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More on bullying: Moira Jenkins, a clinical psychologist running a University of Adelaide study on workplace bullies, is currently recruiting managers and bosses to talk about their experiences for her PhD studies (you can contact her here).

Her preliminary findings confirm what I’ve been saying on the subject; a lot of trouble is caused by over-zealous accusations of bullying. For example, to quote from the WA Today blog:

“One example she has come across involved bullying charges being bought against a woman manager who ignored a colleague because she didn’t like them, although she was not actively excluding that person.

“Another case involved a new graduate on a project who objected to her supervisor’s management style and claimed she was a bully.”
These are two examples of how the ‘B’ word is becoming a catch-all term to describe any behaviour an employee doesn’t like. As I’ve always said, there is plenty of bad behaviour in the workplace, but mostly it isn’t right to call it bullying. Bullying occurs at a rate of 3-6% in the European workplace (based on a meta analysis by the UK Health and Safety Executive), yet some surveys claim as high as 60%!

Bullying is a specific and repeated and persistent harassing of someone who is singled out for bad treatment. This may be deliberate, or it may be incidental, but the experts agree that in order to qualify as bullying, the bad behaviour has to be repeated and regular. I would also add that it is almost always associated with negative intent, so unlikely to be accidental.

My point here is that any bad behaviour needs correcting. The trouble with using the term ‘bullying’ incorrectly is that an accusation creates a number of subsidiary problem, and often fails to deal promptly with the bad behaviour.

There is a lot more in the Bullying Survival Guide. As far as I know, this is the first time anyone has published succinct guidelines to establish whether or not a particular case should be judged as bullying. I have sent it out for review by some colleagues. Once I have their comments and have made any recommended amendments, I’ll post more details and let you know when it is published.

 

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