Workplace Bullying and Men’s Sense of Self
Surviving Hell – Men and Workplace Bullying

As a society, Australia is becoming better at dealing with workplace bullying. That is, better at understanding, noticing, preventing, stopping and compensating for injury. Yet we also have so much to learn about the more nuanced after-effects of this scourge within Australian workplaces. One problematic and often ignored aspect of the broader effects of bullying is the devastating impact upon the identity and wellbeing of men. Gender stereotypes around ‘toughness’ and ‘coping’ have a lot to answer for, as we begin to unpack the pressures on men to withstand even the most dire of workplace bullying situations. We look at the specific impacts that workplace bullying can have upon men’s sense of self – as well as the workplace more broadly.

A study in ill treatment
In a recent article by MacIntosh et al, a close analysis was made of men’s responses to bullying. The researchers found that men who were the subjects of bullying in the workplace utilised similar mechanisms afterwards to try to hold on to their sense of self. The participants reported feelings of shock, confusion and a negative shift in identity after being bullied. Many had considerable difficulty in reconciling the way they saw themselves as men, with the way they had been treated. A lengthy process of ‘sustaining self’ was often needed, employing processes such as comparing their earlier identity with their ‘bullied’ self, taking stock, considering help, and coming to terms with the new reality.
Costs and consequences
Most employers understand the basic responses that are needed when a male staff member reports bullying. Yet there is more that can be done by human resource personnel and employers generally when such a report comes through. Certainly, an investigation of allegations will commence, plus leave might be granted for the staff member/s where appropriate. But with only 25% of men who have been bullied staying at the same workplace, more intensive and personalised assistance should be embedded in the employment culture. Without such investment of time, energy and other resources, workplaces stand to lose good workers, considerable corporate knowledge and trust from remaining employees regarding genuine support from ‘the top.’ Worse still, the perception that bullying behaviour is tacitly ignored or tolerated by management can have marked effects upon morale and productivity.
Tailored methods
Because of gender stereotypes that persist regarding the need for men to ‘suck it up’ following an attack like bullying, even good managers and HR staff can miss the indications that all is not well in the workplace. If a male staff member actually does approach HR for assistance around workplace bullying (often extremely challenging), initial contact must be supportive, inclusive and flexible in terms of availability and resource choices. Once the allegation is proved, helping the employee to slowly find ways to sustain his sense of self can greatly increase the chances of wellness being rebuilt, and the employment relationship continuing.
In terms of policies and procedures relevant to the reporting and treatment of workplace bullying, make sure that these are professionally tailored for the individual workplace. For example, where gender composition or the nature of work could make personal reporting difficult in work hours, ensure that access to help is discreet, multi-channel and appropriate to the situation.
Walking beside
Being bullied – combined with gendered expectations about how they should react – can coalesce into a living nightmare for men in the workplace. Be sure to assist male employees to navigate the difficult path to equilibrium following an incident of workplace bullying. With accessible resources, tailored policies and suitable support, employers can actively assist men in the workplace as they regain their post-bullying sense of self.
WISE Workplace provides training courses and masterclasses in investigations for HR practitioners, workplace investigators and managers.  Our courses are designed and taught by investigators specifically designed for those engaged in the investigation of workplace misconduct including bullying and harassment.  See below for upcoming course dates
Conducting workplace investigations advanced
(Articulates with Cert IV in Government Investigations)


Location: Sydney
Date: 6-8 May 2015
Location: Canberra
Date: 20-22 May 2015
Click here to find out more and book

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