Workplace Bullying

No one is to tolerate the bullying/harassment at workplace however if you are the victim, and not the so called distant bystander, it gets difficult to cope with such behavior especially when policies have not been put in place by your organization.

According to the article 37.e of the constitution of Islamic Republic of Pakistan, the state shall “make provisions for securing just and humane conditions of work for all”. In pursuance of this policy principle, Government has also enacted a new law i.e., “ The Protection Against Harassment of Women at the Workplace Act, 2010”.

As the Constitution says, everyone needs to be treated with dignity and respect at the workplace. No one is to tolerate the bullying/harassment at workplace however if you are the victim, and not the so called distant bystander, it gets difficult to cope with such behavior especially when policies have not been put in place by your organization. The fundamental questions are how to diagnose that you are being bullied at work and how to get rid of malefactor/person bullying/harassing you at the workplace.

Workplace bullying refers to repeated and persistent, unreasonable actions/practices of individuals (or a group) directed towards an employee (or a group of employees), which are intended to offend, intimidate, degrade, humiliate, or undermine; or which create a risk to the health or safety of the employee(s). This unprofessional behavior may be related to sex, race, cast, creed, religion and residence/place of birth of the victim employees (the protected classes in our constitution). Bullying can occur face to face, in writing (through email) or over phone. The bullying behavior undermines the confidence and self esteem of the victim employee.

Workplace bullying is different from workplace harassment in subtle ways. Harassment is a type of discrimination and involves any offensive and unwelcome conduct, which is serious enough to change the terms and conditions of a person’s employment. The new Act defines sexual harassment as “any unwelcome sexual advance, request for sexual favors or other verbal or written communication or physical conduct of a sexual nature or sexually demeaning attitudes, causing interference with work performance or creating an intimidating, hostile or offensive work environment, or the attempt to punish the complainant for refusal to comply to such a request or is made a condition for employment;” The workplace harassment is usually displayed through “abuse of authority, creation of hostile environment and retaliation against the individual employee refusing to comply with the request for sexual favors. One thing that is common in both harassment and bullying is the “abuse of power”. Moreover, Bullying is accumulation of many small events and the main cause behind bullying seems jealousy in most cases, as the bully feels threatened by the victim.

According to a survey on medical students in Pakistan, more than 50% of medical students here face bullying mainly in the form of verbal abuse. Another study, conducted by University of Karachi researchers, shows that employees who are popular among their peers and seniors are more likely to be bullied by others. As others don’t appreciate the bully, whether due to his incompetence or bad behavior, he avenges this by bullying the popular employee. This research also shows that male bosses bully male subordinates while females are generally bullied by female bosses. In this context, the reasons for bulling are different for both: the males are bullied for their work performance whereas females are generally bullied for their personal or moral values.

Following points can be used as a technique to check whether you or your colleague is being bullied at work.

  1. Unwarranted criticism, insulting someone by word or behavior on above grounds
  2. Spreading malicious rumors
  3. Exclusion, isolation and victimization
  4. Unwelcome sexual advances and subsequent creation of hostile working environment
  5. Abuse of power/ excessive supervision or monitoring
  6. Assigning impossible tasks, overloading or meaningless tasks not related to the job, unrealistic deadlines
  7. Impeding professional development/progress by intentionally blocking promotion or training opportunities (inside the country or abroad)
  8. Unfair treatment
  9. Persistent changing of work roasters to cause inconvenience
  10. Taking credit of others’ work while exposing their mistakes publicly

Steps you need to take if you or a colleague is being bullied at work

If you think you are being bullied at work,

  • You should either talk to your colleague, your boss or some HR person in your company.
  • You may also resort to legal action under the Protection Against Harassment of Women at the Workplace Act if the bullying is of sexual nature. You may find further information on how to proceed under the above-mentioned act in our article on sexual harassment.
  • Women, in general, can initiate legal proceedings under this act when they are subjected to bullying at workplace.
  • However, male workers have no legal option other than to rely on their organization’s policy on bullying and making formal complaint to concerned authorities under the policy principle mentioned above.

Save yourself from Bullying at the workplace as you have the right to work with dignity and respect.