Bullying is harmful.
Bullying is rife on some construction projects. Workers bully co-workers. Managers and supervisors can even bully those working for them. Clients bully contractors.
October is National Bullying Prevention Month. Coincidentally we also have World Mental Health Day on October 10 and we have Global Diversity Month.
Bullying takes many forms, from physical contact to even discriminatory jokes. Bullying editor happens during work hours and after work.
Nowadays, cyberbullying is rife, and circulating rude messages and comments is a popular form of bullying. We often think of cyberbullying as being a scourge that only impacts kids, but it’s frequently used by adults as a nasty weapon.
Diversity on construction projects
People on construction projects come from diverse cultural backgrounds. They have different educations and different intellectual abilities, practice various religions and have been brought up in different ways.
People that are different are often picked on and bullied.
It's unimportant that people have external differences.
What’s important is that we work as a unified team, working to a common goal, using the best of our combined skills and abilities to deliver the project successfully.
The impacts of bullying on construction projects
The suicide rates among construction workers are among the highest of all industries. Bullying is a major contributing factor.
Bullying undoubtedly leads to mental health issues. It results in depression. It impacts morale on the project. It lowers productivity. It results in absenteeism. It disrupts teamwork and causes disunity.
Bullying also leads to other problems, like alcoholism and drug addiction. Problems at work are often taken home where they impact families. It can result in sleep disorders. All of these inevitably negatively impact the person’s work, leading to lower productivity, poor quality, and unsafe acts.
Bullying sometimes leads to violence on the project when the bullied person can no longer take it and they turn on the bully. In the worst cases, people have been shot dead on project sites. Unfortunately, often others are injured and killed in these incidents – incidents that scar those on the project and lead to disruption of the project.
In "rough and tough" construction, workers can be scared to report bullying and they are afraid to seek help for depression and other mental health problems.
But bullying goes further
As mentioned above bullying takes place between clients and the contractor, and between contractors and their subcontractors.
Paying contractors late is a form of bullying. Threats and intimidation are bullying tactics. Threats that "you’ll never work for me again" are intimidation.
Of course these forms of bullying place enormous stresses on project and company managers. They can’t afford to deliver a service below cost and they also can’t afford to be blacklisted by clients. They have to pay their bills at the end of the month.
The bullying of contractors leads to contractors becoming bankrupt. When a contractor becomes bankrupt, they can’t pay their bills and they become demotivated.
What we can do about bullying
Stopping bullying starts with the example you set. Here are a few personal checklist questions you can ask yourself about bullying on your project.
How do you treat people?
Are you fair and respectful? Would you want others to treat you in the same way as you treat them?
Do you respect and understand the differences between cultures and people?
We are all different and have our own unique and sometimes quirky ways of doing things. What’s important is that we are all working to the success of our project and company.
Are you aware of what’s happening in your teams and between co-workers?
Is there bullying? Pull bullies aside and remind them that bullying is unacceptable. Serial bullies should be reprimanded and even removed from the project.
Bullying and harassment are never acceptable and everyone on the project must be aware that bullying will not be tolerated.
Those who have bullying problems or mental health issues must have a sympathetic ear to talk to. They must know that they can safely report bullying. They must know that bullies will be dealt with by management.
Stand up to bullies.
Nobody likes working in an unpleasant or toxic environment. Everyone should feel safe at work. No one should be bullied because of their physical, cultural, educational or monetary differences.
Bullying wrecks lives and it can wreck your project.
Make this a month to stomp out bullying on your project and in your company.