As counsellors we sometimes see people who complain of being bullied in the worksite. Some people believe they are being bullied only when there has been some threat of physical harm. Others feel they are being bullied when someone criticizes their work or tells them that they don’t agree or like something they did.
Therefore, it’s important when talking about bullying that there is an understanding of what bullying is, as well as what bullying isn’t. WorkSafeBC defines bullying as acts or verbal comments that could ‘mentally’ hurt or isolate a person in the workplace.
A one time incident is not typically called bullying. Bullying usually involves repeated incidents or a pattern of behaviour that is intended to intimidate, offend, degrade or humiliate a particular person or group of people. It has also been described as the assertion of power through aggression.
It is sometimes hard to know if bullying is happening at the workplace. Sometimes a personality style such as being blunt, direct, and exacting can be perceived as bullying by people who prefer a more collaborative style. Many studies acknowledge that there is a “fine line” between a strong personality style and bullying. While some people prefer a boss or co-worker who “speaks their mind,” others can find this directness intimidating.
Below are some examples of bullying behaviour that may help you determine if you, or someone you know, is being bullied. In looking at the list, it is important to note that in order to be considered bullying, there needs to be a pattern of behaviour. A one time event of any one of these things would not typically be considered bullying (although it may very well be considered inappropriate). It is the repeated nature of the behaviour that turns bad behaviour into bullying.
People who are the targets of bullying experience a variety of symptoms, both physical and emotional. Some of the emotional impacts can include anger, depression, feelings of helplessness, loss of confidence, anxiety and low morale. In some cases a person may experience physical symptoms such as stomach pains, headaches, muscle aches, loss of appetite, and inability to sleep.
If you have been bullied in the workplace, you may benefit, in addition to taking action at work, to talking with a professional about your experience. As noted above, people who experience bullying are prone to a variety of ailments. If you have been bullied, you need not deal with the negative consequences alone.
If you feel that you are being bullied: Firmly tell the person that his or her behaviour is not acceptable and ask them to stop. You can ask a supervisor or union member to be with you when you approach the person.
Adapted from: Violence in the Workplace Prevention Guide. CCOHS Bullying and harassment: WorkSafeBC
If after talking with your employer, your employer fails to take reasonable steps to prevent the bullying, you may submit a complaint to WorkSafeBC. WorkSafeBC’s role is to ensure that the employer in question has adequate policies and procedures in place to address bullying and harassment, and that the employer conducts investigations into bullying and harassment complaints. WorkSafeBC’s role is not to resolve or mediate any specific disputes or conflicts.
Adapted from the Wellness in the Workplace Guide. CCOHS