Money Matters

Bullying at workplace

Money Matters
By Sirajuddin Aziz
Mon, 12, 21

Bullying is rampant in most societies. It is only the difference in intensity and magnitude that separates; otherwise bullies abound and are aplenty. They are found in almost every aspect of our lives, ranging from school to being subjected to extreme vilification in the media, print and electronic, included. The many talk shows on the umpteen channels are indeed a true reflection of this attitude – you witness, either the anchor or the guest, indulge with force and venom, into bullying each other, under full glare of the camera. Nobody complains. Bullying on television is now an acceptable methodology for higher viewer ratings. Bullying is done across all segments of society. Bullying is done at schools, colleges, universities and on the streets, cities and between countries; and of course at the workplace too. While analyzing the trait of bullying, this piece will essentially focus on workplace bullying.

Bullying at workplace

Bullying is rampant in most societies. It is only the difference in intensity and magnitude that separates; otherwise bullies abound and are aplenty. They are found in almost every aspect of our lives, ranging from school to being subjected to extreme vilification in the media, print and electronic, included. The many talk shows on the umpteen channels are indeed a true reflection of this attitude – you witness, either the anchor or the guest, indulge with force and venom, into bullying each other, under full glare of the camera. Nobody complains. Bullying on television is now an acceptable methodology for higher viewer ratings. Bullying is done across all segments of society. Bullying is done at schools, colleges, universities and on the streets, cities and between countries; and of course at the workplace too. While analyzing the trait of bullying, this piece will essentially focus on workplace bullying.

Bullying is largely the use of unseen force, a covert coercion, hurtful teasing or even a threat to abuse, dominate or intimidate. A manager who abuses by the use of sarcasm or taunts (as deadly as from an in-law, the scribe has been gender careful!) is equally vicious -- these comments cut through the psyche of the recipient and leave deep scars and wounds; some of which never heal and become the breeding ground for the affectee to convert himself or herself into a bully. In retaliation to such abuse received, they develop the tendency to give it back to others.

At our workplaces, we witness bullying emerges largely out of ‘rankism’. The seniors on the hierarchy consider it their due right to become a bully, whenever they desire to be one. The imbalances in position, either social or corporate position induces the unenlightened and untrained mind to resort to bullying.

In an even a superficial enquiry on why people bully, we find answers that indicate, bullying arises out of envy, jealousy, insecurity to the more difficult to discover, a total lack of deference to the viewpoint of others or even it could be a consequence of possessing an extremely fragile and inflated ego. Serious personality disorders can be a good reason too. If in an organization there are bullies due to ‘rankism’, it does not preclude the presence of ‘peer abuse’. Colleagues of the same rank can have between themselves an extremely toxic relationship, where in the everyday work, they are found to be mutually exchanging barbs of invective insults.

Bullying can manifest itself in both verbal and non-verbal formats. The verbal would include use of words of insulting import and non-verbal would constitute, say uncouth attitude and behavior towards all, especially the juniors. This must not be taken to rule out bullying by juniors members of the organization of the senior management — such cases they resort to delays, procrastination and create impediments by employing the demands of the policy, procedures, system, etc; the juniors place blockades in the working environment of their supervisors. I am certain, readers have heard managers making remarks like, “O, he/she is a loser” - that's the case of verbal bullying. Any attempt at physical bullying would tantamount to complete abuse.

Emotional bullying that resides largely within the realm of relational bullying is also sometimes deployed at work place. Just as older siblings, with no harm intended, bully their kith and Kin; some managers cow down associates with an emotional appeal – they can behave as parents or siblings, and seduce submission by colleagues.

Countries and nations are found quite indulgent into bullying. History is full of bullies of all shades, hue and color. Nikita Khrushchev, ex premier of Soviet Union, while addressing the UN General Assembly, pulled off his shoe and pounded the rostrum, for making a point with impact – at another occasion he remarked, “whether you like it or not, history is on our side. We will bury you”. That’s bullying by politicians. Richard Nixon, recalling in his memoirs about Khrushchev has mentioned that on a visit to the Dacha of Khrushchev, he was surprised when his host declared, he would cook a meal for him – and they did together in the kitchen – whilst doing so, every time Khrushchev made a jovial remark, he would punch Nixon in the stomach, not a friendly soft one, but a punch that hurt – Nixon, mentions that’s when he decided to punch back the bully even harder on every joke narrated. Watch out for managers, who are the Ilk of Khrushchev! They exist.

Bullying, actually acquires the status of a trait of character over a period of time, if unchecked. Hence many times, it is not about isolated behavior, it resonates a pattern of use and growth in its deployment, as an instrument of intimidation. Bullying with some managers is more a matter of habit.

From the vastness of the oceans of weaknesses emerges all cruelty. The person, who bullies others, is actually bullying himself; his evil thoughts and actions are bound to catch up with him. Bullies, tormentors, intimidators and persecutors are essentially cowards with a very low self-esteem. Bully managers subdue their subordinates to exercise silence.

Bullying consequences can be disastrous. The victims can suffer from ill-health. Bullying tendencies emerge in people who are inept and incompetent; these infact are major drivers in acquiring these tendencies. On an extreme level, victims of bullies, are prone to developing suicidal tendencies; and on a more softer effect in comparison can have health related issues like anxiety, depression, low self – value etc.

If bullying is not an encountered with a repulsive action, “it is likely to repeat and grow; from the front yard to the porch and into the bedroom – He (the bully) will arrive and … (the words are not decent for inclusion here), your wife", so wrote, Lyndon Johnson, a US President.

Spectators to bullying are equally guilty of promoting it; when someone is bullied publicly, other co-workers should demonstrate that they are blessed with a spine and stand up to the coward to ward off deployment of such tactics.

If anything is unrighteous, never postpone action for stopping it; otherwise it will grow into an oak tree. Members of senior management, who are afflicted with the ailment of being a bully, are those who adopt a posture which is best reflected by idiomatic phrase, much ado about nothing. Such managers keep all colleagues on tenterhooks. They assign tasks, with no direction or indication of objectives to achieve.

They talk nineteen to a dozen. Blabberness all through. They share at the most uncalled for time, their stories of imaginary success; in blowing their trumpet, the objective is to intimidate.

Much bullying is also done by email, whatsapp, short text messages and other social media platforms – these communications are sent to create unwanted urgency and with a total disregard to time -- mostly very early in the morning or very late in the night -- pretending the insomnia relates to work pressure, which is never the truthful reason; instead the reason for sleeplessness could be many(!) but rarely the guilt of being a bully.

In a different organization that I once worked for, I was compelled to send a text message to a senior colleague, though not a very ghastly hour, but certainly outside the working hours, seeking permission to call him, for an important and urgent issue -- the recipient in a state of shock called me instantaneously, he remarked, “you, sir are spoiling us by seeking prior permission to call.

We are accustomed to past boss(es) (not even direct); one of whom, got furious and livid, that I did not attend to his call at 2:30am! I had put the cell on silent due to a cracking migraine -- and the next day,

His majesty (the supervisor) gave me a mouthful, on how I could dare not to have answered his call at 2:30a.m!. That is the truest form of bullying.

Such bullies must know that people globally are reacting to the uncouth behavior – recently Portugal legislated that no employer can contact any worker, by any medium, outside the declared working/office timings. Violators will be prosecuted. Indulging with accompanied intervention to use gossip as a vehicle to slander or character assassinate a colleague is akin to bullying. The destruction of an honorable man tantamounts to the murder of his soul.

Bullies decimate creativity and confidence. Leaders must snoop and look out for bullies and stem them out of the system.


The writer is a freelance columnist