JOBS: Dealing with bullies in the work place

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As we observe the month of May as the Mental Health Month, it should be noted that among other triggers to deteriorating mental health, our work place environment/people plays a huge part.

We have heard the notion, employees don’t leave a workplace, they leave bad bosses, they leave the people.

While the organizational costs of toxicity are well documented, bullying at work is still a problem. An estimated 1 in 3 Ugandans, or about 30% of the workforce, are bullied at work.  Yet bullying often receives little attention or effective action.

To maximize workplace health and well-being, it’s critical to create workplaces where all employees — regardless of their position — are safe.

According to a study commissioned by the Workplace Bullying Institute, one in three employees experience bullying in the workplace either as a victim or as a witness suffering collateral damage, with seventy five percent of those instances involving top-down bullying by a supervisor.

Whether it’s a difficult boss, an antagonistic coworker, or a disrespectful client, bullies exist in every area of the workplace. Professionals in the earliest stages of their careers know this better than anyone.

These are instances  in the work place that cause mental health stress to colleagues with or without knowing it.

For many people, including myself, the word bullying may spark unpleasant memories from school during breaktime. When I was done with school I thought well,  bullying is behind me, I learned to cope through it in my teen years and I thought I would never go through it in my adult years. Boy was I wrong.

The sad reality is that people can be bullied at any age, and in any situation. The tactics usually change but unfortunately it’s not that different. Adults are bullied at their workplace on a regular basis.


What is work place bullying

This usually involves acts or verbal comments that could mentally hurt or isolate a person in the workplace. Bullying can be between two individuals or it may involve groups of people. It may be obvious or subtle usually what they call jokes, and sarcasm.


Examples of bullying

Bullying usually includes physical or verbal violence, humiliation and undermining someone’s confidence. You are probably being bullied if you are…

Being picked on constantly

Being shouted at or the target of spontaneous sarcasm about your work or position

Being humilitated infront of colleagues

Your views and opinions are being ignored

Blamed for problems caused by others

Regularly threatened with losing your job


How do you deal with it

Keep Emotions out. Peope who bully take pleasure in emotionally manipulating their victims. Instead stand up for yourself and tell the person that their behavior is unreasonable and inappropriate and you want it to stop.

Know you rights. You  must understand that every employer has a responsibility to provide a safe work environment. Report to any higher authority if the problem persists.

Talk with someone you trust. Don’t ignore what has happened or is happening.

What can the work place do?

Workplaces must prevent the instrumental, indirect and covert bullying. The workplace should ensure transparent, fair, equitable and legitimate ways to deal with the perpetrator.

To prevent downward bullying where the bully targets someone more junior to them, HR and upper management must pay close attention to subtle signals.  Anonymous surveys can also be carried out within the company for juniors who might not be free to share their challenges.

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