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What is bullying?
Bullying is defined in the Oxford dictionary as:

‘the use of power to coerce another by fear’,

and power in the workplace is commonly associated with a person’s position in a hierarchy. But power can come from other sources, from strength of personality, social standing, time in an organisation, physical appearance or strength, and other informal hierarchies.

Common kinds of bullying:
• Name-calling and put downs
• Ostracism/exclusion from work or social events
• Destructive or repeated criticism
• Shouting, swearing and/or public humiliation
• Being given unachievable targets, and over work

The eternal question:
What distinguishes bullying from firm management?

Managers and supervisors are constantly under pressure to meet targets and avoid mistakes. To do this they may have to apply pressure to the people who work for them.

But bullying can be distinguished from firm management by considering four important questions:

• What are the behaviours involved?
• How long has the negative behaviour been going on?
• Is the behaviour directed generally, or is it only directed at the person in question?
• Does the target of the behaviour report any negative effects on their personal well-being?

To be confident of labelling a situation as bullying, negative and inappropriate behaviours need to be taking place repeatedly over a period of time, and directed personally at an individual in whom there are signs or symptoms of distress.

The effects of bullying on the individual may include:

• Anxiety and stress
• Loss of confidence
• Reduced effectiveness at work
• Insomnia
• Health problems

The effects of endemic bullying on an organisation are likely to include:

• High levels of sickness absence
• High staff turnover
• Difficulties recruiting
• Poor productivity

And ultimately:

• Expensive legal cases and associated publicity

The cost of a single case of bullying that reaches the courts is in the order of £350,000.

Coaches at Working Lives have experience in providing coaching for targets and perpetrators, and work closely with specialists in the field of bullying, offering:

- advice on policy development
- advice on prevention strategies, and cultural change
- training programmes for managers and staff on how to prevent and deal with bullying, and how to cope if you are a target.