Bullying and Harassment at Work


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When people think of their dream job or the ideal job, they usually skip thinking of some fundamentals that an ideal workplace should have, which are as important as having the job you love. A safe working environment, worker rights, protection and promotion of worker’s health and well-being are some of these basics.

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Bullying and Harassment at Work

  1. 1. www.pecb.org Bullying and Harassment at Work
  2. 2. 2 Overview When people think of their dream job or the ideal job, they usually skip thinking of some fundamentals that an ideal workplace should have, which are as important as having the job you love. A safe working environment, worker rights, protection and promotion of worker’s health and well-being are some of these basics. Health and safety at work shouldn’t be a luxury. Every person involved in work has the right to work in an environment free of hazards and without having to be exposed to any risk. This does not simply mean a workplace free of only hazards that pose a risk of immediate or long term serious effects on health conditions such as losing a limb or injuries caused over a period of time such as chronic diseases. The nature of hazards depends from the nature of the work itself. Some workplace hazards are easier to be controlled as they are physically seen (like harp objects) or smelled (like chemicals), though can be easily identified. However, psychosocial hazards and risks associated with them are more complex issues which most of the time are being ignored. Even though these hazards have always been present in the world of work, they have started to be recognized only in the last decades.
  3. 3. Bullying and Harassment in the Workplace Definition Persistent, offensive, abusive, intimidating or insulting behavior, abuse of power, or unfair punishment threatens and/or humiliates the recipient(s), undermining their self-confidence, reputation and ability to perform – are most common terms that define Bullying. At some point bullying is a form of harassment, however, both have their own characteristics. Bullying differs from harassment and assault in that the latter can result from a small number of fairly serious incidents - which everybody recognizes as harassment or assault - whereas bullying tends to be an accumulation of many small incidents over a long period of time. Each incident tends to be trivial, and on its own and out of context does not constitute an offence or grounds for disciplinary or grievance action. Harassment is strictly unwanted and strips of one’s dignity, no matter where. Reasons that cause harassment are enormously vast, and speaking in terms of workplace, it happens due to disability, sex, age, race, religion, sexual orientation, nationality or any personal characteristic of one or more individuals working at the same place. Bullying is highly unwelcome just as harassment. It is a form of offending, intimidating, or insulting, and most of the time aimed to humiliate or denigrate others. Organizations worldwide are undertaking actions towards improving their health and safety performance, by implementing occupational health and safety programs. Yet, lots of employees continue to have problems with workplace bullying and harassment, violence and aggression, fatigue, mobbing and other kinds of psychological abuse. One of the main reasons for this is that organizations usually focus on physical hazards, and rarely address to psychosocial risk factors. Work-related stress is listed as one of the most challenging issues in occupational health and safety. Along with this, bullying and harassment are most commonly recognized workplace hazards associated with work related stress. This group of hazards is extremely important as they have a direct impact on the well-being and mental health of employees as well as their performance at work. Due to the lack of generally agreed definitions regarding bullying and harassment, usually these two terms are being used interchangeably. They both include one’s negative behavior towards another. According to the International Labor Organization (ILO), bullying refers to any incident in which a person is abused, threatened or assaulted in circumstances relating to their work. In the other hand, European Agency for Safety and Health at Work (OSHA Europe) defines harassment as repeated, unreasonable behavior directed towards an employee, or group of employees, aimed at victimizing, humiliating, undermining or threatening harassed person. 3
  4. 4. 4 Workplace bullying and harassment can take several forms; sometimes it may be face to face, in written communication, over the phone, or by e-mail. It may be by a person or a group of people against another person or another group of people; but in most cases it occurs by people having a higher position. However, all forms are unacceptable and in some countries illegal. There are cases when bullying and harassment may be difficult to be recognized as behavior that is considered bullying by someone may be considered strict management by another. Being aggressive and threatening in communication, using insulting words or behavior, spreading malicious information about someone’s private life, overbearing supervision, abuse of authority, discrimination, constant criticism, intentional prevention of individuals progressing are some of behaviors that might be considered bullying and harassment. These negative behaviors make the victim anxious and humiliated, sometimes frightened, and most of the time demotivated. Prolonged negative stress, depression, low self-confidence and self-esteem caused by harassment or bullying can lead to job insecurity, mental disorders, absenteeism, or even resignation. The impact of these psychosocial hazards is not limited to one or two individuals. The cost of bullying and harassment behaviors to business is high and can result in reduced performance and productivity, increased absenteeism, increased turnover rate, low morale, damaged reputation, etc. In order to avoid problems mentioned above and to create a safe and healthy working environment for employees, organizations should develop and implement a sound occupational health and safety (OHS) system that incorporates also psychosocial health of employees. PECB (Professional Evaluation and Certification Board) is a certification body for persons for a wide range of professional standards. Among other international standards, it offers also ISO 22000 training and certification services for professionals wanting to gain a comprehensive knowledge of the main processes of an OHSMS, project managers or consultants wanting to prepare and support an organization in the implementation of an OHSMS, auditors wanting to perform and lead OHSMS certification audits, and staff involved in the implementation of the OHSAS 18001 standard. OHSAS 18001 and Occupational Health and Safety Trainings offered by PECB: • Certified OHSAS 18001 Lead Implementer (5 days) • Certified OHSAS 18001 Lead Auditor (5 days) • Certified OHSAS 18001 Foundation (2 days) • OHSAS 18001 Introduction (1 day) OHSAS 18001 Lead Auditor, OHSAS 18001 Lead Implementer and OHSAS 18001 Master are three certification schemes accredited by ANSI ISO/IEC 17024. Narta Voca is the Heath, Safety and Environment (HSE) Product Manager at PECB. She is in charge of developing and maintaining training courses related to HSE. If you have any questions, please don’t hesitate to contact her at hse@pecb.org. For further information, please visit www.pecb.org/en/training PURPOSE OF BULLYING AND HARASSMENT IS TO HIDE INADEQUACY!