Banter or bullying? Complexities within the workplace

 “I used to think that the worst thing in life was to end up alone. It’s not. The worst thing in life is to end up with people who make you feel alone.”
– Robin Williams, “World’s Greatest Dad”, 2009

Most of us spend more than our lifetime working, however very few of us enjoy what we do. 

In recent years, due to the growth of social media platforms such as LinkedIn, a significant amount of emphasis is put on reputation management. Companies use buzzwords such as offering a positive workplace culture and a friendly work environment.

Social media can be a double-edged sword. Companies can hide behind a façade. On the other hand, employees can expose the realities of working there.

Employees call out former employers. The more detailed their claims and allegations seem, the more likely this will damage the company’s reputation or end up in an out of court settlement.

Equally, most employers claim they are the best place to work at. The more attractive their benefits package seems, the more ‘tempted’ employees are to stay.

But what happens offline? 

Bullying occurs in most workplaces and often employees suffer in silence.

Bullies usually defend themselves by claiming “it’s just banter” or shift blame on their victims, claiming “you clearly can’t take a joke”.

Unfortunately, bystanders and witnesses often try to ignore the elephant in the room, as they fear they will be joining the ‘unpopular minority’ or at worse, on the receiving end of abuse.

While bullying is discriminatory, it is not always illegal.

Dr Gary’s video keeps the categories of misconduct and wrongdoing within the workplace in a short and sweet manner:

An overview of the types of bullies he mentions:

  1. The screaming Mimi: Prefers a public setting, controls the emotional climate of the workplace, instils fear in the victim, co-workers will become allies of the bully as they won’t want to be on the receiving end of this abuse
  2. The constant critic: They will always speak to co-workers behind closed doors, usually managers will always be believed as opposed to the target. Misuse performance appraisal system.
  3. The two-headed snake: Passive-aggressive techniques, backstabber, rumour spreader
  4. The gatekeeper: Not all bullies are bosses, however the gatekeeper is narcissistic and acts with superiority, this is the person who can grind everything to a halt as every piece of information passes through their desk, depriving victims of vital information. 

Power imbalance, control and malicious intentional actions are one of the few explanations of why bullies do what they do.

I naively worked in HR to put the ‘human’ in Human Resources, but was quickly disheartened by the realisation that people do not want to take action unless something affects them directly. Including those in positions of power and superiority who can truly make a difference.

It takes more than a department or a job title to make change. It takes an empath. An individual with a strong moral compass. Someone who wants to do what is right, not what is popular. Someone who realises the difference they can make in someone’s life.

No amount of work benefits, season train ticket loans, discounts and dress down Fridays should ever replace someone’s mental health.

Our need to belong to groups is part of our tribal and human instinct, but not worth it in the least if we contribute to excluding others. Standing up for someone is the new cool.

Do it.

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