Curb office bullying

MUSCAT, APRIL 17 – Office bullying is prevalent in Oman and should be a task that must be taken up by the Human Resources and Businesses by introducing the concept of work place bullying to the employees as part of the mandatory induction. The discussion was part of the second Royal Hospital International Conference that was conducted at Oman Convention and Exhibition Centre. Organisations should create a safe working environment where people feel respected and learn to develop themselves without fear of intimidation or bullying, speakers at the conference opined.
“They must conduct regular exercises and training sessions for employees to develop communication skills because most of the time a bullying behaviour becomes a form of miscommunication or unhealthy competition where the person uses harsh language to convey a message instead of using more effective communication skills”, said Dr Hamed al Sinawi, Senior Consultant Psychiatrist at Sultan Qaboos University Hospital and Chairman of Oman Psychiatrists Society.
They should also encourage their staff to attend anger management sessions where employees are taught how to address their anger in a healthy way instead of taking it on each other, he said.
According to Dr Sinawi, there should be a clear policy at the organisational level where people who have been victims get to know how to seek help and have trained mental health workers to help in case the person develops mental health problems or stress as a result of bullying.
He said that bullying occurs when an individual or a group of people with more power or authority, repeatedly and intentionally cause hurt or harm to another person or group of people who feel helpless to respond.
At some point, the victim of bullying may experience emotional and psychological distress that affect their job performance and quality of life in general which has a negative impact in their place of work as well. In most cases the victims do not recognize the bullying behaviour and therefore fail to report it.
“That is why we do not have an actual bullying behaviour in Oman or other countries, but some studies suggest that one in three females and one in five men reported being bullied at some point in their life,” pointed out Dr Sinawi.
To a question why it is difficult to distinguish office bullying, Dr Sinawi said, “In most cases, bullying appears like a harsh feedback or tough love, when someone repeatedly makes negative remarks about another person’s response (usually a junior member of the team) and try to convince them it is for their benefit”.
That is why some victims begin to doubt themselves thinking, “I’m probably overreacting,” or “I’m just being oversensitive,” or “It will probably be over soon.” Such beliefs make the victim suffer in silence without seeking help for a long time, until it reaches a serious point, he said.
The victim can be affected in various ways but it also has an impact on the organisation.
“Victims experience anxiety, depression, lack of creativity at work and some take frequent sick leaves. The organisation suffers financially to time lost in sick leave as well as bad reputation when some employees leave when they cannot cope with the bullying,” said Dr Sinawi.
According to the senior psychiatrist the management of bullying lies in the hands of the victims and the organisation. Victims need to speak out, first to the bully, by using assertive communication, stating out that they do not accept the bullying behaviour.
At the same time, they also need to address any feedback to improve their performance as well as take general steps to look after their well-being.
So why does one end up being a bully at workplace? One of the most causes and the reasons behind bullying behaviour is feeling of jealousy because the perpetuator of the bullying behaviour feels that the victim is doing well, so out of envy they would try to put victim down or humiliate them and make them feel vulnerable and weak.
“In some cases the perpetrators of bullying behaviour were subjects of bullying in the past. So it is well know phenomena and psychology as identifying with aggressor — abused become abusers. This sometimes can become very difficult because the person who is doing the bullying feels no one was supporting them when they were being bullied so why should anyone help their victim?
Another reason is the anxiety and stress the managers go through personal problems related to home, financial problems and they do not deal with these frustrations in a healthy way instead they take their anger out on their junior colleagues,” noted Dr Sinawi.