Workplace bullying is alarmingly on the increase in today’s world of work and it comes in various forms and dimensions. It usually involves incidents or patterns of behaviour that intimidate, offend, degrade or humiliate a person or group of persons. It can also be described as the assertion of power through aggression.
Below is a typical case of workplace bullying recently witnessed.
Aminat works with one of the famous banks in Nigeria and was considered to be doing quite well in her marketing position. Within her two years of working in the bank, she has won several awards and recognitions.
A new Head of Department, Olasunbo was hired to supervise Aminat after the retirement of her immediate supervisor. After three months under the supervision of her new boss, Aminat started noticing some subtle changes in the work relationship. For example, during their departmental meetings, Olasunbo purposely refused to acknowledge her opinions. At some point during the meeting, he grabbed Aminat’s phone and read a text message that her husband sent to her. Subsequently, Aminat also discovered that she was not included in one of the important group meetings and for some reasons, she did not receive the memo for the quarterly corporate business review meeting, that she usually attended.
Aminat knew that Olasunbo was notorious and well known for his bullish behaviour and disregard for staff. But he was the golden boy of management because he delivered on the numbers which for some reason was all that mattered to the Group Head. At the next general departmental meeting, Olasunbo shared a new marketing strategy with individual assignments and when Aminat asked for clarification on the unreasonable targets her team was given, Olasunbo rose up and proceeded to shout abuses, hurling insults her way in front of her direct reports. She stood stunned and humiliated at the unnecessary verbal assault. Olasunbo in his rage, then proceeded to announce that Aminat’s monthly meetings with clients would now be handled by her assistant so that Aminat could better focus on more “aggressive marketing” to get new clients. Aminat was infuriated, confused and highly demoralized by this decision because she had built a good relationship with these clients and had always hit her marketing goals.
Aminat found it difficult to put into words what was happening but knew that something was definitely wrong somewhere. She informally had a discussion with the Human Resource (HR) Manager, who to her dismay, suggested that she should simply work harder to be a part of the team and be more mature at dealing with her new boss’ personality. Aminat felt embarrassed but agreed that she would try harder, realizing clearly that she had little power to make any changes.
At the end of the sixth month, Aminat’s former assistant noticed her mood and interaction with her team had changed. She no longer came to work with her usual energy and passion and unlike before, was no longer meeting her targets. Olasunbo on the other hand was now getting more aggressive and demeaning in the way he spoke to her and the entire team. The team now seemed on edge, more impatient with each other and could no longer trust one another. Eventually, Olasunbo suggested that Aminat may not be in the right field to be successful and perhaps should consider something more in line with her competencies. Whenever Aminat sought for information about anything, her boss Olasunbo would respond with intense harshness and yell about her poor performance that could threaten her job with the bank.
Though Aminat remained outwardly calm, her inner emotions were in turmoil. She could feel her focus becoming disorientated as she kept thinking through, trying to either adapt to what others were doing or saying or remain her true self and take the challenge. What gave her the most concern was that even enquiries from her colleagues on what should be the root cause of her ordeal was always met with a strange feeling and response by her peers, who were all imagining that she should have been able to read the handwriting on the wall.
As the issue degenerated, the HR Manager and her assistant had a meeting with Aminat and her boss, Olasunbo to address the issues. To her boss, this was turned into another opportunity to denigrate and accuse her further of incompetence and finally convinced HR that he could not work with Aminat, neither is Aminat fit for any other role in the bank.
Regrettably, not wanting to upset the ‘golden boy’, HR bought his claims and recommended Aminat for disengagement.
Share your perspective/experience on the following thoughts:
- Have you experienced or witnessed a case similar to that of Aminat before?
- If yes, how did you manage the case?
- What do you think HR should have done better in this case?
- Please, advise on legal framework to address Aminat’s case