OPINION - How serious is the bullying problem in the workplace?
In two surveys by the Workplace Bullying Institute (WBI), where bullying was defined as “repeated mistreatment: sabotage by others that prevented work from getting done, verbal abuse, threatening conduct, intimidation and humiliation,” 35 percent of workers experienced bullying firsthand, and 62 percent of the bullies were men. A Harris Interactive poll conducted in 2011 revealed that 34 percent of women reported being bullied in the workplace. In that same study 40 percent of the targets of bullying never told their employers, and of those that did, 62 percent reported that they were ignored.
When the vast majority of us think of bullying in the workplace, our thoughts stray almost immediately to a boss or supervisor; but as surveys like the one above have shown us, workplace bullying is perpetrated by all ranks, religions, ethnic races, and genders.
In the corporate world, bullying tends to be about power, control, and career advancement. Bullying can be a way of getting ahead. It surprises me how many individuals are out there that feel “the ends justify the means.” Or “it doesn’t matter how I get there, as long as I get there.”
Other reasons the employee might bully someone at the job are to keep them quiet or to get an individual to do more things for him or her. The person could also be popular and want to maintain his or her status, or have low self-esteem and want to feel superior; in workplace bullying, you’re talking about adults who have a certain degree of self-control, and so they are more devious and calculating.
But in today’s world surely people can just sue the bully? After all that’s what courts are for? Wrong! Many states preclude employees from taking actions against employers or employees for emotional harm unless there’s a discriminatory or retaliatory component — in other words, unless race, gender, or whistle-blowing is a factor.
So as the study above cites, 62 percent of complaints are ignored, and if you can’t take legal matters into your hands, what is there to do? Luckily, employers are now realizing that workplace bullying does affect them. It affects them in what they care about the most: their wallets!
People who are put through these workplace acts tend to have lowered self esteem, anxiety, or nervousness, their productivity drops. It’s hard to focus on your job when you are focused on watching your back. More and more companies and states are seeing this and are creating “Healthy Workplace” laws to assist in overcoming these challenges.
The Utah Parents Center lists the steps below as the best actions to take in dealing with workplace bullying. It has a website: UtahParentCenter, a tremendous resource.
• Seek the advice of a trusted mentor.
• If you can, confront the bully in a professional manner, but only if your physical safety isn’t threatened. Don’t sink to his or her level. Stay as calm as possible. Don’t yell or threaten. Often bullies are looking for this type of confrontation and it will encourage them to come back for more. Don’t cry or show weakness either. That’s usually what the bully is after in the first place.
• Don’t try to win over other people to your side, allow them to make their own judgments.
• Don’t allow the bully to intimidate you or make you feel bad about yourself. You know your true worth. Don’t forget what that is.
• Do your job and do it well. The workplace bully wants you to fail and, when you don’t, he or she will be defeated.
• Make sure your superiors are aware of your work. Workplace bullies often try to spread the word that you are not doing your job well and will even go as far as reporting the smallest infractions to your boss. Your actions will carry more weight than his or her words.
• Don’t allow the bully to isolate you from your colleagues. Keep up your workplace friendships.
Again, I am excited to team with St. George News on this column, and hope that you will share experiences, and or stories of bullying with us, so that we may learn and grow together, figuring out the best way to combat this epidemic. Email me, “Like” me on Facebook, Tweet us.
Ed. Note: T.S. Romney is an opinion columnist and a law enforcement officer. Nothing in this column shall be construed as legal advice, as a substitute for professional mental health treatment, as an adjudication of claims, or as acting on behalf of any law enforcement department. T.S. Romney’s opinions and methods are his own and are not representative of St. George News.
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