WORKPLACE BULLYING

Bullying can happen to anyone, including you

It is reported that between 10%-40% of individuals in the workforce report being bullied at some point during their careers. The bullying itself could come in the form of insults, speaking down, alienation, allegations or even assault. It could take place in person or in the form of cyberbullying.

What is important to recognize is that, as adults, we find it equally as difficult to speak up and seek help as youth do. For adults, there is another fear associated to speaking up to those that are being the bullies…our careers and money! This is often enough to prevent someone from speaking up.

It has been said that most would rather ‘ignore’ the bully and hope it just stops than to have it addressed and risk the associated repercussions. Sadly, what typically happens is the person slowly becomes isolated in the office, feeling alone, extra sensitive to all around and ultimately quits. With that said, by the time the person quits, mental health has suffered and our work may suffer as well. Using that workplace as a potential reference for the future is now made more difficult.

Bullying within the workplace often starts with ‘water cooler discussions’ where negative talk takes place. The talk is typically about a particular colleague with the intent to isolate. Those around the cooler no longer want to associate, or even work with, that person.  

This person could be anyone.

Supervisors will speak down to the employee, take credit for their work or even shame them. Comments such as ‘I have heard’ or ‘I have received several complaints’ are not uncommon. An important fact to consider is that an effective supervisor will address the employee on the first complaint and not allow several to add up.

As employees, we fear that by speaking up, we may lose our job. Speaking up may simply make things worse around the office. These thoughts are common and are what typically keeps us quiet.   By not speaking up, we show the bully, and others, that we will not stop the behaviour.

The most important points to take away from this are to speak up and take notes!

As employees, we fear that by speaking up, we may lose our job. Speaking up may simply make things worse around the office. These thoughts are common and are what typically keeps us quiet.   By not speaking up, we show the bully, and others, that we will not stop the behaviour.

If you are a victim of workplace bullying, it is of utmost importance that the situation be addressed on the first instance.

The first time you hear something, see something or sense something is off, address it. People admire others that are able to address situations in a professional and immediate manner. The longer it goes unaddressed, the more difficult it will be to correct.

The first step is to speak directly to the individual responsible. Again, in a responsible and professional manner. It is always recommended to make notes of this as well.  Keep notes on all interactions, experiences, dates, individuals involved and potential people who may have heard or experienced the incident.

If speaking to the individual does not work, and you have made notes, then speak up to the next person who can help.   Perhaps that is the Office Manager or Superintendent. Ensure that you take all of your notes with you for this meeting.

Consider utilizing any support services provided by your employer. Groups such as support networks or counselling services. This will help to ensure that tension and stress is not building up within us and we are seeking professional help for advice and direction.

Talk to someone close to you. Let them know what is taking place. Ensure that you are not speaking in a negative manner about the bully within the office, otherwise that makes you no better than they.

Lastly, it is important to know that bullying is the repeated use of force, threat or coercion to abuse, intimidate or embarrass others with the intent to harm. The key points here are ‘repeated’ and the ‘intent to harm’ others.   If your supervisor is doing their job and making those important decisions, to which you may not agree, is not bullying. That is the supervisor doing his or her job and making those tough decisions. If they are doing or saying something that is meant to harm or embarrass you, that is bullying.