I am asked this question a lot.

There are three parties involved in a case of workplace bullying:

  1. The perpetrator

The obvious candidate for blame. They’re the one carrying out the bullying after all.

And as discussed in my previous blog, the main motivator for their humiliation and intimidation of another is insecurity and a need to assert their dominance or (re)gain a sense of power, which often manifests in belittling, quashing achievements or hindering the opportunity to achieve.

  1. The business

How could the organisation allow bullying to happen? Indeed, the finger of blame may be pointed squarely at the board, senior management and HR.

Arguably, the organisation could be seen as complicit in the bullying by excusing behaviour of the perpetrator as “it’s just their way of managing – tough love!” or “it’s character building”, when in fact the behaviour is having the opposite effect and demolishing a person’s character. Perhaps they’ve been with the business for several years and, despite the low staff retention in their particular team or department, their performance and loyalty overshadows any cause for concern.

Alternatively, perhaps the perpetrator has been thrust into a position of management and seniority – “it’s sink or swim time” – who hasn’t been given the skills or training to manage, and therefore whose behaviour is motivated by anxiety, stress and an inability to cope.

  1. The victim

In cases of bullying, sadly often the victim feels they are most to blame.

While to an outsider, the victim is not the guilty party, to them they may feel responsible for somehow inviting, provoking or deserving the behaviour.

It is these feelings of guilt and blame that prevent victims speaking out and, in turn, enable the behaviour to exist – often without the organisation’s knowledge “is no news good news?”  – and to persist.

More insight into the relationship between harassment and guilt here.

Bullying isn’t about blame

The answer to the question “who is to blame?” is: “it doesn’t matter”. It’s not about blame, rather, it’s an understanding that we are all accountable. We all have a responsibility to one another and to not tolerate workplace bullying, harassment and discrimination.

Not only does bullying affect the well-being, development and performance of the victim, it can be toxic to the culture of the organisation. And it’s costly too in reduced productivity, poor staff retention and reputational risk.

Keep an eye out for my next blog for some top tips to prevent and tackle workplace bullying, but if you can’t wait till then why not contact Tell Jane to see how we can help.

Interested in finding out more? Why not attend one of our free breakfast seminars?

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