Bullying is no longer confined to the playground. It can happen at any time, anywhere, by anyone, regardless of age, gender, ethnicity or religion. While there is increased media and public involvement to stop bullying in schools, and the recognition of or Pink Shirt Day and International Day of Pink,26 very little is said about the bullying of adults, especially in the workplace.
Being the victim of a bully can be a devastating experience and can affect every aspect of one’s life; the emotional and psychological impacts can result in reduced job performance, anxiety, depression and even suicide.
According to the Workplace Bullying Institute, over one-third of people have experienced workplace bullying, and a boss, supervisor or superior instigates 72% of these incidents. In Canada, 40% of workers experience bullying on a weekly basis.27 Adult bullies can be sly, subtle and difficult to expose; but they have one thing in common: they want to hurt someone.28
Bullying can be:
- Verbal. This type of bullying is very common and can be so subtle. Verbal abuse is very difficult to document and
usually occurs when there is no one else around. Verbal bullying includes sarcasm or demeaning comments, false
allegations, cruelty, humiliation, spreading rumors, ongoing harassment, intimidation, isolation from others,
and threats about job security. The bullying is deliberate;
the goal is to gain power and control over the person and to show him or her who’s boss.29
If you are being bullied:
- Any inappropriate physical or sexual behaviour must be reported to the police.
- Document all incidents in detail.
- Try to minimise contact with bully.
- Do not meet the bully alone; try to ensure other people are within earshot.
- If called to meet with the bully, ask the union representative or a trusted work colleague to accompany you.
- If the behaviour is escalating and impacting your personal and professional life, report it to your supervisor.
- If your supervisor is the bully, report it to upper management.
- If your employer has a ‘whistleblower’ policy, report the person immediately.
- Contact a union representative for support.
- Follow up with your physician.
- Talk with family and trusted friends.
- Seek counselling or psychological support.
26 International Day of Pink is held every second Wednesday in April and Pink Shirt Day is held in February.
27 Lee and Brotheridge, 2006
28 Scheff, 2014