You think you left school playground bullying behind when you graduated from high school? The cool kids’ cliques, the jealous older females, the physically abusive adolescent boys who make catcalls to females? Think again. And welcome to a more sophisticated, much more demeaning type of bullying – workplace bullying.
It can be as subtle as a tap on your behind by a male colleague, a passive-aggressive joke, or a petty rumour being passed around, workplace bullying is as real as the sun is hot.
A rapidly growing occurrence in the modern Botswana workplace, bullying is becoming a regular concern with victims reporting dire aftereffects depression, anxiety and anxiety-related illnesses and even in some cases severe Post Traumatic Stress Disorder (PTSD).
But can organisational culture be a major contributing factor to bullying at work?
Organisational culture is defined as the proper way to behave within an organisation. This culture consists of shared beliefs and values established by leaders, and then communicated and reinforced through various methods, ultimately shaping employee perceptions, behaviours and understanding .
Basically, it is how companies and organisations say this is how we “do things”. Picture this: You are a young female, relatively new to a company/organisation and as you observe the new culture trying to fit in. You notice a peculiar and disturbing trend of the male colleagues seemingly ordering the females around. They talk to them anyhow; as they would to a younger sister or a lover at home. Not in a formal manner that shows respect as their equals in the workplace. Or you notice a ‘male vulture’ culture with the older males at work preying on the young, vulnerable female interns.
In a published journal, Dr Mpho Mmannana Pheko, Senior Psychology Lecturer in the Faculty of Social Sciences at the University of Botswana , together with Nicole M. Monteiro and Mondy T. Segopolo, discuss at length this organisational cultural practice of masculine versus feminine cultures.
“Masculine organisational cultures represent an entity in which gender roles are clearly distinct and where men are expected to be assertive, tough, competitive and focused on material success whereas women are supposed to be modest, tender and concerned with the quality of life. A higher score on masculinity means that participants prefer men to have power and expect men to be effective leaders in organisations.
“Furthermore, a higher score may also mean that masculine traits such as assertiveness, authoritativeness, and goal orientation are preferred to female characteristics like personal relationships and quality of life. Compared to organisations with feminine cultures, organisations with a masculine culture are also likely to be characterised by competitive psychological climates,” they wrote in the journal.
According to these academics, it is in such organisational cultures that women are likely be the target of workplace bullying as they are expected to be less assertive, less aggressive and, unlike their male counterparts, less likely to defend themselves and ward off unwanted sexual moves as well as other bullying tactics.These actions maybe be deemed justifiable or looked at as a minor thing.
In an interview with The Business Weekly & Review, private social worker Keaneilwe Ralekgobo explained that workplace bullying ultimately affects productivity levels of the organisation. She cited high levels of absconding, absenteeism, low quality work and operating at a low capacity by bullied employees as some of the effects of bullying in the organisation.
Ralekgobo said organisations can assist employees by investing heavily in health and wellness programmes. “These programmes should not only be about the physical heath of the employees but can be revised to include welfare policies that encompass the safety of employees in the workplace as well as psycho-social and financial planning services,” she explained.
Bullying is a self-esteem killer whose victims sometimes forego a paycheck in order to escape abuse. Loss of income, low confidence and an overall poor self-image are some of the outcomes that victims struggle with long after they have left the abusive workplace. Feelings of unworthiness and of being unvalued and unloved in the face of management and fellow colleagues caused by being belittled are rampant among victims of workplace bullying.