Bullying in the work place

Bullying in the work place is defined as frequent and negative actions committed by one individual, or more, against a co-worker who has difficulties with defending him. These actions cause the targeted individual great discomfort and undermine his self-confidence.

See regulation on bullying, sexual harassment, gender-based harassment and violence in the workplace (In Icelandic).

Making life unbearable

There are many methods which antagonists apply to make life unbearable for the victims; defamation, e.g. gossip, backbiting and stories used to undermine the reputation of the victim, wrongful accusations about work performance, constant and unjustified criticism, humiliation in the presence of others, hurtful comments and name-calling, direct verbal or physical threats, increased work pressure, degrading reference to age, gender or complexion, personal insults, ridicule, aggression, constant changes of work methods or work hours, sabotage, delays at work, exclusion from parties, meetings or trips and even sexual harassment.

It can happen to anyone to be bullied. Bullying in the work place is characterized by a series of events rather than one specific incident. The bullying can therefore be ongoing for many weeks or months before the one who is victimized becomes aware that he/she has become the victim of bullying.

The one who is responsible for bullying can be a co-worker, subordinate or supervisor. A few common aspects about the bully can be found, such as lack of self-confidence, insecurity, social incompetence or administrational incompetence. To hide this incompetence, the antagonist often resorts to transfer it on to his co-worker, e.g. by hiding information from him, constantly criticizing him or accusing him falsely.

The consequences

The consequences of bullying are manifested in various ways by the victim. He can e.g. experience anxiety, mood swings, fear, bitterness, desperation, need for revenge, sense of inferiority, insecurity, animosity towards work, impaired survival instinct, helplessness, depression, obsession, reduced self-esteem, impaired trust towards fellow-man, social isolation, reduced work performance, dwindling faith in the future, sense of rejection, suicidal thoughts, insomnia and stress-related diseases such as headache, muscle inflammation and much more.

It is not only the one being bullied who is hurt. The victim’s family is the invisible victim of bullying as the pressure on them increases.

Why?

Bullying can take place in any work place, also where work conditions are considered exemplary.

There are, however, aspects which could contribute to bullying in the work place, e.g. when competition among workers is intense, fear of terminations, envy among workers, promotions at others’ expense, lack of workers’ training, little respect for others and their opinions, work conditions are bad or unsuitable, changes in structure, work pressure too intense, goals too high, inconsistent management or in the form of coercion and poor flow of information.