Case Study #1
Poonam, a full time faculty member for the last two years, has few friends in her department. Many of the long term faculty do not approve of her approach to her subject area and she just can’t seem to connect with the support staff. Poonam feels ignored at department meetings and finds herself excluded from casual conversations and trips to the cafeteria for coffee. At last month’s meeting, she was repeatedly interrupted and aggressively challenged by her colleagues as she tried to present a proposal for a new course. Poonam was surprised and hurt that her manager did nothing to intervene. Several days later, Poonam was making photocopies for class when her colleague Anna stopped her print job to make her own copies. When Poonam approached her to let her know that she needed the copies immediately, Anna become hostile. “You’re not the only one in the department that needs to get things done. Back off” she shouted. The following week, the Chair of the department called Poonam into his office to notify her that several colleagues had complained about her arrogant behavior.
Mobbing is bullying behaviour demonstrated by a group against a single person. This form of bullying can be considered emotional abuse. It is committed directly or indirectly by a group of co-workers against one of their colleagues. Organizational leadership plays an important role in preventing this type of workplace bullying.
Case Study #2
Carla, an assistant manager in a student services department, recently hired Igor for a part-time administrative support staff position. Igor worked hard learning his new position and appreciated the advice from Carla on how to improve his work. As Igor became more confident in his abilities, he noticed that Carla started to treat him differently. It seemed that as soon as Igor clarified what Carla wanted him to do, she would change her mind. Even when Igor followed Carla’s instructions directly, she complained that he hadn’t done it right. One afternoon, Carla criticized his performance in front of everyone in the office, making him feel humiliated. At a recent department meeting shortly after, Carla blamed Igor for a mistake that he didn’t make. When he approached her to talk about what was happening, Carla threatened to fire him. “If you don’t start acting like a team player, I’ll find someone who will” she barked.
Supervisory staff have a responsibility to create a safe and respectful working environment for their employees. Being an effective and respectful manager include communicating expectations clearly, setting reasonable performance goals, and providing feedback to employees in a manner that helps them to improve their performance. Using supervisory authority to embarrass or humiliate employees is not appropriate and can be considered bullying.
Case Study #3
Liz, an executive assistant to a Vice President at the College, was recently recognized for twenty-five years of dedicated service. A highly organized employee with a keen attention to detail, Liz prides herself on her performance and long service at the College. She also enjoys her close working relationship with the VP and was thrilled when he asked her to watch over Yun Ping, the new office manager. Liz wasn’t happy when Yun Ping was hired, as she didn’t feel that the position was necessary. She makes sure to monitor Yun Ping’s work closely and doesn’t hesitate to let her know when she has made a mistake. When Yun Ping tried to implement a new filing system, Liz refused to participate. “There’s nothing wrong with how we do things around here” she snapped. Over coffee in the staff room with her colleague Sheila another support staff in the office, Liz loudly complained about the incident. “Can you believe Yun Ping’s nerve? That smart aleck thinks she can just waltz in here and turn the place upside down. I hear she got fired from her last position. If I were you, I’d just ignore her. She won’t last long”.
An employee does not need to hold formal organizational power, such as having a job as a supervisor, to act as a bully. Employees can be influential by virtue of their relationship with key decision makers, their status with other employees, or the number of years they have worked in an organization. Employees who exercise this kind of informal power to isolate or sabotage their co-worker are engaging in bullying behaviour.