BOOMER TALK: Bullying at work

Bullying is any type of behavior that makes someone else feel disempowered and belittled.

It happens everywhere; small businesses, big businesses, schools, non-profit groups, health care environments and financial institutions.

Bullying seems to be almost epidemic.

So what exactly is bullying?  Bullying is any type of disrespectful, intimidating behaviour that makes someone else feel disempowered and belittled.

It can be an extreme situation where work almost becomes a torture chamber or it can be a milder situation where the bully takes you by surprise every now and then, creating a feeling of being discombobulated and perplexed.

Either way, bullying can have a huge impact on the individual and can be subtly insidious in the way it is perpetuated, leaving the person being bullied feeling like they are going crazy.  They may even think they are imagining the behaviour, but they aren’t.  It is quite real.

Another interesting phenomenon can occur when bullying is in the workplace.  It is called pluralistic ignorance and this means that while other staff may privately disapprove of the bullying, they will almost publicly support it (by their lack of speaking up) for fear of being perceived as a trouble-maker.

Workers can be fearful of speaking up as they need their jobs and in this day and age of corporate re-structuring and cutbacks, they don’t want to seen as rocking the boat.

It is thought that adult bullies may be narcissistic personalities.  Simplistically speaking, those with narcissistic tendencies are full of a false sense of their own self and they lack empathy or caring for others.

They have been compared to Jekyll and Hyde as they flip back and forth between being pleasant and friendly and then becoming almost nasty.

Bullies are not always managers or supervisors and can be colleagues who try to make up for their own deficits by trying to control, upset or undermine another person.

Frequently they have experienced bullying at some point in their life that has left them feeling inadequate.  So they over-compensate and treat others the way they were treated.  In an ironic way, what happened to them created an emotional void, so when they treat others in the same way, it  feels both familiar and normal.

If you think that you are being bullied at work, ask yourself if your stress levels have gone into overdrive;  if you have a tenuous grasp on your self esteem;  if you feel like you are constantly on edge; if you have poor concentration; headaches;  memory issues;  feel emotional and find yourself crying at work; have extreme fatigue and sleep problems – all can be signs of being bullied.

Being bullied is bad for your health.  It takes normal workplace stress and then multiplies it by 10.

If you are in a work situation where you feel you are being bullied, check out www.bullyonline.org.

If you are a student, or are the grandparent or parent of a student who is experiencing bullying, check out www.stopabully.ca

Bullying strips you of your sense of well being, makes you doubtful about your abilities at work, and generally sends your world spinning into a dark place where you may question your own sanity.

We all deserve to be treated with respect and bullying of any degree is never acceptable under any circumstances.

Carole Fawcett is a counsellor, clinical hypnotherapist and freelance writer. www.amindfulconnection.com