Don't close an eye to bullying at the workplace

Office workers at Raffles Place.
Office workers at Raffles Place.ST PHOTO: AZIZ HUSSIN

While bullying in schools is a matter of concern, workplace tyranny is no less insidious ("Creating a bully-free school a responsibility for all" by Professor Ho Lai Yun of the Singapore Children's Society, and "Don't let 'get tough on bullying' be mere slogan" by Mr Ng Qi Siang; both published on Sept 24).

Office bullying may be verbal, non-verbal or psychological in nature.

Such oppression is difficult to manage, as it is usually perpetrated by someone in authority who operates within the rules and policies of the organisation.

Getting independent witnesses among co-workers is easier said than done, as the bully is usually a manager or head of department.

Bosses who lord it over their subordinates usually do so out of a sense of insecurity.

Managers who feel incompetent and unsure of their own worth are more likely to demand respect and submission from their staff.

Victims often suffer in silence as they fear losing their much-needed livelihood when they report such aggression from a superior.

Employers should have clear guidelines on what constitutes bullying and empower their human resource departments to take action.

However, this is often overlooked in many organisations.

Reporting a bully who is in a position of authority is problematic, as the boss may consider the oppressor an indispensable part of the management team.

The other problem with notifying the bully's boss is that the latter may not know how to handle the situation.

Many victims and their immediate supervisors are simply told to work it out between themselves.

Victims lose heart when faced with bosses who evade responsibility by trying to get the wronged party to solve a problem that is not of his own making.

Some employers encourage the bullying by the department head to rid the company of older employees.

Driving victims to resign avoids any legal obligation to pay compensation claims.

The negative effects of bullying are not limited to the targeted employee, as they often result in a decline in overall staff morale and productivity.

A negative work environment has many consequences, which the management would do well to nip in the bud.

Simon Khoo Kim San

A version of this article appeared in the print edition of The Straits Times on October 03, 2015, with the headline 'Don't close an eye to bullying at the workplace'. Print Edition | Subscribe