The office bully
“It does seem that people are being asked . . . to do more, and they are being asked to do more for less. On some occasions this is managed well, but on other occasions it doesn’t appear to be managed well and a sense of unfairness contributes to one of the consequences of bullying, which is an exacerbation of the journey towards burnout,” he said.
However, Lucey said that, apart from stresses due to the recession or changing work practices, plain ordinary bullying in the workplace hasn’t gone away.
“Bullies are often people who have been bullied, and they operate by putting pressure and making unreasonable demands on others,” he said.
“It is harassment to bully. It isn’t acceptable social behaviour in terms of management and helping people to get the best out of the resources in these challenging times. It is not something we should tolerate.”
Lucey said bullying could be a factor in a number of stress-related mental health disorders such as anxiety and depression.
Rhona Murphy, head of employment law services at the employers’ association Ibec, said it was important for organisations to be proactive in putting policies and procedures in place to deal with workplace bullying.
Being proactive in this area, she said, would benefit organisations.
“Individuals will feel a level of trust in the organisation if an issue arises. But also from an employment liability perspective, [it] will stand to the employer in the event that legal proceedings are issued at some stage.”
She said that, in addition to the enormous human cost, bullying could mean significant economic costs for a business: damages in cases where bullying or harassment is alleged to have led to psychological injury or illness can reach six-figure sums.
Gerard McMahon provides a workplace advisory service for Bully4u, an anti-bullying organisation that provides services and support for those dealing with bullying in schools and the workplace.
McMahon said he believed the recession had led to an increase in workplace bullying.
However, he added that this would be difficult to prove statistically, as there was also an increasing reluctance among workers to report bullying for fear of losing their jobs at a time when employment was scarce.
He said it was important for people experiencing workplace bullying to know that they were not alone.