When Bullies Rule, Other Suffer
By Dale King / January 1, 2013
Mitch dreaded Sundays. "I was tense and sick all day, thinking of going back to work on Monday and facing my supervisor, who made my life miserable. When I got to the office, I'd say, 'Good morning' and he'd say, 'Shut up and get to work.' "
The harried employee said his boss berated him daily with insults and criticism that were undeserved. Mitch escaped his tormenter when the south Palm Beach County firm closed in 2009.
But he's not an isolated victim of workplace bullying. One in
But he's not an isolated victim of workplace bullying. One in four U.S. workers say they have been bullied on the job, says the Workplace Bullying Institute, a volunteer citizens' network. Many won't challenge their foes or fear they may lose their jobs, if they do.
The Office of Employee Assistance (OEA) at Florida International University defines workplace bullying as "the deliberate, repeated mistreatment of a targeted employee, conducted by one or more persons during the course of employment."
Such abusive behavior "creates a risk to the targets' physical and psychological health and threatens the targets' job security," the OEA report says.
"Bullies in the workplace often target very capable and dedicated employees who are respected and well-liked by their co-workers," says Julia M. Hebert, a clinical therapist from Lake Worth. "They often have the talent and personality traits that bullies wish they had for themselves. Bullies can't stand the fact that targets excel at their job and are sought out for their talent.
"Because the bully generally has poor self-esteem, he or she sets out to elevate their own status within the organization by pushing others down or sabotaging their work. Often, the person who is bullied has a somewhat non-confrontational style, which makes that person extremely vulnerable to being targeted. The bully is not worried about retaliation because he or she feels 'safe' that the target will not take any action against the bully."
A West Palm Beach woman tells of her on-the-job mistreatment: "I am experiencing workplace bullying at my present job. I am not only targeted by my manager to a different standard than my co-worker. I am scrutinized, micro-managed and reprimanded on a weekly basis."
She says she suffers "from depression, anxiety, nausea, high blood pressure, migraine headaches, gastrointestinal problems, mood swings and sleep issues, all due to the toxic workplace in which I am employed. There are an extremely limited number of available jobs in my area, and I am a single woman who cannot afford to be unemployed."
Being bullied not only takes a toll on the employee's job performance and health, but can also affect families and relationships. One male employee reports this situation: "The misery took over my whole life. I turned nasty and bitter and treated my wife and kids like whipping posts."
It took "many visits to a psychologist" to set things right.
Ironically, in a nation founded on laws, there is currently no measure on the books protecting employees from the constant non-violent torment of workplace bullies, except in specific cases, such as sexual harassment.
The Workplace Bullying Institute has been trying since 2002 to entice state legislatures into adopting such a measure. A dozen bills were filed in 2012, but none passed. The institute vows to return to the lawmakers' chambers to try again this year.
If you are a victim, diligently record workplace bullying events, advises Dr. Rakesh Malhotra, founder of Five Global Values and a values-driven business leader specializing in organizational behavior. "If you choose to make a formal complaint, you will be responsible for providing information, should charges be brought against the bully," he says.
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