Bullying at work


Bullying at the workplace is a harsh reality that exists almost everywhere, and we cannot wish it away just by ignoring it. The western countries have recognized the problem since long, but in India the government as well as the corporation heads largely remain in a denial mode till today. There is a need for specific legislation in India against bullying, but it does not exist as yet. (1)
Bullying arises due to various reasons. The leading cause that is increasingly subjecting the employees to bullying is the pressure to meet targets and goals. The team leader or project leader is under pressure from his boss to show results, and the boss is himself under extreme pressure from the top management. This pressure can many times assume the form of bullying, especially at the lower rungs of the ladder where the employees are usually needy and highly vulnerable.

Personal conflicts and inter-departmental rivalries are another common cause of bullying at work. It is critical that the HR policies of a company should be fair to all, and provides for equal dignity and respect to all employees at all levels. There must be a system of monitoring each department, division and their respective heads in order to ensure that if anyone misuses the power vested to him, it quickly comes to the notice of the management before causing much damage.

Most management consultants are of the view that healthy competition between employees for achieving promotions, bonuses, and a better recognition in the company is a welcome phenomenon. As a result, minor office conflicts and politics at work cannot be avoided completely. But it is when the fine borderline between competitiveness and a basic respect for other employees or peers is crossed, it causes trouble for the organization. (2)

Bullying at work can easily go unnoticed if firm policies and counter measures to identify the problem are not in place. Any corporation must ensure a democratic environment at its offices and factories for staff/workers at all levels. Communication must be encouraged, and not discouraged. There must be a feedback system and a system to file complaints and raise concerns, so that the voice of the lowest rung of staff/workers can also reach the management and gets heard. When the management is sensitive to the problem, bullying within the organization is bound to get minimized. It is equally important for the employees to understand their basic human rights at work, and report any instances of bullying without any fear to the top management.

From an individual employee’s perspective, it is important to cope up with bullying in a mature manner. If an employee is convinced there is a legitimate case of bullying against one or more of his peers or bosses, there is no need to suffer injustice silently. It is the right of every employee to take up his grievance with the senior management, or the appropriate authority within the HR department designated to handle such issues. In an extreme situation, if there is a case of bullying at the top management level, the employee may even consider the legal recourse which is within his rights. Suffering injustice at any level is not the right approach, and it is only bound to encourage the bully and aggravate the situation further.

From a legal standpoint, the Indian legal system does talk of mental agony as a civil injury, but the “bullying” terminology is not used freely in India till now. There is an urgent need to recognize the fact that violence does not necessarily have to be physical in nature, it can be mental and it can cause equal harm and injury to an individual. This is the essence of bullying that needs to be addressed at the corporate as well as the governmental and constitutional level in India. (3)


- Vikas Vij (views expressed in the article are that of the author)




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