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Work Place Bullying Primer: What it is and how to deal with it

Published On: September 25, 2014

Workplace bullying is an act or verbal comment that could mentally hurt or isolate a person in the workplace. Workplace bullying also involves repeated incidents or patterns of behaviour which are intended to intimidate, offend, degrade or humiliate a particular person or group of people.

Bullying is often thought of as a behaviour confined only to school aged children, but it is also a workplace issue. However, bullying can be much harder to identify within the workplace. Moreover, there is a fine line between “strong management” and bullying. Comments that are intended to be constructive should not be considered bullying but rather, a tool intended to assist the employee with their work.

Workplace bullying can manifest in many forms including: intimidation, gossip, removing areas of responsibility without cause, withholding or purposely giving false information and tampering with a person’s personal belongings.

Bullying can affect a person’s ability to adequately perform at work and also extend into their personal life with long term effects such as loss of appetite, insomnia, and varying mental issues.

In British Columbia, WorkSafe BC has policies in place for Human Resource professionals to deal with workplace bullying, in addition to, providing resources. However, few provinces have legislation in effect to deal with specifically pertaining to bullying. Other provinces have legislation regarding violence in the workplace, but nothing that is specific to workplace bullying.

In addition, federal and provincial human rights laws prohibit harassment related to race, religion, colour, ethnic origin, age, sex, marital status, disability, sexual orientation or pardoned conviction. These situations can also be applied to workplace bullying.

Employers have a responsibility to protect their employees from risks at work which include both mental and physical aspects. Human Resources management must be committed to promoting a safe workspace and communicate policies both verbally and in written form.

Human Resources professionals must draft policies that are inclusive which apply to the entire organization. These policies should include:

  • Definition of workplace harassment in precise concrete language
  • Clear examples of unacceptable behaviour
  • The organizations view of bullying and its commitment to prevention
  • Outline process to preventing this behaviour
  • Encourage reporting of bullying
  • Process of reporting and whom to report to
  • Description of effects of bullying
  • Commitment to providing support services to those effected
  • Clear commitment to monitoring and regularly review policies

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