Tackling the trauma of workplace bullying

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Josephine O'Halloran: 'Bullies avoid accepting responsibility for their own bad behaviour and they divert attention away from their inadequacy. They are insecure, have low self-esteem and lack confidence.' PHOTO: JOE O'SHAUGHNESSY.
Josephine O’Halloran: ‘Bullies avoid accepting responsibility for their own bad behaviour and they divert attention away from their inadequacy. They are insecure, have low self-esteem and lack confidence.’ PHOTO: JOE O’SHAUGHNESSY.

City Lives – Bernie Ní Fhlatharta meets psychotherapist and counsellor Josephine O’Halloran

Workplace bullying may be the butt of office jokes but it is very serious and can be the cause of anxiety, depression, insomnia and even lead to suicide.

One city based counsellor and psychotherapist, Josephine O’Halloran has seen an increase in recent years in the number of people presenting with issues relating to bullying in the workplace.

“Bullying is alive and happening in Galway in places as diverse as large companies and corporations to small companies,”

Research shows that 15% of people who take their own lives have been bullied in the year before their death. Josephine explains that bullying destroys a person’s confidence and self-belief, which can lead them to suicide.

She describes bullying as persistent, unwanted behaviour, mostly using unwarranted or invalid criticism, nit-picking or fault-finding. It usually focuses on distorted or fabricated allegations or under-performance at work, she explains.

“Bullying is also about exclusion, isolation, being singled out and treated differently, being shouted at, humiliated, the victim of excessive monitoring, having verbal and written warnings and more.

“Some bullies set their target up for failure by setting unrealistic goals or deadlines or by denying necessary information and resources, by overloading the employee with work or by taking work away from them, sometimes replacing their work with demeaning jobs.

“Bullying is a learned behaviour that develops when early negative attempts to assert control are rewarded. People should never keep bullying a secret. Aggression feeds on fear and when bullies know people are afraid or anxious, it is like a magnet which attracts them and they do it even more.”

Josephine is a matronly figure, who admits it breaks her heart to see what workplace bullying does to people.

She cannot break confidences but doesn’t deny that workplace bullying is particularly common in the world of finance and in the health services.

But it can happen anywhere, although she has seen increased incidents of it being reported to her by clients since the start of the recession.

Josephine explains that when people feel discommoded in the workplace, some get angry and defensive and take it out on others while others feel vulnerable and are too afraid of losing their jobs to speak up about it.

Bullies, she says, tend to be weak, inadequate and incompetent people who turn their insecurities outward finding satisfaction in their ability to attack, diminish and control other people around them.

“Bullies are people who avoid accepting responsibility for their own bad behaviour and they divert attention away from their inadequacy. They are insecure, have low self-esteem and lack confidence. In all studies taken on bullying, low self-esteem is a factor highlighted in them all. The perpetrators are often seething with jealousy, resentment, bitterness, hatred and anger too.”

Usually the bully is in a management position or another role with authority, which gives him or her opportunity to exert control over their victim.

Article Posted Friday, 3 October 2014 by: Bernie NiFhlatharta – view source

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