In this paper, I would like to make a reflection on the ethical issue of workplace bullying in Australia. From my reading and experience, work place bullying is one of the main problems facing employees in many Australian companies (Rigby 2002p.77). Work place bullying impact on both the employees and the clients of a company negatively. Hayes & Herbert (2011) pointed out that work place bulling in Australia has contributed to the increased work place errors, sick leaves, psychological ill health and poor retention of staffs among most employees in Australia. While there are many reasons on work place bullying, contemporary studies on work places have reviewed factors that influence bullying in the work places. To critically review my experience in one of the service companies in Australia, I have applied the Kolb’s learning cycle (Kolb 1984) to structure and inform my reflection. The model will enable me to simplify issues I felt to be a complex collection of feelings influenced and governed by many people I interacted with in the in the work place. The essay will use the model components to give a description of my experiences in the work place via concrete experiences, commentary, reflection, active experimentation and abstract conceptualization (Kolb 1984).
Work place bullying
Workplace bullying is influenced by many factors but, according to the numerous work place bullying authors and researchers, the fundamental aspects of work place bullying are formed and influenced primarily work culture(Ramsay et al 2011, Salmivalli et al 2011p.515). The nature of the work place bullying, particularly within the service industry sectors of Australia, impacts on the services provided by the employees on the customers (Ramsay et al 2011p.800). It also influences the employees’ health working within the organization.
My experiences as a citizen and an employee of Australia Service Company have made me develop an interest in understanding deeper the work place bullying. Over the past few years, I relocated back home from my former work place to escape from work place bullying. I have lots of friends who have also been tormented similarly. We have shared stories and even consoled ourselves. Like me, some of them have resigned and found new jobs and some extended their calendar days and retired to escape from their tormentors. However, many people do not have the options, and therefore cannot leave their rewarding jobs simply because someone is tormenting them or trying to make them miserable. Therefore, they continue to suffer anger, anxiety and even depression that are associated with bullying.
Workplace cultures that are positive are essential to productive workplace environments but they rarely exist within the service industry. The inability to create such an environment affects the company’s ability to employ, retain employees, and impacts adversely on the customer’s morale and satisfaction, health and productivity among the employees (Geffner 2004).
My time I spent as a junior employee has exposed me to many effects of work place bullying, predominantly influenced by dogmatic leadership styles and hierarchal management. This impacted significantly on the on the level I chose to interact with my peers. Despite the fact that I was still new in the company, I had some level of confidence in my capability, thanks to the positive mentoring from my college tutor who mentored me since I was a first year during my undergraduate studies. His mentorship assisted me in maintaining my enthusiasm and standard service delivery to clients of the company despite the poor environment at the work place.
However, I also witnessed the influence of non-transparent managerial and poor leadership styles. Some employees attempted becoming part of the company’s hierarchal clan for them to improve their conditions at the work place, which means they ran a similar fashion to the staffs at the management level. This could be deemed as bullying. Other employees who did not try to make an attempt to work their way into these hierarchical tribes of the company cut down their shifts or simply found jobs out of the work place.
Working in this kind of work environment really frustrated me. I managed to manage with the circumstances by keeping myself busy and only consulted other employees when I need advice on the company’s matters. I shook my head back then at what to me appeared to be a total lack of emotional intelligence shown by the senior staff members. This management style did not align with the transformational style of leadership that is encouraged in the service industry in Australia.
My observations and experiences while working in a company where work place bullying was the order of the day included, witnessing many of my fellow employees forming relationships with the senior staff members for them to avoid victimization, advance their careers and survive in the work place. I refused and will continue refusing allowing any form of negativity to interfere with the way I function in the workplace but instead use this knowledge to form change for the better future.
Witnessing the effects of this style of leadership gendered a lot of resentment and anger towards the hierarchy. Additionally, I was confused in the manner I was experiencing workplace bullying, peers talking about one another behind doors closed and the hierarchal management. My perception of a workplace environment was one where there is respect, equality, understanding and openness. However, my experience with some of my fellow employees contradicted this. From my end I could see some of the effects of operating in a company in such a manner were having on my peers but my lowest position in the work place hierarchy did not have the bravery that is needed to challenge the workplace culture.
The experiences I encountered in my former company as an employee has had a significant on me as a junior employee and as a student of management studies. I am sad when reporting that the experiences of the students that are similar to my own is very common nowadays. As difficult as change in work place bullying may be, it is important if we wish to improve service delivery and improve work place environment for junior employees, and also allow the employees to work within an environment that is supportive. Otherwise, the employees’ choice and ability to positively engage within the environment of a workplace will be reduced.
Many work paces have strengthened or instituted policies that deals with this hot topic of work place bullying. It is very easy to bump into online advices that talk about the office bullies. Tehrani (2012) pointed out that the documentary film dubbed “Bully” which focused on bullied students at school, has extensively contributed to the broader conversation on this topic. People are frequently speaking about their experiences. This provides guidance and hope for the others who are still being victimized. However, what troubles me is that the perpetrators are always almost left out of the discussion by the public. The news articles describe the situation typically from the perspectives of the victims. Moreover, the online forums are basically for the anonymous victims who share their sad stories of injustice and abuse.
Learning how to utilize the strength of the employees and manage behaviors not conducive to a productive workplace environment may be helpful in eliminating the workplace bullying. In my opinion, this whole process may require the mangers to take a lead in modeling emotionally intelligent behavior and encouraging all employees to undertake an honest personal reflection of the experiences and values that underpin their practices daily. As all employees working in an organization, we all need to embrace and appreciate each other and contribute to a positive culture in the work places.
For the past one year I have been using my experiences and my position to enlighten many employees about the challenges faced at the work place particularly the work place bullying. In most of the forums and tutorials, we discuss openly some of the encounters employees have been exposed to in different work place settings, and how these experiences have informed their beliefs and values and practice as employees in different organizations. in my opinion, these tutorials have proven to be important in providing employees with the reflection ability on whether these work place bullying incidents had a positive or negative influence on them, and the mechanisms they can apply to define what kind of employee they desire to be.
However, the questions I persistently ask myself are; where are the forum platforms for the recovering bullies? Are there advices for the work place bullies? The funny thing is that no one openly identifies himself or herself s a bully. Yet it is obvious that if many people claim to be tormented or being bullied at work, it is true that there are bullies out there at the work places. Is there a possibility that some of the employees are bullies but do not know it? What if you roundly condemn the vice and you are part of the problem?
Ramsay et al (2011p.802) devised a quiz that can help in identifying if an individual qualifies to be a bully. For each of the affirmative answer or yes you award yourself to the listed questions, you should consider yourself a bully at the workplace whatever level you hold in the work place, be it a supervisor, a boss, or a junior employee.
- Have you ever sent an angry email or yelled at someone in the office?
- Have you ever ignored a request or snubbed a colleague for a meeting?
- During a dispute, have you ever gotten so close to your colleague that he could not get past you?
- Have you ever followed a coworker down the hallway while angrily speaking to him?
- Have ever made an attempt to exclude a qualified coworker from a project or committee that is important?
- Have you ever prevented someone by working behind scenes from getting a pay rise or promotion?
- Have you ever ambushed a colleague in a meeting with a remark or question to embarrass him before other employees?
- Have you ever denied a colleague credit for a well done job?
- Have you ever twisted the words of a colleague to make him look bad, or created a fuss over a small problem to get him in trouble
- Have you ever attempted to turn other members of staff against a coworker you dislike
Change of Work place bullying
I have come to understand and accept that change in work place bullying is a very long process that needs a shift from the attitudes and behaviors from employees (Salmivalli et al 2011). Rigby (2002) argued that the employees or the micro-system is the level where most interaction is experienced. Furthermore, it is this level that mostly influences the services provided and the commitment of the employees.
The central message of change in work place bullying is summed by Hayes & Herbert (2011) who propose that practice transformation in the service industry requires great changes in the behavior patterns and mindset of employees. This theory I believe would be applied best to managers and leaders, who can be a positive role models for the workers and provide them with work place clear vision.
My exploration of different literature and my experiences in different work places has revealed many factors that negatives and positively influence the work place bullying currently. One way to advance in reducing the work place bullying is to systematically review and examine the contributing factors. This will require me to honestly reflect on the current systems, and how the core beliefs and values of individuals contribute to the practice. The organizations need also to reflect and implement strategies that have proved positive in the work place.
Rigby, K. (2002). New perspectives on bullying. London, J. Kingsley. Accessed from http://search.ebscohost.com/login.aspx?direct=true&scope=site&db=nlebk&db=nlabk&AN=91780.
Hayes, R., & Herbert, C. (2011). Rising Above Bullying From Despair to Recovery. London, Jessica Kingsley Publishers. Accessed from
Tehrani, N. (2012). Workplace bullying: symptoms and solutions. London, Routledge.
Geffner, R. (2004). Aggression in organizations: violence, abuse, and harassment at work and in schools. Binghamton, NY, Haworth Maltreatment & Trauma Press.
Kolb, D. A. (1984). Experiential learning: experience as the source of learning and development. Englewood Cliffs, N.J., Prentice-Hall.
Salmivalli, C., Peets, K., & Hodges, E. V. E. (2011). Bullying. 510-528.