Can this cartoon character raise awareness of workplace bullying?

Can this cartoon character raise awareness of workplace bullying?

Workplace bullying is a very serious matter. Charity Bullying UK warns it can harm an employee’s wellbeing, leaving them stressed, anxious, and unproductive.

And, with research from the University of Phoenix suggesting 75% of workers have been bullied at some point during their career, it is essential for HR to have strategies in place for dealing with it.

However, awareness of bullying could soon be coming from an unexpected source – a Japanese cartoon aimed at adults.

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‘Aggretsuko’ is an anime about a sweet red panda named Retsuko who faces many modern-day challenges working in an office, including gender discrimination and bullying.

"Aggretsuko reflects the stress and frustration that the designer observed in office workers," Aggretsuko creator Sanrio told the BBC.

"She felt that they were 'screaming from the heart', which is characterised through Aggretsuko's favourite pastime: thrash metal karaoke."

And many fans of the show say they are drawn to it because of the harsh workplace experiences the panda goes through. Vinh, an immuno-oncologist at the National Institute of Health in Washington DC, told the BBC he identifies with Aggretsuko because he has experienced workplace bullying.

"In the show, Retsuko has to bear with borderline harassment from Ton, her supervisor, and there's no recourse in a HR representative," he said.

"In my previous position, I had a HR [officer] to talk to but they were ultimately not helpful in resolving the situation with my supervisor, so they might as well have not existed at all."

How to deal with bullying in your own organisation

Linda James is the Founder and CEO of Bullies Out. She told HR Grapevine how to spot the signs of bullying. “[It] can include verbal aggression or yelling, isolation, an unrealistic workload, continuous criticism of a person and/or their work, constantly interfering and dictating and continuous ill treatment,” she said.

“To try and limit bullying, employers first need to ensure their anti-bullying policy is up-to-date and relevant,” she adds. “Staff should receive appropriate training and know that if affected by bullying, they will feel listened to and have confidence that the issue will be dealt with effectively.”

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