As Singapore embarks on a journey to establish itself as a regional hub for the events sector in the years to come, many of the locally-based event organizers and firms are working hard to take on more projects to play their part in growing the industry. However, this surge in productivity and performance comes at a price – stretching limited resources and overworking employees to meet the various deadlines imposed. An event operates like an exponential curve; it starts slowly and gradually as the event nears, the workload builds leading to the event itself. Burnouts happen frequently if the workload is not managed properly. As a result, there is a loss of human touch and staff welfare across the industry, with supervisors and managers pushing their team to the limit in exchange for results and performance.
While it is heartening to know that the phenomenon does not occur in every workplace, a more pressing issue exists on hand – workplace bullying. Einarsen, Hoel, Zapf, & Cooper (2011) defined this as “harassing, offending, socially excluding someone or negatively affecting someone’s work tasks repeatedly and regularly, over a period of time.”
It has been reported that many employees in Singapore have seen themselves fall victim to workplace bullying – with 24 percent of local employees indicating so in an online survey conducted by JobsCentral in 2012 (Goh, 2014). Employees reportedly experienced bullying in various manners, and these can be classified as being either clear-cut or subtle.
Clear-cut examples of workplace bullying would include physical abuse, such as being slapped and pinched, and verbal abuse, in the form of hurling vulgarities or insults. Subtle manners of workplace abuse are harder to identify and would include things such as making degrading remarks and being ostracized at work by colleagues.
Though it may be easy to cast a blind eye to such incidents at work, it is an issue that should not be ignored, as the repercussions can be severe for the targets of bullying. A study has shown, as cited in Einarsen, Hoel, Zapf, & Cooper (2011), some targets may consider suicide as a solution to their problems. Mental well-being can also be affected, where targets may suffer from Post-Traumatic Stress Disorder (PTSD).
The same study quoted above on 199 participants, who experienced bullying, has shown that 84 percent of them have PTSD symptoms attributed to workplace bullying by their superiors. Workplace bullying can affect one’s self-esteem, leading to a sense of hopelessness and lower self-worth and even depression (Einarsen, Hoel, Zapf, & Cooper, 2011).
This problem may also affect work productivity of the company (Rajalakshmi & Gomathi, 2016). Additionally, there is a co-relation between bullying and absenteeism due to sickness (Einarsen, Hoel, Zapf, & Cooper, 2011). As such, this means that victims of bullying are more likely to be absent from work, affecting the overall productivity of the company.
Objective of the Study
The aim of the study is to explore the concept of workplace bullying – specifically in the areas of verbal abuse and being ostracized at work – as these are the most likely scenarios to occur in the events industry.
Through this study, the team hopes to achieve several key objectives. Firstly, the team aims to raise awareness of workplace bullying in Singapore, and inform the relevant stakeholders in the event industry that such situations do exist. According to an interview with an employee at Concepts Events Marketing, most of the workplace bullying that takes place in the events industry includes verbal bullying and ostracising of subordinates. Due to the nature of the work, teamwork is part and parcel of the job. There will always be a few members who cannot work well in a team, and get ostracised. Therefore, it is crucial to make known to relevant stakeholders – human resource managers, managers of different tiers, and employees about the pressing issue.
Secondly, the study will highlight the various signs and symptoms of workplace bullying, which will help stakeholders identify such incidents in the workplace. Lastly, it aims to educate victims on the various platforms to seek help from. This will allow both the victims and witnesses of workplace bullying to understand the seriousness of the issue, and help them know how and where to seek help from.
According to the Ministry of Manpower guidelines, every employee can be reminded to take charge of their own personal safety and wellbeing at work. To deal with workplace bullying, the victim should firstly, be familiar with the workplace harassment procedures in the organisation and report it to the appropriate parties. Companies are also advised to implement proper reporting procedures, or establish a harassment reporting line with an environment where whistle-blowers will be protected.
Additionally, employees are encouraged to seek help from their colleagues, and a buddy system can be adopted to solve such issues. Alternatively, external help can be sought to resolve workplace bullying. The affected person can consider approaching associations, unions, or professional organisations to seek help from. Some of these avenues include, the Singapore National Employers Federation (SNEF), The Legal Aid Bureau (LAB) and the Ministry of Manpower (MOM.)
For employers seeking to create training programs relating to peer support, they can approach the Trauma Recovery and Corporate Solutions (TraCS) for advice, and acquire the required resources. Alternatively, the victim can consider making a police report if the situation escalates. If the victim need legal advice, they can approach the Community Justice Centre (CJC), who are able to provide legal advice to individuals needing help.
The team firmly believes that the education video produced will be able to aid in raising awareness about the real extent of workplace abuse in a typical workplace within the industry. Also, it serves as an educational tool for both the employers and the employees, in learning about how to identify workplace bullying, and knowing how to handle such situations within the workplace environment.
In order to better understand the extent and impact of workplace bullying within the various workplaces in local events firms, a series of in-depth interviews were conducted with several employees who have witnessed such incidents first-hand within their companies. However, pseudonyms will be used to protect these individuals, as they have agreed to the interview on the condition that their identities will be kept confidential. In addition, academic papers will be referenced from multiple sources to further strengthen the findings, and provide alternative viewpoints on the topic of workplace bullying as a whole.
Workplace bullying is a pressing issue that is not commonly highlighted, but yet on ongoing phenomenon that has to be addressed due to the consequences. The team is keen to provide solutions to address this issue and is fully confident that the proposed solution will be effective in resolving the problem of workplace bullying.
Einarsen, S., Hoel, H., Zapf, D., & Cooper, C. (2011). The concept of bullying at work: The European tradition. International perspectives in research and practice, 3 – 30.
Goh, N. (2014). Retrieved from http://www.straitstimes.com/singapore/facing-up-to-bullies-at-the-workplace
Rajalakshmi,M., & S., G. (2016). Relationship between workplace bullying and organisational culture. Global Management Review 10(2), 71-82.
Tripartite Advisory on Managing Workplace Harassment. (2017). Mom.gov.sg. Retrieved 21 March 2017, from http://www.mom.gov.sg/~/media/mom/documents/employment-practices/guidelines/tripartite-advisory-on-managing-workplace-harassment.pdf?la=en
Written by Koo Han Tong, Leon Ng and Joey Lee