Dr Pauline Rennie-Peyton

Integrative psychotherapist and chartered psychologist Msc. AFBPsS

What is bullying behaviour?

All too often, bullying behaviour is not recognized by the person on the receiving end of it because they become accustomed and inured to it. It frequently takes a third person to point out what is happening.

Bullying behaviours can take a variety of forms - from gross and obvious public dressing-down of one particular individual in the organization to instances that are far more subtle and therefore correspondingly less easy to identify. Some of the latter examples would be withholding of essential information and lying about having passed it on; changing deadlines and not telling the person involved; not allowing a worker any of their holiday requests; purposely delivering criticisms, complaints or other worrisome information just before the weekend or before they go away on holiday; making threats such as "there are plenty of people out there who would like to do your job and do it better" or "who else would employ you at your age?"

A type of behaviour that is often not properly recognised as bullying is collusion with others in using 'humour' at the expense a victim. Even if you are not the person making 'funny' comments about your colleagues, by laughing or otherwise encouraging the bully, you are in fact colluding with bullying.

People can be bullied at work because of work envy, e.g., if a colleague achieves better, is promoted faster or is more popular. Ironically it is their very accomplishments that lead to their victimisation - by either an individual or a group that the bully is able to bring around to their way of thinking.

But I also see cases of personal envy. One young man became his boss's new victim when she discovered that he was about to get married. She had previously made passes at him at social functions. In another instance, a woman became the victim of her male manager's cruel bullying after she made it clear that she did not want to pursue a personal relationship with him.

Bullying rarely ends with the overt public remarks or outbursts; the severest part is usually behind closed doors and frequently when the office is empty. One male manager called his deputy into his office when everyone else was leaving, invited her to sit down, locked the door and then stood over her and screamed abuse directly into her face.



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