Bullying happens in the workplace, too

Published 9:14 am Monday, May 2, 2011

Column: Something About Nothing

Bullying is a big topic in our news these days. Usually when we read about the subject we are reading about the bullying taking place in our schools and the efforts to deal with it because of the effect it is having on our children.

Another place that we should be concerned about bullying is in the workplace. There is an effort by many states to now address the issue of bullying in the workplace. Twenty states have enacted the healthy workplace bill, which provides a legal avenue for employees dealing with health harming cruelty at work. This bill holds the employer accountable, seeks restoration of lost wages and benefits and compels the employer to prevent and correct future instances.

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When I first entered the workforce many, many years ago I worked for a company where it was not unusual for the boss to verbally abuse an employee. It happened on a daily basis and most of the employees lived in fear that they would get called into the office and have to endure a time of yelling and screaming and being called names. Many times the incident was unfounded. I was lucky, it only happened to me once. Since this was my first job I assumed that this was normal. We accepted it and always waited for the other shoe to drop. We needed to keep our jobs.

It wasn’t until a few years later when I took another job with an employer that was in my terms “an angel” that I realized that this behavior in the workplace was not normal. My new employer knew how to draw out the best in his employees. He was able to critique and criticize with the right touch and had our loyalty because of his actions.

This was back in the early ’70s where abusive relationships in the home were brushed under the rug and not addressed and complaints of bullying at school would have been met with “suck it up” by school officials. In fact in those days it was not unusual for a principal to loudly correct a student or to have a ruler down over your knuckles or a paddle in the classroom.

It is now 2011 and bullying in the schools is finally being addressed after many teen lives have been lost. It has taken a long time for this issue to be addressed. It seems that bullying in the workplace is also an issue and people are starting to listen. It is hard to believe for me that long after I have entered the workforce behaviors like those that were encountered in my first job are still happening. What is even more amazing is that we accept it.

What constitutes bullying in the workplace? According to workplacebullying.org, bullying in the workplace includes verbal abuse, such as being sworn at, shouted at or humiliation. It also includes nonverbal conduct, which is threatening, humiliating or intimidating.

Bullying in the workplace causes many health related problems such as hypertension, depression and other health complications. It also results in missed days from work.

Before there was much education about abuse people would take ownership of an abusive situation by rationalizing that “If I am a better wife or husband or if I had were a better employee that wouldn’t happen.” But now we know there is no excuse for an abusive relationship whether it be at home, at school or at work.

This isn’t my typical nothing column. Sometimes we just have to get to the something and not turn our head or a blind eye. There are times we have to vent about serious issues that affect our friends. You can agree or not agree with me. Bullying in the workplace is happening. If you are in this situation recognize it for what it is and know “It is not your fault.”

If you are an employer please recognize that the way you treat your employees matters. It can make or break them and it can make or break your company in terms of production and missed work. An employee that feels they are treated well and valued will be a productive worker.

Steven Covey once said: Always treat your employees as you would treat your best customers.

What kind of environment reigns in your workplace?

Wells resident Julie Seedorf’s column appears every Monday. Send email to her at thecolumn@bevcomm.net. Her blog is www.thankfuljoy.com. Listen to KBEW AM radio 1:30 p.m. Sundays for “Something About Nothing.”