Today we hear much about the issue of bullying in schools, we have anti-bullying campaigns, and we are very aware of the incredibly negative impact that this has on those who are bullied. However, not much is openly or publicly addressed about the bullying that goes on in workplaces. In 2000, a Canadian poll of labour unions revealed that more than 75% of those surveyed reported incidents of harassment and bullying at work.
Sometimes co-workers are not skilled at interpersonal relationships or at giving feedback and they don’t realize the impact they have on the people around them. This may or may not constitute bullying. If this is happening, that person’s supervisor needs to be made aware of the lack of skills and the person needs to be encouraged and supported in learning how to relate to others in a respectful manner.
Many bullies are unaware of the impact they have on their targets. A small percentage actually does realize what they are doing and it gives them a sense of power over others. Bullies tend to intimidate and isolate their prey to the point that they are scared to seek help.
If you cringe at the thought of going to work because of what you’re going to face there at the hands of one or more co-workers or worse yet your supervisor; or if you experience chronic symptoms of stress – headaches, gastrointestinal problems, loss of appetite, difficulty sleeping, depression, anxiety, etc., then you may be experiencing bullying in the workplace. In some cases bullying is open and easy to identify. In other instances it can be subtle and the target may wonder if they are just being overly sensitive.
It’s not that we have to be best friends with everyone at work but that everyone has the right to be treated with respect at work.
Workplace bullying can take the form of constantly being told that you are inept at your job, being yelled at, ridiculed, or being set up to fail by not being given the information you need to do the job or given deadlines that are impossible to meet. When cattiness, sarcasm, or gossip is constant and deliberate or volatile tempers leave you scared, discourage, or full of self-doubt, you are experiencing workplace bullying.
Physicians write many “stress leave” prescriptions due for individuals who are being bullied at work and feel powerless to do anything about it for fear of repercussion. If the bully is the boss, they could lose their job. Psychologists, social workers, occupational therapists, and employee assistance programs referring agents also hear from many individuals who are too scared to file formal complaints against a bully at work. The issue is much more prevalent than you might think. In some workplaces it is so common that those who work in those environments take it for granted that it is part of the landscape of their chosen field.
The Canadian Safety Council reports that workplace bullying is four times more common than sexual harassment or workplace discrimination.