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Bullying at the Workplace

One might think that bullying is an act that is associated with childhood and school-life. It is rarely associated with workplace, especially in this globalized corporate world, with organization having a relatively flat hierarchy. But more and more cases of harassment and bullying are coming to the forefront as research on work-life balance as well as mental health of the employees of the corporate world is performed.

An alarming survey states that one out of two employees in the United Kingdom are being bullied in their life at work. Such is the cause for concern that there is an institute that monitors and studies bullying, Workplace Bullying Institute. “The WBI 2003 Report on Abusive Workplaces” says that 80% of the targets are women. 36% of them work in the corporate sector. This does not mean that only the fresher are bullied. The survey shows that about 86% of the targeted women are highly educated, are in the 40s and they have had past working experience with the employer. The most common form of bullying is sex-harassment. Disaster is pronounced because, in most cases, bullying ends when the targets are involuntarily fired. This means that 70% of the targeted women face the chance of losing their jobs. Bullying takes a different form when the bully is protected by civil rights. Over 15% of the bullies fall under this category. Women usually suffer in the hands of other women. 50% of workplace bullying is of this nature.

When such are the statistics, psychologists turn their attention to the causes of bullying. What leads to aggressive behavior? What are the consequences for the perpetrator and the target? Industrial psychology is a thriving field (unfortunately), because bullying can increase levels of stress as well as prove to be costly for the organizations. According to Dr. Joel H. Neuman, Director of the Center for Applied Management at the University of New York, aggression stems from a mix of social, personal and situational factors. He claims that negative thoughts in themselves lead to aggression. Sensations of physiological arousal, such as heart rate and muscular tension, also increase the probability of aggression. Some people are more prone to aggression, as it were. They believe in a relationship of fear rather than love. But this does not mean that they are not aggressive because of other causes. The most common social cause of aggression is provocation. A feeling of exploitation is what leads people to be aggressive. Of course, the very nature of job today leads to stress and aggression. Competition is at an all-time high and “survival of the fittest” is the prevalent attitude that is being encouraged.

Bullying has proved to be very dear to the firms. A study claims that $5 billion to $6 billion are reported as losses to the United States economy every year because of abuse by the employer, real or perceived. There are employment laws in place to curtail this practice. Two US Supreme Courts passed a law in 1998 that made the employers responsible for all acts of harassment. The only way to counter bullying is to educate the employee as to what behavior is termed harassment and what laws are in place to protect them. There are many helplines that provide support and direction about this issue. It takes a combined effort of employees and employers to stop this malpractice.

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