder Often bullying does go unnoticed, especially where the bully is a senior person. Sometimes people will not know that bullying tactics are being used, and will simply shrug things off as jokes.

The simple definition of bullying is the repeated, health-harming mistreatment of one of more persons by one or more instigators. Workplace relationships can be hard to maintain, and often people will not realise that they are being subjected to abuse because they see it as a relationship. You would not put up with being bullied outside of the workplace, so why should you when you are at work?

What are common signs of workplace bullying?

Spotting the signs of workplace bullying can be difficult as it can take many forms. There are both common and uncommon signs that people within your organisation are either bullying or being bullied, and these include:

  • Threats – If someone is continuously making threats of harm, either physical or mental. This is a clear sign of workplace bullying and will need to be stamped out as quickly as possible.
  • Arguing – If someone keeps picking a fight with another person, despite the other person not looking for the fight themselves. Bullies will often look to assert themselves over their victims and will try and achieve this by one-upping them in arguments.
  • Demeaning – When someone will continuously put down someone else for small, menial things. This is the bully trying to belittle their victim in order to make them feel worse about themselves.
  • Aggression – Threats of violence, violent behaviour or being physically imposing. Bullies will usually see their victims as physically inferior and will often become aggressive in order to assert themselves.
  • Physical Harm – Either small instances of abuse or larger, more obvious continuous abuse. This is one of the biggest signs of workplace bullying and will need to be stopped as soon as possible.

What are some less common bullying identifiers?

Whilst the obvious signs of workplace bullying are commonly noticed, there are more subtly indicators that someone is being bullied. These often go unnoticed by employers, but the effects are much the same. Some more subtle bully tactics at work include:

  • Ignoring Someone – Sometimes, people will purposely ignore another person. This can be either audibly through speech or via an email and can have prolonged psychological effects on the victims.
  • Exclusion – If you notice that someone is being excluded during team tasks or meetings then this can be one of the signs of workplace bullying. A healthy environment will be inclusive, and if someone is being excluded there may be a larger issue at hand.
  • Guilt-Tripping – Whilst some people may seem friendly on the surface, the way they communicate can be detrimental. A common bully tactic at work is guilt-tripping. Some people may pin blame on others for negative things, making them feel that it is their fault.
  • Unjust Criticism – This is when someone will critique another person’s performance without having any basis to criticise. This is done to belittle the victim, making them think that they are not up to the job.
  • Backhanded Compliments – This is similar to unjust compliments but will instead be based around a compliment. Common examples include referencing someone’s work as “better than usual” or commenting on their physical appearance such as “you look better than yesterday”.
  • Removing Responsibility – Removal of responsibility is a typical bully tactic at work as it demeans an individual whilst appearing harmless. Making someone feel useless is a typical bullying trait and this is achieved by unjust removal of responsibilities.

What can you do about workplace bullying?

For an employer, you must handle workplace bullying as quickly and swiftly as possible. Your employees are your responsibility and ensuring they are happy and productive is beneficial not only to them but also to you. If you feel that someone is being bullied but is not coming forward, you must approach them directly to discuss your observations. If you need a little extra help in terms of HR, consider outsourcing the issue to a professional service, such as Lotus HR, who would be able to assist you deal with the issue in an effective manner. Alternatively, if you would like to ask a question about the signs of workplace bullying or any bully tactics at work, get in touch with a friendly member of our team today for expert, professional advice.