Bullying is commonly thought of as a problem concerning children, something that is a part of life and a passing phase. However, bullying affects people of all ages and the implications of bullying are serious, and in fatal cases result in physical violence and even death.
The tragic death of Aamanda Todd, a 15-year-old girl from British Columbia, occurred on October 10, 2012 as a result of severe bullying inflicted by her peers. Amanda was tormented and physically assaulted by classmates in the months leading up to her suicide. Before committing suicide she had reached out online via YouTube with a plea for help. What makes her story most tragic is that she has been bullied in death, with people leaving horrible comments on her personal facebook page, as well as memorial facebook pages since her suicide.
Amanda’s story is Heartbreaking. Although Amanda’s story is just one of many that depict the devastating effects of bullying, it should give us pause to contemplate our daily behaviours and take strides to stop and prevent bullying wherever it occurs.
Despite the difference in age, the similarities between school bullying and workplace bullying are striking. In both instances an insecure person (the bully) is trying to grab power by belittling and harassing someone else in an attempt to feel superior.
It is assumed that by the time people are old enough to be gainfully employed they have moved beyond bullying. But unfortunately this is not the case. Workplace bullying occurs any time an individual encounters behaviour that makes them feel intimidated, threatened, harassed, or physically intimidated.
Many times those who have used bullying as a way to feel superior during grade school carry the behaviour into their work. Workplace bullying can be present itself in a number of ways that undermine fellow employees. Common tactics include:
- Belittling a person’s opinions, contributions and ideas
- Constant criticism
- Excluding a person from activities, meetings and discussions
- Withholding information essential to a person’s job performance
- Spreading rumours
- Undervaluing or ignoring an individual’s contribution
- Jokes made (or emailed) at someone’s expense
- Taking credit for someone else’s work
What needs to be acknowledged with workplace bullying is that many times it goes unnoticed because the exchanges can appear subtle and the aggression may only be felt by those directly involved.
For those in managerial roles, it is essential to have a written policy and program in place to aid those involved in bullying in the workplace. Everyone must feel that there is a process in place whereby complaints can be investigated fairly and in a timely manner.
If you or someone you know has had issues with workplace bullying, there are steps you can take to stop it:
- Keep a log of bullying incidents. Write down the date, time and details of the interactions as well as names of witnesses (if any) and what occurred following the incident.
- In a firm and confident demeanour tell the person that their behaviour is inappropriate and ask them to stop.
- Make copies of correspondence received from the bully, and keep on file should the materials be needed for future conflict resolution.
- If bullying continues, report your harassment to a supervisor or individual delegated to conflict resolution. If your concerns are not handled in an appropriate manner, contact the next level of management to deal with the issue.
- Never retaliate. In instances of workplace bullying you may become frustrated and lash out in kind. The problem with this is that it will negate your previous complaints and may appear as though you are the perpetrator.
This article is an adaptation of an article that first appeared in Skilven Puiblication’s Talks Zone newsletter. To subscribe to Talks Zone, call us at 1-888-655-4800.