One of the latest scandals to hit the headlines involves UK daytime TVs, This Morning, and is mirrored by similar accusations being levelled against The Kelly Clarkson Show, in the USA. In both cases, former employees have alleged that the makers of the programs fostered a toxic working environment.
Bosses on This Morning have been accused of prioritising highly paid stars over lower-paid, or what are deemed to be “less important” colleagues. And the US industry employees say they were overworked, underpaid, and that working at the show was harmful to their mental health.
These types of allegations are not limited to show business. The Metropolitan Police, the Fire Service and CBI (Confederation of British Industry) have all been rocked in recent months by employee claims of a toxic culture, bullying, harassment, sexism, and racism.
Bullying is something we routinely identify with the school playground. The typical image portrayed is one of the school-bully, menacing a younger, weaker class member into handing over their lunch money. The reality in modern-day living is even harsher and often more pervasive, straddling in-person physical intimidation, and online trolling.
Judging by regular news reporting, it is a practice that carries on far beyond the school gates, into businesses and work environments, worldwide. In fact, a report, undertaken in the USA in 2021, (by Zogby Analytics, on behalf of the Workplace Bullying Institute) found that 30% of workers had experienced some form of workplace bullying; defined by “a repeated mistreatment and a form of abusive conduct”.
There are several ways in which bullying can occur, in both children and adults. Some are more easily identified, whilst others can be more subtle.
Some types of bullying, like verbal, can start off as seemingly harmless; put down to friendly teasing or good-natured ribbing amongst peers; but as with any bullying, over time can cause emotional damage to the victim, the perpetrator, and the by-stander.
It can lead to problems in both the short and long-term, such as social withdrawal, difficulties at work or school, onset of mental health conditions such as depression, anxiety, and substance abuse, and even lead to suicide.
Verbal – Verbal bullying and abuse, which includes teasing, name calling, insults – such as racist, sexist, or homophobic comments, is used in an effort for the aggressor to gain power over their victim.
Physical – Physical bullying involves any assault on a person, or their property. This could be punching, kicking, tripping, pinching, hitting, or pushing a person bodily; or the theft or damage of their belongings (damaging a locker, scratching a car, or spray painting a house).
Social – Social bullying, sometimes referred to as Relational Bullying, targets a person’s relationships or reputation. This can happen in the form of spreading rumours, telling others not to be friends with them, excluding an individual from group events, isolating someone from a peer group. It is often used as a tool by bullies to control others and improve their own social standing.
Cyber – Cyber bullying is the use of electronic communication to intentionally and repeatedly torment or intimidate a person. This is typically done by sending messages (texts or emails) of a menacing or threatening nature, making prank or hostile telephone calls, posting negative or hurtful comments on social media, abusing someone in an online forum or gaming network.
Workplace – Workplace bullying includes any form of behaviour that makes someone feel intimidated or offended in their job, or at their place of employment. This includes unfair treatment, regularly undermining an individual, the repeated denial of training or promotional opportunities, verbal comments, physical aggression, harrying letters, emails, or telephone calls, emotional and physical sexual, racial or gender related harassment.
Some bullying spans several categories, for instance when a school or workplace bully is verbally or physically violent face-to-face, and follows the intimidation up online, by trolling a person on social media, or socially, by getting others to exclude them from their peer-group.
In the last 30 years there has been a substantial amount of research done on bullying, and the short and long-term effects it has on an individual. Being bullied can affect everything about a person: how they see themselves, their relationships, their societal and employment prospects, their earning potential, and their physical and emotional wellbeing.
Children that are bullied are more likely to experience:
• Feelings of sadness and loneliness.
• Low self-esteem, self-worth, and confidence.
• Poor and interrupted sleep.
• Food related issues, such as eating disorders and obesity.
• Difficulty in concentration.
• Withdrawal and isolation.
• Decreased academic achievements.
• Poor interpersonal relationships.
• Health issues.
With the correct action, help and support, some children can move on from incidents of bullying. However, it is indicated that approximately 20% of individuals will experience a mental health problem later in life. These include, depressive, severe anxiety, social anxiety, and personality disorders, PTSD (post-traumatic stress disorder), or another psychological condition, and in some can even lead to suicide.
Bullying in adulthood can have the same repercussions and is often harder to recognise as the bullies are bosses, or colleagues in a position of power, who are able to disguise their actions, and blame them on personality conflicts or poor work performance.
Negative effects of bullying are not limited to the targeted individuals, the perpetrators are often themselves at a higher risk of participating in criminality, have substance abuse or mental health problems, are violent or abusive in later adult relationships.
Bystanders are also at risk, it can have an impact on them personally, physically, and emotionally. In the workplace it may lead to a decline in employee morale and a rapid staff turnover.
Have you experienced bullying? Has it affected your mental health? Are you finding yourself self-medicating with alcohol or drugs?
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