Table of Contents
Introduction on Workplace Bullying
Workplace bullying has not only been identified as a source of workplace distress and absenteeism, but it has also been considered as a negative stressor in the context of mental health wellbeing of employees. Bullying, in itself, is a social evil, which has the potential to deteriorate the psychological health and productivity of individuals, making them more distrustful and apprehensive of others’ approaches and behaviours. Workplace bullying constitutes all those targeted behaviours occurring at work that can be considered as spiteful, offensive, mocking, and/or intimidating (Legg, 2019). Workplace bullying comes in a pattern that is targeted towards an individual or a group of individuals by peers, subordinates or superiors (Legg, 2019). Even though criticism at workplace cannot be considered as bullying, any sort of criticism that is meant for intimidating, humiliating, or alienating someone in the workplace unduly and unreasonably can be considered workplace bullying (Legg, 2019). Though in the era of globalization, inclusion and diversity management have been experiencing new reaches and heights, the trend of workplace bullying is on the rise. In the United States, for example, it has been reported that more than 60 million working people are affected by workplace bullying, alleviating their productivity and deteriorating their mental health detrimentally (Legg, 2019).
This rising trend in workplace bullying is also observed in Singapore. This can be argued by citing the fact that the inaugural Kantar Inclusion Index found (as cited inKhidhir, 2019) that around 24 per cent of Singaporean workers have experienced bullying in the workplace in 2018 and this has been among the highest levels among the total 14 countries surveyed. Apart from Singapore, the two other countries with rise in the trend of workplace bullying include Brazil and Mexico (Khidhir, 2019). Hence, the rising trend of workplace bullying suggests that the menace is increasing in an alarming rate and there is a need for analysing the causes of workplace bullying, analysing the impacts of workplace bullying on organizations, and what strategies can organizations implement to prevent and deter workplace bullying.
Workplace Bullying in Singaporean Organisations and its Implication
There are certain specific causes of workplace bullying. Presence of certain factors and lack of certain organizational controls have been found to be conducive to workplace bullying. One of the causes of workplace bullying is the typical characteristics associated with the workplace environment in which bullying is committed (Emamzadeh, 2018). In this respect, it has to be noted that workplace environment, including job design can cause workplace bullying persistently (Emamzadeh, 2018). Unhealthy workplace environment, constituted of factors like job insecurity, excessive workload, burnout rate, role ambiguity, role conflict, and excessive cognitive demands of the job, can eventually trigger and promote workplace bullying (Emamzadeh, 2018). Moreover, personality factors also cause workplace bullying. It has been observed that the targets of bullying often demonstrate certain personality traits that make them more vulnerable to bullying at workplace (Emamzadeh, 2018).
Research studies have found that neurotic employees and employees experiencing negative effects and internalization of problems are more prone to become victims of workplace bullying (Nielsen & Knardahl, 2015). Employees experiencing more negative emotional states, including anxiety, anger, insecurity, and melancholy demonstrate characteristic personality patterns that cause them to face workplace bullying more than others (Coyne et al., 2000). Personality characteristics of the bullies are also reasons of bullying in the workplace. Study has suggested that there are associations between personality traits and bully victimization (Coyne et al., 2000). In this respect, it can be said that one of the primary causes of workplace bullying is some specific personality attributes demonstrated by the employees being bullied (Nielsen & Knardahl, 2015). Neuroticism, in specific, significantly predicted direct associations between personality traits and victimization (Nielsen & Knardahl, 2015).
Moreover, from the perspective of the work environment hypothesis, it can be said that there are certain specific organizational conditions that are conducive to workplace bullying and are more responsible than individual characteristic traits in terms of perpetuating workplace bullying (Salin & Hoel, 2010). In this respect, it has been observed that any employee can become a victim of bullying, as per the work environment hypothesis, due to the presence of some specific organizational conditions (Salin & Hoel, 2010). Study has suggested that poor work environment creates constraints and norms conducive to the emergence of less visible order and predictability and this encourages, promotes, and facilitates incivility and negative treatment of co-workers that can be considered as workplace bullying (Salin & Hoel, 2010). It has been observed that those workplaces in which employees experience bullying are characterised by features like unclear job roles and expectations (Salin & Hoel, 2010). Moreover, presence of practices of gender discrimination can also be considered as a source of workplace bullying (Rosander & Blomberg, 2019). Dark humour against women employees coupled with the tendency to unduly criticize women employees due to lack of anti-discriminatory policy implementations in an organization can also be a cause and source of workplace bullying (Rosander & Blomberg, 2019).
The impacts of workplace bullying on the organization are manifold and are thoroughly negative in nature. Primarily, as bullying is directly related to the process of alleviating employee motivation, morale, and thereby, productivity, it has the potential to diminish overall organizational productivity (Kline, 2016). Workplace bullying comes with higher costs and negative implications for organizations ingrained with such menace (Kline, 2016). In this respect, it has to be taken into account that employee productivity is one of the greatest intangible assets of an organization and as workplace bullying deteriorates the quality of such an asset, it eventually contributes to lack of productivity of an organization. Workplace bullying increases the levels of stress and anxiety among employees, making them prone to develop health conditions like hypertension, insomnia, PTSD, and also suicide ideation (Kline, 2016). All such factors contribute to increase in the rate of absenteeism, which is harmful for the development, growth, and expansion of the business of an organization (Kocakulah et al., 2016). Moreover, it has been observed that organizations with pervasive bullying culture experience higher turnover rates and lower potential to attract or retain talents (Kocakulah et al., 2016).
A pervasive culture of workplace bullying can also make an organization more prone to experience increased healthcare costs for employees and lack of trust of employees in management (Kocakulah et al., 2016). Besides, organizations having a culture of workplace bullying due to not having effective preventive measures are also more vulnerable to higher costs of litigations (Martin & LaVan, 2010). It has been observed in almost every organization with a pervasive workplace bullying culture the costs of organizational operations become higher (Mucci et al., 2015). In this respect, it has to be noted that workplace bullying decreases employee motivation and increases employee turnover, compelling organizations to expend more on process of new employee recruitment, induction, orientation, and training (Mucci et al., 2015). Moreover, workplace bullying also compels organizations to facilitate more interventions by health officers and personnel managers for the sake of treating employees suffering from psychological health problems due to bullying victimization at the workplace (Leymann, 1990).
There are several significant strategies that organizations can implement to prevent and/or deter workplace bullying. Among such strategies is the strategy of demonstrating organizational commitment, organizational support, and organizational belief in social justice (Fitriyani & Luzvinda, 2019). One of the pivotal ways to demonstrate organizational commitment to safeguard and protect employees from any kind of bullying behaviours in the workplace is the development and implementation of a stringent anti-bullying organizational policy that attracts punitive and legal measures for any non-compliance or violation (Kline, 2016). Organizational intervention like establishment and/or restoration of civility in the workplace through enactment of a stringent anti-bullying policy can bring down the rate of workplace bullying significantly (Gillen et al., 2017). Such workplace policy plays a major role in reducing the rate of workplace bullying by alleviating the rate of co-worker and supervisor incivility (Gillen et al., 2017). Organizations can also prevent and/or deter workplace bullying by implementing primary interventions like employee training on how to enhance workplace civility, how to increase inclusive attitude, and how to respect individual differences (leading to more workplace cohesion and collaboration) (Ferris et al., 2018). Besides, organizations can also implement secondary interventions like informal attempts at conflict resolution, grievance redressal, and target support (Ferris et al., 2018). Moreover, to prevent and deter workplace bullying, organizations can implement tertiary interventions like counselling, psychotherapy, and arranging for sessions of cognitive behavioural therapy (CBT) for employees at risk of victimization of bullying (Ferris et al., 2018). Moreover, implementation of tertiary intervention like counselling and providing CBT to employees having neurotic personality can also mitigate the personality element of bullying. In this respect, it can be said that employees demonstrating depressive emotion and neuroticism, who are prone to being bullied, should be provided with CBT sessions to boost their self-perception.
Findings on Workplace Bullying in Singapore
Workplace bullying has not only been identified as a source of workplace distress and absenteeism, but it has also been considered as a negative stressor in the context of mental health wellbeing of employees. Bullying, in itself, is a social evil, which has the potential to deteriorate the psychological health and productivity of individuals, making them more distrustful and apprehensive of others’ approaches and behaviours. Presence of certain factors and lack of certain organizational controls have been found to be conducive to workplace bullying. Moreover, there are several significant strategies that organizations can implement to prevent and/or deter workplace bullying. Among such strategies is the strategy of demonstrating organizational commitment, organizational support, and organizational belief in social justice. Even though there are some personal trait factors behind workplace bullying, organizational factors of workplace bullying have been more emphasized by research studies.