Author: Doris Deits
Growing up, I attended public schools like most kids, and there was always a bully around. Even if you didn’t have one in your class directly, eventually one of them would find you in the lunchroom, or perhaps at recess on the playground, in the sandbox or on the monkey bars. I would get kicked, have my hair pulled, called names, stung with spit balls, pinched, punched, pushed down and generally humiliated. And that was just first grade.
Every single time that I chose to be the “nice” girl, be the “bigger” person and maturely inform my teacher of the crimes that had been committed against me, I got nowhere. No matter how many times the teacher told Billy to “be nice,” he was never nice! It seemed no one was willing or able to stop the kindergarten mercenaries. It was Lord of the Flies, where the strong and the vicious made the rules and ran the show. I was horrified. Those little terrorists were everywhere.
Most of us found a way to survive our school years, and we often have the emotional scars to prove it. But what do you suppose happened to those Hunger Game wannabes and Mean Girls that brought such emotional turmoil to our youth? I allowed myself to fantasize that, as an adult, all the bullies had made their way to a therapist and were working diligently on the feelings of guilt that were keeping them up at night.
No such luck.
Most of them got jobs and now we get to work alongside those little tyrants every day – just like at school. Yes, I am talking about the workplace bullies. You know them, you’ve seen them, and you may even be one of them!
It seems almost every week I am talking to someone who is sharing stories of workplace bullying and the emotional trauma it is causing. The energetic qualities of bullying can leave a person feeling intimidated, embarrassed, threatened, fearful, disrespected, undermined, harassed and victimized.
Our jobs are connected to our survival instincts, because it’s how we support ourselves and families. If we feel threatened or harassed in the workplace, the intensity of our feelings can skyrocket into unhealthy levels of stress. There is usually no recourse or support for victims of workplace bullying. Many times the only relief is to find a different job.
Much like my first-grade teacher, many bosses and supervisors either don’t know how to confront the behaviors of a bully or aren’t interested in doing so. This is a significant problem whose time has come to be confronted and taken into the light. No longer can we, as a larger community, deny this abusive behavior. We must seek solutions.
Fortunately there are a growing number of groups and websites committed to stopping all forms of bullying. These organizations are researching, compiling and sharing information and assistance for people affected by this behavior.
An excerpt from bullyingstatistics.org shows how prevalent the problem is with both men and women.
“According to the Workplace Bullying Institute, up to a third of workers may be the victims of workplace bullying. The New York Times found that about 60 percent of workplace bullies are men, and they tend to bully male and female employees equally. Female bullies, however, are more likely to bully other females.” It is also found that “often it is the least skilled who attack the best and brightest workers.”
On another website, healthyworkplacebill.org, it says the United States is “the last of the western democracies to introduce a law forbidding bullying-like conduct in the workplace. U.S. employers are loathe to stop bullying, let alone acknowledge its existence.” The results can be traumatic.
“In its more severe forms, it (bullying) triggers a host of stress-related health complications – hypertension, auto-immune disorders, depression, anxiety and PTSD,” the website reported.
One of the roadblocks to creating laws or legislation against bullying is the subjective nature of the behavior. It’s a slippery beast that can be hard to define with pen and paper. But just because it’s hard doesn’t mean we shouldn’t do it. The more we educate ourselves and the more we talk about the subject, the easier this difficult task will be to solve. It’s important that we get involved, that we reach out to each other and offer what support we can.
If someone you know is dealing with a workplace bully, let them know that they are not alone and this is not their fault. Caring is the first step to solving any problem and it can mean so much to let someone know that you care about them and what they are going through.