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Carroll County Times Opinion

Community Voices (Krasnansky): Bullying doesn’t just happen in schools, it’s a workplace problem, too

Bullying. Think it happens only in the schoolyard? Left unchecked, bullies grow up, spread into the community and ultimately the workplace. One public example: NFL player Jonathan Martin left the Dolphins because of repeated bullying by his teammates (“mobbing”).

Bullying at work? Come on, that doesn’t happen in the United States. But approximately one in three employees personally experiences or witnesses such behavior, according to the Workplace Bullying Institute.

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Why bother — aren’t we adults supposed to handle such problems? Aren’t there laws that protect the employee?

The fact is that workers often don’t report such behavior, developing physical and emotional problems, sickness, absences, lower productivity and ultimately job loss — either by resignation or termination.

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Drs. Gary and Ruth Namie, co-founders of the Campaign Against Workplace Bullying, state that: “Bullying is the malicious, health-endangering mistreatment of one employee (the Target) by one or more employees.” The Namies define mistreatment as “psychological violence, a mix of verbal and strategic assaults to prevent the Target from performing work well.”

Add to that list is the withholding of acknowledgment for accomplishments. The entire organization suffers as a result.

There’s a difference between legitimate, civil criticism or suggestions and verbal assaults. For example, a manager pulls aside a worker to say, “You usually do so well but in this case, you missed the boat. Let’s talk about ways to better handle this problem in the future.” Another manager comes into a room full of people, glares at one and yells, “You really messed up this time. That action cost us big and that’s unacceptable. Turn this around or you’ll have to go.”

Feel the difference?

As adult American workers we’re expected to deal privately with such situations or then, follow organizational guidelines to address the issues.

However, often organizations don’t have such mechanisms because they haven’t recognized that this could happen under their roof. Therefore, employees find little support if they approach their superiors. In fact, such action often backfires, leading to heightened emotional distress.

In contrast, school systems have long recognized the bullying problem, corralling all groups involved: students, parents, teachers, administrators and all other school employees in order to guide the bully to acceptable behavior and to prevent the Target’s suicide, the ultimate worst-case scenario.

Businesses don’t have the same rallying cry. The Target suffers in silence, leading to conditions like gastrointestinal problems, anxiety, post-traumatic stress disorder and possibly suicide.

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Europe, especially the United Kingdom, recognized the existence of workplace bullying years ago and has supported many outlets for dealing with the problem to eliminate it, such as bullyonline.org. The United States is far behind but more books, articles, blogs as well as organizations have appeared to educate and eradicate this problem.

Let’s hope that bullied workers will understand that they don’t have to suffer in silence any longer. Let’s hope that all workplaces will understand that they benefit by recognizing and eliminating this unhealthy and unproductive behavior.

Dee Krasnansky writes from Westminster.


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