Tackling Workplace Bullying in Your Organization

Workplace Bullying , a topic that is sensitive but NEEDS to be addressed. Bullying, a word that may sound funny but its act leads to major consequences. And one needs to be very mindful Bullying occurs not just in school but also in various life moments, often for silly reasons. Let’s throw light on the unfortunate event that occurred as a RESULT OF BULLYING – 

Addressing workplace bullying is crucial for fostering employee wellness and corporate harmony. The tragic case of Pranshu Yadav, a 16-year-old self-taught queer individual, tragically took their own life on Tuesday, November 21. A 10th-grade student Pranshu from Ujjain Public School in Madhya Pradesh gained a large Instagram following, sharing makeup content as glamitupwithpranshu during the COVID-19 pandemic.

The reason behind this was excessive bullying done to Pranshu for being himself. While reading this you may find yourself asking why to take your life when you’re just being bullied and one must turn deaf ears to those who bully. But Bullying is not just words verbally spoken in a given moment. It makes you question yourself and raise self doubt. 

corporate wellness

As we grow, we learn to deal with situations by ourselves and prefer doing so. And as we enter the professional life, we want to give our best to grow individually, contribute to the growth of the company on a macro level as well as maintain corporate wellness. We invest in ourselves to enhance our skills so we bring value to the table. Imagine getting bullied for who you are at your workplace irrespective of the value and inputs you bring to the firm. Goosebumps? Let’s talk about it.

Bullying is a complex behavior involving offensive, intimidating, or malicious actions with the aim of undermining or instilling fear. Unlike harassment, it doesn’t always involve a misuse of power and may not be tied to protected characteristics. It can occur through various mediums, including written communication, calls, texts, emails, and social media interactions.

Identifying Workplace Bullying entails observing specific behaviors:

1. Disregarding diverse views and opinions: 

Bullying may manifest when individuals dismiss or ignore the input and perspectives of others, creating an environment where certain voices are marginalized or devalued.

2. Assigning challenging workloads that resist cooperation: 

Bullying can be evident in the deliberate imposition of burdensome tasks that hinder collaboration, potentially causing strain, frustration and disturbance in employee health and wellness among an organization.

3. Systematically criticizing a proficient colleague to undermine their confidence: 

Persistent and targeted criticism aimed at a competent coworker serves as a form of bullying, eroding the individual’s self-esteem and professional confidence over time.

4. Publicly humiliating staff members: 

employer humiliating employee

Instances of humiliation in a public setting contribute to a hostile work environment, reflecting bullying behavior that can cause harm to employee health and wellness and professional standing.

5. Intentionally impeding career advancement or training prospects: 

Bullying may take the form of deliberate actions aimed at obstructing an individual’s progress, be it in terms of career growth or access to training opportunities, hindering their professional development.

6. Establishing impractical or unattainable deadlines: 

Setting deadlines that are unreasonably challenging or impossible to meet can create undue stress and pressure, contributing to a toxic work environment indicative of bullying tactics.

7. Disseminating false and damaging rumors, known as a malicious canard: 

employee getting bullied by other employees

Spreading harmful rumors about a colleague, known as a malicious canard, is a damaging form of workplace bullying that harms reputations and relationships.

In India, the lack of an anti-bullying law necessitates addressing issues through pertinent sections of the Indian Penal Code (IPC), covering wrongful restraint (Sec 339), wrongful confinement (Sec 340), criminal intimidation (Sec 506), voluntarily causing harm (Sec 323), and abetment of suicide (Sec 306).

Harassment, broadly defined as reprehensible behavior impacting an individual’s or group’s self-respect, can manifest due to biases related to race, gender, sexual orientation, gender identity, or disability.

According to UNISON, workplace harassment is marked by persistent hostile and intimidating behavior, aiming to undermine individuals or groups of employees. Both supervisors and colleagues can initiate such conduct, leading to stress-related health issues like hypertension, immune problems, depression, and anxiety. Consequently, this can significantly affect an individual’s immediate actions and career trajectory.

The regulation of workplace harassment in India predominantly relies on guidelines established in the Vishakha v. State of Rajasthan case (1997 6 SCC 241), which specifically addresses the harassment of women. However, this framework does not explicitly cover non-sexual harassment, resulting in a substantial gap in addressing workplace bullying. The absence of specific laws addressing the harassment of male employees represents a notable loss to the nation’s talent pool and economic resources.

In 2017, the Workplace Bullying Institute released a report revealing significant insights:

 61% of bullies are solitary-acting bosses: 

The majority of perpetrators engaging in bullying behavior are individuals in positions of authority who operate independently, exerting their influence within the organizational hierarchy.

 80% of instances involve women bullying other women: 

A significant proportion of reported bullying occurrences pertain to women being the aggressors, targeting their female colleagues in the workplace.

 19% of individuals have experienced bullying, while an additional 19% have witnessed it as onlookers: 

Nearly one-fifth of the workforce has directly experienced bullying, while an equivalent percentage has observed such behavior as bystanders, highlighting the widespread nature of this issue.

Job loss affects 65% of employees who experience bullying: 

The consequences of workplace bullying are severe, with a substantial percentage of victims facing the grim outcome of losing their jobs, illustrating the detrimental impact on professional livelihoods.

Despite the prevalence, 29% of victims choose to remain silent about their experiences: 

A significant portion of those subjected to bullying opts to endure their suffering in silence, indicating the potential underreporting of such incidents due to fear, stigma, or other barriers.

Notably, 61% of employers are cognizant of inappropriate behavior within the workplace: 

A noteworthy finding is that a considerable portion of employers are aware of inappropriate conduct transpiring in the workplace, underlining the importance of organizational awareness and potential avenues for intervention and prevention.

We know the severity of Workplace Bullying.

Addressing workplace bullying is a nuanced process that involves several strategic steps:

1. Initiate direct communication with the bullies: 

employee standing up against bullies

Begin by engaging in an open and honest conversation with the individuals responsible for bullying. Clearly express your concerns and request that they cease their harmful behavior, emphasizing the impact it has on the work environment.

2. Escalate the matter if the Workplace Bullying persists: 

If direct communication does not yield results, escalate the issue to higher authorities such as your supervisor or HR manager. Discuss the ongoing situation, stressing the urgency of intervention to swiftly resolve the matter.

3. Understand and discuss legal rights: 

Take the time to familiarize yourself with the legal protections against workplace harassment. Engage in a dialogue with your supervisor or HR, ensuring they are informed about potential legal violations and seeking guidance on the appropriate course of action.

4. Gather substantial evidence: 

Document instances of bullying meticulously, collecting tangible evidence such as emails, messages, or witness accounts. This thorough documentation will serve as a robust foundation when presenting your case to higher authorities, reinforcing the seriousness of the issue.

5. Connect with co-workers: 

Reach out to colleagues to discuss their experiences and perceptions of workplace bullying. Encourage open dialogue and collaboration to compile a comprehensive report outlining all incidents, fostering a collective and impactful approach to address the issue.

6. Present the issue in a meeting: 

Formally address the matter during a meeting, articulating the prevalence and detrimental effects of workplace bullying. Advocate for organizational intervention to create a healthier, more inclusive work environment that promotes employee wellness.

7. Develop a backup plan: 

Acknowledge the possibility that bullying may persist despite your efforts. Explore alternative job opportunities and secure multiple options before contemplating leaving your current position, ensuring a smoother transition and maintaining professional stability.

8. Consider leaving the job if necessary: 

If all attempts to address the bullying prove unsuccessful and the work environment remains toxic, carefully evaluate the option of leaving the job. Ensure you have secured another job before resigning, minimizing potential disruptions to your professional trajectory.

A Few Points Every Company Must Know And Imply:

Laws against workplace bullying in India are multifaceted, addressing crucial aspects of employee protection and equality:

1. Timely Payment of Wages (Payment of Wages Act, 1936 – Section 5): 

This provision ensures that employees receive their wages promptly, mitigating the potential for workplace disputes arising from delays in payment.

2. Restrictions on Wage Deductions (Payment of Wages Act, 1936 – Sections 7-13): 

Sections 7-13 outline circumstances under which wage deductions are permissible and set clear limits, protecting employees from unjustified reductions and ensuring fair compensation.

3. Equal Pay for Equal Work (Equal Remuneration Act, 1976): 

The Equal Remuneration Act mandates that all employees, regardless of gender, receive equitable pay for similar work, fostering a culture of fairness and prohibiting discrimination based on gender in compensation structures.

4. Protection Against Defamation (Indian Penal Code – Section 500): 

Section 500 of the IPC addresses defamation concerns, prescribing criminal penalties for such offenses. Furthermore, defamation can be pursued as a civil wrong under the Law of Torts, offering additional avenues for legal recourse.

5. Regulation of Employment Agreements (Industrial Disputes Act, 1947 – Chapter 5A): 

The Industrial Disputes Act, particularly in Chapter 5A, governs employment agreements. It establishes procedures for layoff and retrenchment, preventing the inclusion of arbitrary clauses that could contribute to workplace disputes and ensuring a fair and transparent employment relationship.

6. Maternity Benefits (Maternity Benefit Act, 1961): 

The Maternity Benefit Act guarantees non-discriminatory treatment of women during pregnancy. It provides maternity benefits to women recovering from childbirth, promoting a supportive work environment that acknowledges the unique needs of female employees.

7. Non-discrimination for Persons with Disabilities (Persons with Disabilities Act, 1995 – Section 24A): 

Section 24A mandates non-discrimination in employment, emphasizing equal opportunities for individuals with disabilities within the workplace, fostering inclusivity, accessibility and employee wellness.

8. Gender Equality in Wages (Constitution of India – Article 39(d) and Equal Remuneration Act, 1976 – Section 2(h)): 

Article 39(d) of the Constitution and Section 2(h) of the Equal Remuneration Act underscore employers’ responsibility to ensure equal remuneration for equal work, irrespective of gender. These provisions actively promote gender equality in the workplace, aligning with broader constitutional principles.

Ending workplace bullying is not just a corporate duty but a humane imperative. Pranshu Yadav’s story highlights the urgency of prioritizing individual well-being in a workplace that values both professional success and employee wellness.

It’s about more than eradicating verbal abuse; it’s about dismantling behaviors that undermine, creating spaces where individuals can thrive. Organizations must champion open communication, intervene swiftly when needed, and instill a culture that celebrates diversity. Acknowledging the prevalence of workplace bullying and its impact on job security, companies must stand as guardians, ensuring legal safeguards and actively promoting the overall employee wellness. Ultimately, a commitment to eliminating workplace bullying is synonymous with a commitment to promoting enduring employee wellness and organizational prosperity.

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