Are You Affected By Workplace Bullying?

Do You Think Bullying Only Happens To Kids?

johnhain / Pixabay

Guess again! 

With the recent focus over the past couple of years on bullying of children in schools, and through social media, one is tempted to think that we are finally getting a handle on this difficult and severely distressing problem.

Seeing kids wearing pink shirts, and having speakers come to talk to them in their schools, and even in front of the parliament buildings may seem very encouraging. There are even a list of high-profile personalities and high-ranking politicians at some of these events. 

That must make it credible right?

That must mean that we are getting somewhere as a society with this right?

We are finally getting to the root of this!

Guess again!

Where does this bullying behaviour come from?

It is all fine and dandy to put on a pink shirt and come out to an event, a photo-op even, but then watch what happens when the pink shirts come off. 

One need only look at our parliamentary system, to see the amount of name-calling, accusations, blaming, smear campaigns, and overall dirty tricks that passes for “the runoff to an election”, to see that we have a long way to go. 

And kids watch this, we all watch this, and see a terrible example of leadership and moral behaviour that goes under the name of “politics”. 

If one were to use a clinical definition of bullying, and apply it to most parliamentary proceedings, it is very likely that we would quickly conclude that our members of parliament are either involved in bullying behaviour, or on the receiving end. 

Where does bullying come from?

I can suggest to you where the answer will not come from. 

It isn’t in getting school children to put on pink shirts and having adults join them. Don’t get me wrong, I am completely in favour of any initiative that will help bring more attention to the needless harm and suffering that is caused day in and day out by bullying in our school system. 

But in my opinion it needs to go deeper!

Our Children Model Our Behaviour

In subtle and some not so subtle ways, children SEE, and MODEL (imitate) our behaviour.

When we interact with our children on a daily basis, whether we are aware of it or not, we are modelling to them how to be, and how to treat others. 

Often times, it can be something very subtle, such as when we are in a hurry, and we will “order” them to get ready.

  • Put your boots on!
  • Get your jacket on!
  • Let’s go!

This all seems innocent, and we are not meaning them harm when we say it. But the use of this type of language is known as using the “imperative”. When a verb is used at the beginning of a sentence, we are not “asking” for something, we are ordering or making a demand.

At this point, most of us would say…. Yeah but, kids doddle, they take their time, they daydream, and we have to get going. We need to be on time!

But if we stop for a moment and go back to those command phrases, is that the way any of us would like to be treated in our workplaces/by our bosses?

And now some of you may be saying…. Yeah but, employees doddle, they take their time, they daydream, and we have to get things done!

And to which I would say…. Is that how you would like to have your boss speak to you? To which someone might respond…. let’s get realistic here, this is a business here, it’s dog eat dog out there! 

To which I would say… What a sad world we have created then, when personal dignity and respect are no longer important, and the proper treatment and care of each other, whether it be in the workplace, the school yard, or the parliamentary chamber are no longer valued.

Advancement at all costs! Even if one has to go over top of somebody!

And now we start to see what we are modelling to our children, each and every day in our culture and public arenas without even being aware.

Sure we have this vague feeling that it somehow doesn’t feel good. But the important thing is to get ahead right?

At what cost?

You Call That Entertainment?

 I’ll be brief on this one.

Think of a movie that you last saw or went to. I saw the movie SPY a couple of weeks ago. While it is largely billed as a “comedy”, if we really look deeper into it, it is basically about two sides using an incredible amount of force to get what they want from the other.

Now one side are the bad guys, (we always need bad guys, some sort of adversary right?), and on the other side we have the CIA. Well they are just doing their job right? And some job it is! Which brings me to the topic of workplace bullying.

What Are The Signs Of Workplace Bullying?

First of all, here is how the Workplace Bullying Institute defines workplace bullying:

The Workplace Bullying Institute defines bullying as “repeated, health-harming mistreatment of one or more persons (the targets) by one or more perpetrators that takes one or more of the following forms: verbal abuse, offensive conduct/behaviors (including nonverbal) which are threatening, humiliating, or intimidating; or work interference – sabotage – which prevents work from getting done.”

The primary issue with bullying is that the perpetrator desires to control the other person’s behavior, usually for his or her own needs, personal agenda, or self-serving motives. Bullies use a variety of subtle and sometimes not-so-subtle ways to control others emotionally, psychologically, and even physically.

Adept bullies and manipulators are often extremely controlling people who are attuned to certain personality traits to exploit others. They are skilled “people readers” and make it their task to understand someone’s flaws to determine what techniques can be used against them. Some even go a step further and mask their bullying behind a charming and nice demeanor and even a noble cause.


And here are the signs that one is possibly being subjected to overt bullying in one’s workplace:

  1. Aggression. Yelling or shouting at an employee; exhibiting anger or aggression verbally or non-verbally (e.g. pounding a desk)
  2. Intrusion. Tampering with someone’s personal belongings; intruding on someone by unnecessarily lurking around their desk; stalking, spying, or pestering someone
  3. Coercion. Aggressively forcing or persuading someone to say or do things against their will or better judgment
  4. Punishment. Undeservedly punishing an employee with physical discipline, psychologically through passive aggression, or emotionally through isolation
  5. Belittling. Persistently disparaging someone or their opinions, ideas, work, or personal circumstances in an undeserving manner
  6. Embarrassment. Embarrassing, degrading, or humiliating an employee publically in front of others
  7. Revenge. Acting vindictive towards someone; seeking unfair revenge when a mistake happens; retaliating against an employee
  8. Threats. Threatening unwarranted punishment, discipline, termination, and/or physical, emotional, or psychological abuse
  9. Offensive communication. Communicating offensively by using profanity, demeaning jokes, untrue rumors or gossip, or harassment
  10. Campaigning. Launching an overt or underhanded campaign to “oust” a person out of their job or the organization
  11. Blocking advancement or growth. Impeding an employee’s progression, growth, and/or advancement in the organization unfairly

These common symptoms of experiencing bullying behaviour are also drawn from the Workplace Bullying Institute’s website. They also list out an equally long list of not so subtle forms of bullying, that you may wish to consult if you have a feeling that you may be subject to bullying behaviour in your workplace, but that the list above does not quite hit upon your exact predicament.

Why Is Workplace Bullying A Problem?

It takes a terrible often incalculable toll on our health and well-being: physical, emotional, mental and spirtual.

Some of the symptoms of bullying in the workplace include:

  • stress
  • anxiety
  • insomnia
  • poor concentration
  • depression
  • behavioural problems
  • relationship problems
  • substance abuse
  • helplessness
  • hopelessness
  • suicidal behaviour

Is this “really” the price of getting things done?

Is this how we want to live our lives, and be treated?

And far too often what I see in my clinical experience, is that it is not the bully that ends up leaving the company or organisation, it is the person being bullied.

Careers and lives are being destroyed by the “cost of getting things done”!

It’s time to put an end to bullying!

It’s time to find a better way to treat each other AND get things done!

It’s time to take this issue beyond the schoolyard and look at how we as adults treat each other, and what we are modelling for our children.

This is not just about wearing a pink t-shirt once a year to show support for kids!

This has to go deeper, much deeper within ourselves, to how we were treated, and how we treat others, and what we support with our hard-earned dollars and call “entertainment”.

There has to be a better way!

It’s not someone else out there. It’s us, and the change has to start with us!

We can create a kinder gentler society AND prosper.

We’ve spent hundreds, if not thousands of years, seeing what can be accomplished with fear and intimidation.

Perhaps it is time to see what can be accomplished with kindness, respect, and dignity for all persons? 

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