Arianne Irakoze refers to her internship at a local media house as a horrible experience. She found herself in a twist with one of the news editors who made it a point to make her life miserable throughout the course of her stay.
“The woman was downright rude,” Irakoze recalls, adding that she didn’t mind embarrassing someone in front of others. “She would give commands at the top of her voice and seemed proud of it.”
With her struggle to impress her intimidating supervisor, Irakoze at one point decided to beat her deadlines in a spin of endless reporting, but she almost fainted because she barely had time to eat.
“There is a time she made fun of me in the newsroom and everyone laughed. I couldn’t hold my anger, so I got the strength to retaliate because I couldn’t take it anymore. My workmates could not believe it because no one dared to respond to her the way I had,” she recalls.
“I really hate embarrassment, I barely concentrated on my work because of the fear I had for her, and at some point my self-esteem started shrinking. I would panic whenever my eyes met hers,” Irakoze adds.
“What is even harder to comprehend is that she cared less about the reporters’ welfare and focused more on the safety of the office equipment. If you had a problem while in the field, all she wanted to know was if the camera was okay.”
Irakoze says it was a relief when she was done with the internship, so much that she turned down the offer she was given at the media house.
“I was asked to stay on as a freelancer but I just couldn’t stand the presence of that lady, she made me hate journalism but luckily, I do not give up easily and there were other people who believed in me which kept me going,” she recalls.
Irakoze’s case is just one of the many where employees have to deal with co-workers or bosses who are flat out bullies.
‘The Workplace Bullying Institute’ defines bullying as repeated mistreatment of an employee by one or more employees; abusive conduct which includes threatening, humiliating, or intimidating, work sabotage, or verbal abuse.
Are employers aware of this?
Paul Bitariho, the managing director of an IT company, says that though cases of bullying are rare in his organisation, they do happen.
Whether to a small or large extent, Bitariho believes that bullying shouldn’t in any way be tolerated at the workplace.
“Bullying can greatly affect one’s state of mind and this can take a huge toll on their performance, let alone their health. If one is not strong enough, they can find it hard to go to work whereas others can actually quit their job,” he says.
Bitariho believes that putting up strict laws can be of use when it comes to dealing with this.
“Put up policies that make the responsible party pay for their mistakes because if not handled well, in the long run it can actually tarnish the reputation of the organisation,” he advises.
Joseph Harerimana, a human resource manager at a money transfer company, says that bullying should be dealt with high vigilance since it is a sensitive issue that affects the performance of the company negatively.
The management of the company should set up rules and regulations against this; this is one way of dealing with this, he says.
“For now, we have never faced this situation in our company but still, we have policies set in place regarding bullying. Our company is committed to providing a workplace free from discrimination, sexual harassment and bullying and has zero tolerance for any kind of discrimination,” Harerimana points out.
He considers this kind of behaviour as that which shouldn’t be tolerated and that such a case should lead to action being taken, which may include dismissal or termination of the job contract.
Deborah Nanyonga, an administrative assistant, agrees with Harerimana saying that such misconduct should lead to serious repercussions such as firing the authors.
She says that bullying might look like a minor issue but it does not only affect the workers’ welfare, but the company’s productivity as well.
“A working environment should always be friendly for all, because this way, it can produce the desired result which is efficient productivity and anyone who sabotages this should be held accountable,” Harerimana says.
Employees take on bullying
Phrister Nakato, a tour consultant, says bullying is common in some places of work and that the only solution is to keep your distance and respect other people no matter what.
“I think respecting each other, appreciating someone’s work and trying your best to work as a team can help handle this,” she says.
Nakato says that hard as it might seem to be polite to a bully, it’s better than retaliation which can only lead to a more complicated situation.
“No one loves to be bullied; and it affects one’s work. Someone might also feel unappreciated, hence, losing morale and it might also lead to mistakes as a result of lack of concentration. Bullying has far-reaching effects, more than what people think,” Nakato adds.
Charles Shyaka, a marketing manager, says that bullying has serious consequences; it goes far beyond hurting one’s performance at work to affecting their physical and mental wellbeing.
“Though it might be hard to have evidence to back up a case, employees should take such cases to their superiors because if unattended to, they can turn into serious grudges and more serious repercussions,” Shyaka advises.
How to overcome bullying
Psychotherapist Amy Morin’s article How To Deal With A Workplace Bully, cites workplace bullies as those similar to teen bullies.
She notes that what bullies do in addition to intimidating their victims, they may spread rumours to tarnish a co-worker’s reputation, or fail to invite an employee to a key team meeting.
Bullies may also make fun of their co-workers or tell inappropriate jokes at a victim’s expense, she writes.
“Bullying isn’t just detrimental to victims; it damages the entire work environment. Workplace bullies impact every level of business, from productivity and profitability to creativity and office morale,” her article points out.
About.com’s bullying expert and author, Sherri Gordon, was quoted in her article saying that for one to overcome bullying, they have to recognise what they can control and what they cannot control. In other words, one cannot control what a bully says or does, but they can control their response.
“It is also a good idea to set boundaries with a bully. Be direct about what you do not like about their behaviour and let them know that if they continue you will report them. Try not to get emotional when you are talking to a bully because they will likely use this against you,” Gordon advises.
“If the bullying continues and is not a one-time incident of mean behaviour, report it to your supervisor. And if the bully is your supervisor, go to his supervisor. Be sure that you have documentation of the incident, including dates, times and witnesses. Be sure your presentation is as professional as possible. Stick to the facts and ask for a resolution to the issue.”
How can one deal with workplace bullying?
Joan Nakazibwe, Fashion designer
Handling the bully in a professional way is the best way to deal with it. Talk to the bully calmly because shouting or insulting may only worsen the situation. With time, you will overcome and the bully will back off.
Shimwa Francoise Nyiramuhire, Student
Implementing policies at work that prevent bullying can help provide a safe environment. Make sure that employees are aware of them and also, the repercussions should be harsh. Let’s say suspension without pay or for really bad cases, termination of contract.
Yves Ujeneza, Businessman
Ignoring the bully can put off that person trying to victimise you. In most cases such people are looking for a reaction and if they don’t get one, they eventually stop and this is why it’s best not to play games with them.
Pie Kombe, Reflexologist
Though it might be hard, one should confront the person bullying them to understand why they are treating them that way. If they don’t stop then one can take matters to management.