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While educators and parents work hard to fight bullying amongst children, I’ve been frustrated to see them so often ignore the bullies amongst adults. It is certainly important to deal with bullying amongst children, but unfortunately years have gone by when we, as a society, turned our heads away from dealing with bullying. In those years that have passed, the bullies of the playgrounds and schools of our childhood have grown up into the big, adult-sized bullies of our workplaces.
Too often have I fielded phone calls from men and women who have been picked on at work. These phone calls are from amazing, talented people who are burnt out, anxious, depressed, full of self-doub and sometimes even suicidal. These people don’t deserve the nitpicking, hypercritical, and sometimes emotionally abusive behavior thrown at them by their Big Bully. They don’t deserve to wonder whether it’s all their own fault and they don’t deserve to dread going into work every day. They don’t deserve to spend their time wondering when they’ll be picked on again. Somehow we’ve seem to have come to accept that bullies are part of a workplace. Just as we used to accept that bullying would happen on the playground, school hallway or classroom, we need to wake up to the fact that standing idly by while a person is bullied at work is just as destructive on our colleague or our own selves.
Big bullies have the ability to threaten our livelihood, and in doing so, they threaten the financial security we have built for ourselves and our family members, and our own sense of self-worth. In honour of Pink Shirt Day, and in honour of so many people- big and small- who have been victimized, I want to highlight resources for taking on the bullies of our adult lives. In particular, I want to highlight the recent legislation that forces employers to take responsibility for creating respectful workplaces. This legislation, unfortunately, seems to be something that most people have yet to hear about.
Bullies in the workplace like to maintain their power and control no matter what role they are actually in. They don’t have to be in the form of managers or supervisors; they can be a colleague, someone you employ or even a client.
Legislation has been passed in British Columbia to support those who are being bullied or harassed at work. This new legislation, called Bill 14, recognizes that bullying and harassment in the workplace can be a major contributing factor to mental illness, as they have expanded the definition of worker compensation to include mental illness associated with severe workplace stressors.
If we really care about own selves and the people we work with, we’ll point out, honestly and openly, when bullying is taking place. We’ll also reach out to support the victim of bullying, so that they can talk to someone about the impact of being made to feel powerless. Yet it’s often hard for us to tell what is a not so nice co-worker, and what is a bully, because we haven’t been properly trained to identify bullying (instead, we’re letting the younger generation become the experts). So I encourage you to brush up on your knowledge about how to identify a bully at work, what your legal rights are if you’re being victimized, and what you can do about a horrible situation. Just as we know that we lose children and teens to the stressful impact of bullying, so too do we lose far too many adults. It’s just not something that is yet openly acknowledged.
Learn more about bullying at work:
Learn more about the rights of workers and their employers, particularly Bill 14: