Last Updated 28 May 2020

Bullying at Workplace

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The use of harmful communication at workplace is of international concern. In various European countries and Australia, legislators have ratified and enforced laws that warn employers against using relationships that causes suffering and discomfort in the workplace (Namie & Namie, 2003). In England and the United States, laws have been propagated in an effort to afford just, safe and secure work conditions. These regulations are enforced through associations and groups responsible for safety and health of employees and agencies liable for defending against intolerance.

In the U. S., for example regulations have been passed in the majority of states protecting workers from harassment, assault, sexual harassment, discrimination, annoyance and stalking. (Vega & Comer, 2005) At the same time, a number of recent studies suggest that exposure to moral harassment at work is a serious international problem. It is known by different names in different places, bullying in England, murahachibu or ijime in Japan and mobbing in the USA. Differing concepts have been in use in different European countries, such as, 'moral harassment', 'psychological terror' and 'victimisation'.

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(Einarsen et al. , 2002) Though, they all seem to refer to the same phenomenon, specifically the “systematic mistreatment of a subordinate, a colleague, or a superior, which, if continued, may cause severe social, psychological and psychosomatic problems in the victim. Exposure to such treatment has been claimed to be a more crippling and devastating problem for employees than all other kinds of work-related stress put together, and is seen by many researchers and targets alike as an extreme type of social stress at work” (Einarsen et al.

, 2002, p. 3) Nevertheless, workers still complain that they are intimidated, abused verbally, and, on the whole, made to feel inadequate (Daniel, 2002). Circumstances in which workers are subjected to oral assaults and to intimidating and harassing behaviours take place regularly in organizations (Namie & Namie, 2003). Confrontations that have non-fatal consequences leave workers irritated; some quit their employments or develop foremost problems with health.

Scholars who recently began investigating these behaviours at workplace infer that the constant and deliberate verbal violence coupled with scorn or threatening and harassing strategies cause physical and psychological harm which they consider as a complicated phenomenon—workplace bullying (Davenport et al. , 2002). It is estimated that as many as 8-10% of European employees may suffer from exposure to bullying and harassment at work. It prevails in both private and public organisations and finds its victims among men and women alike.

Studies also show that exposure to bullying at work is a severe source of stress at work and may be a crippling and devastating problem for those exposed. (Tehrani, 2001) A victim of bullying at work seems to produce severe emotional reactions such as fear, anxiety, helplessness, depression and shock. It appears to alter the victims’ perceptions of their work-environment to one of threat, danger, insecurity, and self-questioning, which may result in pervasive emotional, psychosomatic and psychiatric problems.

Moral harassment also has negative effects on the organisation and lowers productivity in the workplace. (Vega & Comer, 2005) Researchers implemented the term “workplace bullying” from their counterparts in Europe, England, Australia, Canada, and other states worldwide where research has led to legislative and legal intrusions to prevent and highlight workplace bullying. Though, American and Japanese researchers have been slower than their colleagues worldwide to examine the nature of workplace bullying.

Although research into psychological and emotional problems at workplace in Japan and America has led to legislative and legal acts to manage aggression, stalking, sexual harassment, and discrimination, workplace bullying has not been accepted in America and Japan as a special phenomenon. Consequently, legislative field in these countries concerning workplace abuse issues are underdeveloped. (Vogel, 2002) There are numerous definitions of workplace bullying; the one used at this point is “unwanted, offensive, humiliating, undermining behaviour towards an individual or groups of employees.

Such persistently malicious attacks on personal or professional performance are typically unpredictable, irrational, and unfair. This abuse of power or position can cause such chronic stress and anxiety that people gradually lose belief in themselves, suffering physical ill health and mental distress as a result” (Rayner, et al. , 2002, p. xi). Bullying refers to all situations where one or more people feel subjected to negative behaviour from others at work over a period of time and in situations where, for different reasons, they are unable to defend themselves against these actions.

Typically, a victim is constantly teased, pursued, badgered and insulted and perceives that he or she has little recourse to retaliate in kind. (The Mobbing Encyclopaedia, 2006) We may distinguish between work-related bullying such as being exposed to unreasonable deadlines, unmanageable workloads or other kinds of behaviour that make the work situation difficult for the victim, and bullying that is primarily related to the person, such as insulting remarks, excessive teasing, gossip and rumours, social isolation and exclusion. This kind of behaviour is common and has been experienced by most people at work from time to time.

As a single episode in a positive social climate, such actions may even be taken to be harmless. However, when behaviour that is perceived as unwanted by the recipient, is systematically and continually aimed at a particular person, and especially in a situation were the victim feels defenceless against the actions or the people performing them, it becomes an act of moral harassment. (The Mobbing Encyclopaedia, 2006) In the recent past three countries in the EU – Sweden, Belgium and France have enacted legislation to counter the incidence of moral harassment and more countries are expected to follow their lead.

In this research assignment, the reasons and incidence of moral harassment are examined in different cultures, countries and legal systems to assess the current scenario, measures currently in place as well as those proposed to counter the problem, both within and outside the legal framework and possible solutions and measure, which could help in countering the issue. The countries chosen for the assignment are Britain, Sweden, France and Japan. All of these countries are developed and industrialised nations with democratic political systems, strong legal frameworks, emancipated work cultures and progressive thinking.

Two of the chosen countries, namely Sweden and France have decided to introduce legislation to check the menace whereas the other two have not, possibly feeling it more appropriate to term it a social issue that can be solved through awareness, dialogue and discussion. Again Japan has a tradition and work culture very different from the other three and this contributes to dissimilarities in both origin and response to the issue of harassment in the workplace. It is hoped that this paper will succeed in examining the issue in detail and throw some fresh and engaging perspectives on this annoying social malaise.

Background, Definitions and Legal Overview Background Moral harassment in the workplace is a global problem and exists in some form or other in all workplaces across continents and nationalities. The problem was considered commonplace even in 70’s and it was only at the initiative of Scandinavian countries like Sweden and Norway, that the matter started receiving international attention. The British call the phenomenon bullying, a rather innocuous term historically linked to students in public schools being asked to run errands for their seniors.

The problem is however not restricted to schools any longer. (Tehrani, 2001) In the United States it is known as mobbing, again a very unrepresentative and confusing term. Persecutors do join up sometimes to harass in groups or “mobs”, but harassment also happens in many one to one situations. The ramifications of moral harassment are thus far more extensive and represent a serious and vexing social problem, which needs eradication from civilised society. (Olweus, 2003) Workplace bullying has yet to become a regularly utilized term in the U. S.

workplace or as a form of mistreatment from which American statutory law provides worker protection (Yamada, 2000). Unlike sexual harassment, which is defined by statutory and case law (Dougherty & Smythe, 2004), bullying is without a specific, unified vernacular and is often relegated to the schoolyard (Olweus, 2003). The connection to schoolyard bullying can be stigmatising through association with childishness or weakness. Since people organize, structure, and create their experiences, interactions and realities through language (Spender, 1984), the absence of agreed upon terminology frustrates U.

S. workers' efforts to name and make sense of these experiences and may contribute to their reported sense of feeling "crazy" (Tracy et al. , 2004). Workplace bullying, as a unique phenomenon, is also referred to as mobbing (Davenport et al. , 2002), harassment (Bjorkqvist et al. , 1994), psychological terror (Leymann, 1996), emotional abuse (Keashly, 2001), and victimization (Einarsen & Raknes, 1997). Mobbing, a term originating in Swedish research (Leymann, 1990), initially denoted numerous bullies singling out one person, but this distinction has since fallen away (Davenport et al.

, 2002). Over time, the two central terms bullying and mobbing have come to indicate virtually the same phenomenon. In actual fact workplace harassment is an omnibus list of unfair and uncalled for persecution in the workplace that can take many forms in its expression and execution. It is not limited to sexual harassment, per se, though sexual harassment is a major component of the harassment that goes on in offices and other establishments, worldwide. It could relate to and be caused because of sex, religion, creed, ethnicity, physical appearance or just plain dislike.

It is a form of offensive treatment or behaviour, which to a reasonable person creates an intimidating, hostile or abusive work environment. It may be sexual, racial, based on gender, national origin, age, disability, religion or a person's sexual orientation. It may also encompass other forms of hostile, intimidating, threatening, humiliating or violent behaviour, which are offensive or intimidatory in nature. The central characteristics that differentiate workplace bullying from other negative social interactions at work are persistence (Mikkelsen & Einarsen, 2001), patterned negative acts (Einarsen et al.

, 2002), widespread harm (Davenport et al. , 2002), and escalation (Lutgen-Sandvik, 2003). Furthermore, bullying is linked to extremely hostile work environments (Salin, 2003); these environments are most likely both the medium and the outcome of bullying. That is, bullying is more likely to emerge in hostile work environments and also contributes to such environments (Crawford, 2001). Many researchers seek to differentiate workplace bullying from sexual and racial harassment (Leymann, 1996).

Adams and Crawford (1992) expressly state that "although some people will insist otherwise, bullying at work is separate from the recognised problems of sexual harassment or racism" (p. 10). Others claim that the key legal issues that "distinguishes sexual harassment from bullying is that... harassment is somehow based on gender... and that men and women are treated differently" (Pryor & Fitzgerald, 2003, p. 80). On the other hand, researchers may seek legitimacy for the construct of workplace bullying by closely linking it to racial or sexual harassment (Randall, 2001).

For example, Einarsen and colleagues (1994) argue that, "sexual and racial harassment represent different aspects of the same problem" (Lee, 2001, p. 208). Lee (2001) argues "however, if sexual harassment and racial harassment are defined as only types of bullying, this might undermine the specificity and visibility of sexual and racial harassment" (p. 209). Interactions exist between sexual harassment, racial harassment, and workplace bullying; nevertheless, it seems important not to conflate types of harassment in a way that obscures the distinctive features of each (Lee, 2001). Definitions

Definitions of workplace bullying (or mobbing) vary by author, country and academic discipline, and there is no universally agreed-upon definition. There are, however, more similarities than differences in present definitions of bullying as a unique phenomenon. This is a partial rendering of researchers who study workplace bullying, but provides the ways in which the foundational scholars and professionals have framed and defined the issue. Other researchers generally adopt one or more elements of following definitions. Consequently providing a more extensive list would potentially be more repetitive than revealing.

European Parliament defines bullying as, “A lack of humanity at the workplace, personal experiences of bullying at work, a feeling of exclusion from the social community there, encountering irreconcilable demands at work and not having the wherewithal to meet these demands. ” On the other hand, International Labour Office definition states that bullying is qualified as: “Offensive behaviour through vindictive, cruel, malicious or humiliating attempts to undermine an individual or groups of employees … It involves ganging up on or ‘mobbing’ a targeted employee and subjecting that person to psychological harassment.

It includes constant negative remarks or criticisms, isolating a person from social contacts and gossiping or spreading false information. ” Rayner et al. (2002) state that bullying is “unwanted, offensive, humiliating, undermining behaviour towards an individual or groups of employees. Persistent malicious attacks on personal or professional performance that are typically unpredictable, irrational and often unfair. This abuse of power can cause such chronic stress and anxiety that people gradually lose belief in themselves, suffering physical ill health and mental distress as a result" (Rayner et al.

, 2002, p. xi) They also argue that bullying is "a situation where one or several individuals persistently over a period of time perceive themselves to be on the receiving end of negative actions from one or several persons, in a situation where the target of bullying has difficulty defending him or herself against these actions. We will not refer to a one-off incident as bullying" (Rayner et al. , 2002, p. 24) Some researchers find workplace bullying in a huge number of harmful conditions arising out of nonverbal and verbal contact.

Ramsey (2002) believe, that workplace bullying is: “Any behaviour that frightens, threatens or intimidates another person qualifies as bullying. Besides physical force, the most common types of bullying include: verbal abuse, written, spoken or implied threats, name-calling and racial slurs, vandalism, put-downs. ” (p. 2) Randall (2001) argues that bullying is "the aggressive behaviour arising from the deliberate intent to cause physical and psychological distress to others" (p. 9)

Australian researchers like, O’Hagan (2002) believe that workplace bullying is “workplace behaviour that is inappropriate, unreasonable, humiliating, denigrating, that offends and intimidates, and affects health, well-being and undermines productivity. ” (p. 1) However, American researchers define workplace bullying as "emotional assault that begins when an individual becomes a target of disrespectful and harmful behaviours, innuendo, rumours, and public discrediting; a hostile environment is created in which one individual gathers others to willingly, or unwillingly, participate in continuous malevolent actions to force a person out...

The individual experiences increasing distress, illness and social misery. " (Davenport et al. , 2002, p. 33) Scandinavian researchers argue that bullying lies in “harassing, offending, socially excluding someone or negatively affecting someone's work tasks. In order for the label bullying (or mobbing) to be applied to a particular activity, interaction or process it has to occur repeatedly and regularly (i. e. , weekly) and over a period of time (i. e. , about six months).

Bullying is an escalating process in the course of which the person confronted ends up in an inferior position and becomes the target of systematic negative social acts. A conflict cannot be called bullying if the incident is an isolated event or if two parties of approximately equal 'strength' are in conflict’ (Einarsen et al. , 2003, p. 15) British researcher Glendinning (2001) posits that workplace bullying is “a management style that uses “repeated aggressive behaviour that deliberately causes physical or psychological torment” (pp. 3-4).

He adds that it is also, “the repeated, less favourable treatment of a person by another in the workplace, which may be considered unreasonable and inappropriate workplace practice. It includes behaviour that intimidates, offends, degrades, or humiliates a worker, possibly in front of co-workers, clients or customers (pp. 3-4). Most literature uses the term bullying to label this extreme, persistent form of workplace abuse. Despite the common terminology in international research, the term workplace bullying has yet to become widely used by American and Japanese academics (Lutgen-Sandvik, 2005).

The following definition is a essence of the aforementioned body of work: Workplace bullying is a pattern of persistent, offensive, intimidating, malicious, insulting, or exclusionary discursive and non-discursive behaviours that targets perceive as intentional efforts to harm, control, or drive them from the workplace. Bullying is often escalatory in nature and linked to hostile work environments. The principal effects are damage or impairment to targets and workgroups and obstruction of organizational goals and processes. Legal Overview

Workplace bullying erodes interpersonal relationships outside of work (Davenport et al. , 2002), and evidence "points to the potential for damage to those who have witnessed bullying at work" (Rayner et al. , 2002, p. 189). Co-workers are secondary targets of workplace bullying, similar to persons who witness and are psychologically marked by acts of workplace violence and murder (Barling, 1996). When co-workers witness others being bullied, they make the quite logical assumption that they could be targeted in a similar fashion and hypervigilance becomes a permanent feature of work life (Lockhart, 1997).

Fear, emotional exhaustion, and guilt increase the likelihood of staff turnover. Furthermore, witnesses report higher stress levels and intentions to leave than do non-observers (Vartia, 2001). Given the destructive results of bullying, many find it difficult to believe this behaviour is unintentional. Even the detailed list of examples of harassment is not exhaustive and perpetrators can constantly think up new ways of tormenting their victims.

Harassment can occur in numerous ways, some of which will be obvious but there will be others, quite subtle and difficult to explain. Further examples of harassment are the withholding of information which can affect the victim’s performance, ignoring views and opinions, setting unreasonable/impossible deadlines, giving unmanageable workloads, humiliating staff in front of others, being shouted at or being the target of spontaneous rage. As such, harassment can take a variety of shapes and forms and can manifest itself in the unlikeliest of situations.

(Tehrani, 2001) In the UK, it is important to specify and identify harassment separately as, unlike bullying, many forms of discrimination are outlawed by specific legislation to which a victim can turn for recourse. The Health and Safety Executive of the United Kingdom states that bullying at work is a cause of stress. They state that “stress at work can be triggered or made worse where ‘there is prolonged conflict between individuals, including … bullying or where staff are treated with contempt or indifference. ” (Unison, 2003)

Persistent exposure to bullying is also likely to lead to behavioural and attitudinal problems among workers. It can lead to an increase in accidents, lack of concentration and increased use of alcohol and tobacco consumption. Exposure to persistent and regular bullying may also make it difficult for workers to cope with daily tasks. Other symptoms of bullying include anxiety, headaches, nausea, ulcers, various illnesses of organs such as the kidney, contemplating suicide, sleeplessness, skin rashes, irritable bowel syndrome, high blood pressure, bursting into tears and loss of self-confidence.

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