Bullying In the Workplace

Workplace Bullies SuckWith the tragedy of what happened at Sandy Hook Elementary school last week, many people are trying to define a typical profile that would identify a person likely to carry out such a brutal, cold-hearted assault. Let’s face it, something like that isn’t easily done. If you can find one person on earth that doesn’t have some sort of psychological issue, we’d all band together, gather all of our savings, and present it to you. There is no such thing as a completely normal person and if there were, that person would be deemed abnormal because that wouldn’t be…normal.

A lot of people have emotional or physiological issues that could be seen as red flags to tragedy but that doesn’t mean those same people would commit violent crimes. Most of the people who commit crimes like mass or serial shootings share psychological traits but those same traits are found to varying degrees in almost all of us.

So then, is profiling the possible answer to help in preventing such tragedies? I don’t think so. Just as profiling isn’t necessarily the solution when screening for terrorists at an airport. I believe there are many things and experiences in one’s life that make up the person as a whole. Each and every day, from the moment we are born, we are all bombarded with internal and external stimuli.  In an attempt to “protect” us, efforts are made on varying levels to control some of that stimulus.  It doesn’t always work.

I was reading news articles on a web site the other day and I came across a story about bullying in the workplace.  Specifically, it was a story about a study that had been done about the effects of workplace bullying and how it leads to medication use.  It wasn’t purposely timed to come out after the Sandy Hook killings.  The study was conducted sampling more than 6000 Finns.  I don’t know about you, but I would assume Finland wouldn’t have a problem with workplace bullying.  However, the study concluded that one in eight men and one in five women reported being bullied at work.  And it concluded that self-reported bullying victims were more likely to use antidepressants, sleeping pills and sedatives.

Think about that and relate it to your workplace, just like I did in this article I wrote.  If you work in a large office or around a large number of people, chances are there are some among you that are dealing with the bullying issue and according to the study, many of them are on some sort of medication to help them deal with it.

From my own experience, the last place I worked had a serious bullying problem.  In my group of a dozen people, we had one person who constantly bullied everyone except for maybe one or two people.  This person was a generally mean, depressed person who never had a good day, was always in a panic, thought she was right all of the time and had an overall negative outlook on life.  She was responsible for assigning work to people and making sure it was done right.  Over almost three years I watched her reduce people and break them down.  She created a very negative work environment.  She stripped people of their pride, dignity and self-respect.  She systematically took a group of very capable web developers and turned them into little chickens, each with a broken spirit and each without the motivation to do a good job.  I watched it all happen and I couldn’t help but feel sorry for those people.  After reading the article about the workplace bullying study in Finland, I have to wonder just how many of my co-workers had to resort to some form of medication to be able to deal with the anxiety caused by the severe bullying.

Note – don’t worry, the bully only has a staff of two people she can bully now – the rest of us were laid off at the beginning of November.  But from where I stand, I feel much better not being around her. Although I am unemployed right now, my life is a million times better and stress free because I’m not around the bully anymore.  She didn’t bully me because she knew better than to try.  But I am sure all the others who were laid off with me are in better spirits now that they don’t have to deal with her anymore, regardless of being unemployed.

Why does all of this matter?  Because it’s just another form of stimulus we as humans endure every day.  It’s part of what goes into the makeup of our psyche.  It’s things like this that combine with everything else and helps form our thought patterns and processes.  It’s one more thing that can cause the tipping point to get closer.  It’s one more thing that can lead someone to the edge, that line between sane, rational thought and a convoluted reality.

If someone in your workplace is bullying you, then tell someone about it.  Dr. Nadine Kaslow, vice chair of psychiatry at Emory University in Atlanta, who was not involved with the Finland study, suggests you can take advantage of employee assistance programs and wellness programs.  Get social support, self-care, exercise, eat well.  My suggestion is to not let something like this fester, grow and get out of control.  I’ve seen it, I’ve lived with it and from my view, I saw how it negatively affected people and their productivity.  There is no excuse for it and there should be zero tolerance of it.

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  1. United We Stand, Divided We Fall « The Musings of Lady Gwendolynn

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