If you thought bullying was restricted to school playgrounds, think again. According to a new nationwide survey, more than half of Canadians admit having been bullied or witnessed bullying on the job. What’s more alarming is that even though a majority profess to have reported it to their employer, only a third of workplaces did something about it.
The survey sampled more than 1,800 Canadians randomly and some demographics found disturbingly stark numbers: 61% of older workers reported being bullied at their workplace and 67% of employees identified themselves as disabled.
Workplace bullying is vitiating the environment where most people spend a majority of their adult lives. Paradoxically, most incidences of bullying often go undetected and unaddressed. Workplace bullying is defined as “verbal, physical, social or psychological abuse by your employer (or manager), another person or group of people at work”. It can happen at any kind of workplace.
Sometimes bullying is hard to discern, although some behaviours are spotted easily like extreme monitoring of your work even though you may be performing well as opposed to others, indirect comments alluding to why you are not fit for the work you do, being ignored in the company of other teammates, being given unreasonable targets with unworkable deadlines and almost non-existent resources etc.
Whatever form workplace bullying manifests itself in, it can have devastating consequences on the employee’s overall physical, emotional and/or mental health including extreme stress, loss of sleep, nightmares, absenteeism, lack of self-confidence, peer relationships, decreased productivity, and in extreme cases, it can lead to suicide.
The first step to prevent bullying is to understand what it looks like. It can well be unwanted criticism of an employee or their isolation from social activities. Personality types that are not particularly aggressive tend to be easy targets of workplace bullying. The easiest ways to know if a certain workplace promotes a congenial environment for all, free of bullying and harassment, is if the staff are comfortable calling bullying “bullying” and not by any other euphemism. Just like calling an “underworld don” an “influential person” completely dilutes the severity of such person’s acts, calling “bullying” “disrespectful behaviour” or “difficult people” is counterproductive to a healthy work environment.
It is a shared responsibility of everyone who is in any way associated to a workplace to report any acts of bullying against a co-worker, assure the person to alleviate their mental anguish, and assist in any other way possible to mitigate the debilitating effects of bullying. Merely being a by-stander to such violations with a reassurance that “it’s not my business,” or “at least it’s not happening to me,” is an act of cowardice, as you may end up being on the receiving end sooner than you know, and look out for a helping hand or a listening ear that you yourself couldn’t be to a person in your very shoes, not too long ago.