Are you being bullied in your workplace?
So what exactly constitutes workplace bullying? According to the Workplace Bullying Institute (WBI), workplace bullying is defined as the “repeated, health-harming mistreatment of one or more persons by one or more perpetrators”. For HELP International School counselling psychologist Dr Gerard Louis, the keyword in that definition would be “repeated”.
“If it is a one-off act, then it might not be considered bullying,” he said. People do, after all, make one-off mistakes.
Another important thing to remember is that whether an act is considered bullying or not depends largely on the person on the receiving end of it. No harm, no foul, right?
Malaysian Employers Federation executive direction Shamsuddin Bardan said: “Some things can be considered part of working culture. If a recipient doesn’t find it unacceptable, then it is fine. But if an employee feels aggrieved by it, or it is against his or her rights, then it is bullying.”
But workplace bullying can be more than just persistent verbal abuse.
Brand manager Siti (Not her real name), 33, was sexually harassed by her former boss, who made sexual remarks about her body, asked her to drive him home alone, and even invited her to his place after work.
“These things violated my rights as a Muslim girl, and he used his position to harass me and manipulate me into doing things that are not required of me,” said Siti, who was also forced to share a room with two male colleagues during a working trip. She left the company soon after.
Know your own rights
Malaysian Trade Union Congress general secretary Halim Mansur said that most of the reported workplace bullying cases are not physical in nature.
“It’s not the kind of bullying you (might) see in schools. Nowadays, workplace bullying is when workers are not given proper protection, not enrolled to social security (SOCSO) and Employee Provident Fund (EPF), face sexual harassment and violation of their basic rights as per the Malaysian Employment Act,” said Halim.
He added that some employees endure workplace bullying because they don’t know their rights. Denying an employee the promotion and/or bonus that they clearly deserve is also considered as bullying on the employer’s part. Halim emphasised that every company should have an induction programme to introduce its rules and regulations, working culture, benefits, and rights for the employees
“If a worker is discriminated against and constantly asked to perform duties that are not according to his or her job specification and ends up being aggravated and intimidated, they should make a report.”
Who do you call and where can you turn to?
The problem with workplace bullying is that over 70% of the bullies are managers, as was the case with Siti.
But that doesn’t mean employees should stay silent when they see it happening, said Louis.
“If you are bullied, you should voice out and get evidence to show that you are bullied. A bully is normally a powerful person, so don’t directly confront them.
According to Halim, if the first step, which is to report the bullying issue to the company’s human resource management (to solve the problem domestically), doesn’t work, then the worker should report it to the Industrial Relations Department.
Two options are given to bullied workers. Employees who would like to end their service with the company can file a constructive dismissal under the Industrial Relations Act 1957, which entitles the employee to terminate the employment contract.
In more serious cases, if an employee finds his or her life threatened and endangered, he or she may file a report for constructive dismissal and compensation for the unfair actions made against the victim.
“Look for people who can help, like trustworthy colleagues or higher authorities if it is your bosses who are bullying you,” said Louis.
He added that it always require the first strike against the bully, or else nothing will change and the bully will go on bullying. “It is normal to feel ashamed if you are sexually harassed or humiliated in public, but nothing is going to change if no one is going to take action.”
Note: The fictitious names are meant to protect the identity of the workplace bullying victims.