It is no surprise that COVID-19 has affected the workplace in so many ways. As early as last April, the Journal of the American Medical Association (JAMA) was alerting the population that the common emotions of anxiety, fear, loneliness, and depression were likely to increase. There was also a threat that domestic violence, child abuse and substance abuse were going to likely magnify, as a result of the coronavirus. In late June, the U.S. Centers for Disease Control (CDC) shared the results of a survey that showed that more than four out of 10 reported at least one adverse mental or behavioral condition, including suiciding thoughts among about 25% of our youngest workers (ages 18-24) and essential workers.
The onset of this pandemic combined with its impact on the economy and individual finances proved to be reason for great concern. Sometimes, when individuals feel a loss of control over their own situation, they may feel the need to insult and annoy others, exerting power through dishonor. Knowing this, experts predicted an increase in bullying in the workplace. Could this be playing out in your organization?
Consider a hostile work environment beyond the brick and mortar of your workplace. Even with employees working remotely, it can still happen. Any incident in which a worker is mistreated, intimidated, frightened, or teased could be considered disturbing and annoying behavior. Such emotional and psychological violence should be taken very seriously. It might be lower on your radar when people are not physically working in the same space, but it could still be happening. Invariably, the challenge with bullying is that it can be difficult to prove. It can be subtle and easily denied, especially when peers cover for one another or witnesses refuse to get involved.
Research shows that a bully is just as likely to be a man as a woman. In the workplace, the bullying tends to come from bosses most of the time. In today's COVID-19 world, however, it is becoming more prevalent among co-workers who disagree on wearing face masks and social distancing, and they view these practices as political statements and personal choices rather than practical health care guidelines. When a staff member complains to you, the manager, about feeling stripped of dignity or otherwise publicly humiliated by a peer, you may very well have a bullying situation on your hands.
Bullying in the workplace destroys morale for those who witness it and may expose your company to severe financial damage. Eliminating it is also the right thing to do!
To benefit both your non-supervisory employees and your supervisors, even working remotely, we have just updated our eCourses on harassment prevention (https://www.theskysthelimitconsulting.com/elearning).
“If you are neutral in situations of injustice,
you have chosen the side of the oppressor.
If an elephant has its foot on the tail of a mouse,
and you say that you are neutral,
the mouse will not appreciate your neutrality.”
– Desmond Tutu