Bullying in the Workplace

 Annukka Kinnaird, Literacy and Education Consultant at SIL

Last year I took part in the Introduction to Mentoring online course. I found it an uplifting and positive experience. One image from the PowerPoint presentation stuck in my mind: a tiny spring-green little branch growing out of a big tree. As I have been working on a research paper on workplace bullying, it occurred to me that bullying is the exact opposite of that image: bullying is a stifling force aiming to prevent that branch from growing, even wanting to destroy it altogether.

Out of interest, I then decided to make a chart. I collected definitions and ideas for mentoring from both the course material and the ideas the participants had produced and compared them with bullying. It worked: in so many aspects, bullying is the direct opposite of mentoring.

Bullying sounds rather horrible – and indeed, it is. Where mentoring encourages open, “other-centred” two-way dialogue and genuine listening, bullying does not allow this type of communication (even though it may look like it at a glance). It is instead characterized by a deeply critical, negative outlook on things which shows itself in “bully-centred,” almost mafia-like hinting, threatening and using a clever mixture of truths and mistruths. The good news is that mentoring can work as an antidote to bullying by encouraging a positive atmosphere, helping us detect bullying and manipulation (just by knowing what its opposite is) and making us more sensitive to acceptable and desirable behaviour.

Introduction to Mentoring Course material. 2022

Namie, G and Namie, R. 2009. The Bully at Work. Sourcebooks.

Namie, G and Namie, R. 2011. The Bully-free Workplace. John Wiley & Sons

Wilkinson, H. 2013. Insight into child and adult bullying. CWR


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