7 Dimensions of Wellness

7 Dimensions of Wellness
7 Dimensions of Wellness

Sunday, October 11, 2015

Mean Girls! Bullying In the Workplace and its Impact on Your Health

My oldest daughter is a junior in high school when she comes home to tell me that she's quitting the soccer team. I'm confused and suspicious. Anne loves soccer and has played every year since the age of 5. After some probing into why she made this decision, I discover that the source of her issues are a couple of soccer teammates who are unhappy about her successfully making varsity. Instead of welcoming her to the team, a key senior player makes a comment implying that she did not fairly earn her position and that she was only on the roster because they needed the diversity.

She tries to let it go and play her position on the team anyway. However, after a few weeks of sabotage (ex. not passing her the ball when it was strategically the best option) and social isolation, Anne quits. I support her decision and agree not to go have a talk with the team coach. But I do advise her that her troubles are far from over. "These same mean girls will grow up and become your co-worker or even worse, your boss. When you've got bill bills to pay, quitting isn't always an option."

Bullying doesn't stop with kids!

Forbes makes an interesting connection between school aged bullies and workplace bullies and finds that "in addition to intimidating their victims, they may spread rumors to tarnish a coworker's reputation, or fail to invite an employee to a key team meeting." The Workplace Bullying Institute estimates that up to one-third of employees may be victims of workplace bullying, "a systematic campaign of interpersonal destruction that jeopardizes your health, your career, the job you once loved. Bullying is a non-physical, non-homicidal form of violence and, because it is violence and abusive, emotional harm frequently results."

While bullying is not limited to one particular gender, men are more likely to be equal opportunity bullies, abusing both men and women. However, women tend to favor bullying other women 70% of the time. Why? Gary Namie, Ph.D and co-founder of the Workplace Bullying Institute explains that "They're often less confrontational when attacked...They tend to turn their backs on bad behavior in a way that men might not."

Raising Awareness

During the month of October, schools and organizations across the country come together to observe National Bullying Prevention Month with the goal of encouraging communities raise awareness about bullying and cyberbullying, its prevalence and its impact on the health and safety of our children. I applaud this effort. However, children who bully other children do grow up and often continue their behavior in other areas of society. I would like to see the campaign expand to include bullying in the workplace.

The impact of workplace violence goes far beyond the individual being targeted. Businesses suffer in both productivity and morale. Families suffer the second hand stress in addition to the economic consequences of a caretaker having to either navigate a hostile work environment or quit altogether.

3 Things You Can Do.

  1. Know your workplace policies on bullying and other forms of harassment. 
  2. Take responsibility for the energy YOU bring to the workspace. 
  3. If you or someone you know is being bullied at work, try to find alternatives to quitting. The Workplace Bullying Institute is a great place to start. 

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