欺山欺水莫欺心 , 算天算地莫算人
The past few months have been particularly upsetting for me because of the nature of the cases landed on CUSA.
It might be hard for an outsider to believe but bullying in the workplace is rampant in CUHK, and comes in all the myriad of forms such abuse might present.
Most of the bullies in the cases I've come across are in positions of authority as managers or supervisors, often in conjunction with other employees as complicit ; some are co-workers and only one case bullies higher-up. The bullies are both men and women, though the targets in most of our cases are women . Contrary to the stereotype of a bullied person who is weak and dysfunctional, I've found among our targets capable, dedicated, above average performers who are well liked by co-workers. It is possible the bullies are driven by jealousy or feel threatened about their own competence, which erupts as the desire to diminish or cut down the targets . Adult bullies, like their schoolyard counterparts, tend to be insecure people with poor or non-existent social skills and little empathy ( the successful psychopaths ), while the targets generally possess a non-confrontative interpersonal style and willingness to cooperate, rendering them easy to assault .
Disagreement and conflict happen at most workplaces , however, and they are not bullying if the comment is constructive and legitimate , intented to assist the employee with his/her work and not aimed to humiliate him/her ; if the persons delivering the criticism take responsibility for their actions and consequences in such a way it does not interfere with another person's rights and wellbeing .
Workplace bullying is defined as "repeated incidents or a pattern of verbal or nonverbal aggressive behaviour, which is threatening, offending, humiliating, degrading, intimidating, or sabotage that interferes with work, and which creates an unhealthy and unprofessional power imbalance between the bully and target(s), resulting in psychological consequences for targets and co-workers ."
How do we recognise bullying in the workplace ? These are the common tactics we observed :
1. Threat to professional status -
Belittling your opinions. Constantly overruling your authority and undervaluing your efforts. Public professional humiliation. Intimidating use of discipline or competence procedures . Competent staff being constantly criticised regarding lack of effort . Removing areas of responsibilities from you without cause or being given menial or trivial tasks to do . Downgrading your capabilities to justify downsizing . Giving you pointless work that have nothing to do with your job . Undermining or deliberately impeding your work by withholding information and blaming you for being ignorant . Constantly changing work guidelines , objectives or targets . Setting deadlines or objectives that are impossible to achieve in the given time or the resources provided . Deliberately changing your work roster to make it difficult for you . Blaming you whenever things go wrong . Unwarranted punishment and trivial fault finding. Overevaluation and manipulating information such as failure to acknowledge good work but repeated reminders of blunders . Blocking your potential promotion or access to opportunities , including reasonable requests for holidays or for training . Harassment through micromanagement of tasks and time by monitoring everything you do . Stealing credit for your achievements and taking unfair advantage . Taking disciplinary action against you without any warning.
2. Threat to personal standing -
Undermining personal integrity by spreading malicious, unfounded rumours about you . Making inappropriate jokes about you, persistent teasing, name calling, personal insults, criticisms , sarcastic remarks and intimidatiog threats . Instant rages over trivial matters by shouting or swearing at you . Humiliating you in front of colleagues . Psychological harassment by playing mind games. Encourage other colleaques to turn against you . Intruding on your privacy by pestering, spying or stalking
3. Social ostracism -
Regularly and deliberately excluding you from work and social activities . Deliberately ignoring or isolating you in public . Withholding necessary information to participate in activities .
4. Workload -
Setting you up to fail by overloading you with unreasonable duties or workload, setting impossible deadlines or withholding necessary information or purposefully giving you the wrong information. Uunderwork to create a feeling of uselessness in you, a possible precursory move to make you redundant .
Bullies poison their working environment with low morale, fear, anger and depression ; the employer pays for this in lost efficiency, absenteeism, high staff turnover, severance packages and lawsuits . Although there is no specific law in Hong Kong pertaining to bullying per se , the actual tactics used( negligence, harrassment , defamation etc ) can still constitute a criminal or civil breach of the Discrimination Laws which will include harrassment ; as bullying is a form of violence, and as the Common Law stipulates the employer's obligation to his employee in providing a safe place and a safe system of work, so "Abusive work environment" essentially is about negligence on the part of the employer. In the event an employee is forced to resign because of the treatment he/she has been subjected to, the employer is liable to "Constructive Dismissal" Lawsuit .
Workplace bullies often operate within the established rules and policies of their organization , so it's imperative the Chinese University has a Zero Tolerance Policy against Bullying in the Workplace clearly stated in the Staff Handbook; there should be a confidential process by which employees can report all incidents of bullying , with assurance of no reprisal , and a commitment to provide support services to victims .
Lastly, CUSA takes workplace bullying seriously. You're not fighting this alone if you're in our union .
This article was published in the Chinese University Staff Association ( CUSA )Newsletter issue 20