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My response to an article on "Bullying at Work: Hard to Define, Even Harder to Ban" by Jonathan A. Segal.
Bullying whether at work, school, or elsewhere isn’t hard to define, as bullying is an intentional or unintentional act that uses an individual’s strength (e.g., positional, physical, mental, emotional, etc.) to dominate another. This is the reason that many bullies like to HIT and PIC; that is, bullies (H)arrass, (I)ntimidate, and (T)hreaten to get their way while leveraging their (P)ower, (I)nfluence, and (C)ontrol to achieve their objective(s).
Knowing that these types of bullying behaviors exist makes it very surprising and disappointing that the twenty-five (25) states that introduced workplace anti-bullying (also referred to as “healthy workplace”) bills prior to April 2014 failed to pass any
workplace anti-bullying legislation. Some might suggest that the passage of workplace anti-bullying legislation will lead to frivolous lawsuits and others might suggest that bullying is rather subjective. Both suggestions might be true; however, many
laws are enforced based on subjective criterion and the legal process still works (mostly) with the use of a system to evaluate an incident’s merits based on the presented and sometimes confirmed facts.
Similar arguments that laws aren’t required to protect individual rights were offered prior to the passage of legislation to combat workplace sexual harassment. In the past, individuals – especially women – dealt with unwanted, unnecessary, and unprovoked sexual harassment at work without any laws to protect their workplace rights.
Unfortunately, workplace bullying targets are attacked for some of the strangest reasons (e.g., appearance, intelligence,
a perceived threat, etc.). The worst part is that workplace bullying is legal in most U.S. jurisdictions unless the attacks are related to protections available to certain individuals based on Title VII of the Civil Rights Acts of 1964, which was enacted to address discrimination based on an individual’s race, color, religion, national origin, or sex.
The reality is that the number of workplace bullying incidents is much higher than the number of reported incidents, as there are a number of individuals who don’t report an incident, leave an organization to escape abuse, privately try to minimize attacks, or are counseled outside of the organization’s conflict resolution process to remedy workplace bullying.
Furthermore, the risk of potential job loss if an individual attempts to protect their rights versus the inability to take care of themselves, a family, or others can be powerful motivators to remain silent about workplace abuse(s). Governments and organizations must protect individuals (e.g., workers, employees, contractors, etc.) from unnecessary attacks, abuse, or aggressive behavior. Laws and policies are a good first-step to protect individuals from abuse; however, the implementation and consistent application of organizational anti-workplace bullying or harassment policies are very important factors to address workplace bullying incidents.
If resources aren’t shielded and protected from retaliation after a workplace bullying incident, the bullying target – and sometimes other resources – will be resistant to address, document, or report any workplace abuse(s). Nobody should be treated in a manner that makes them feel less than their worth. Therefore, organizations must have a culture that protects all of its resources (e.g., employees, contractors, etc.) from any type of unwanted, unnecessary, and unprovoked workplace attacks ---
otherwise known as harassment, workplace bullying, or simply put abuse.
Additional information on workplace bullying can be obtained in my book "Bullies...They're In Your Office, Too: Could you be one?", which details workplace bullying issues along with thoughtful solutions.
award-winning educator, mental health advocate, social entrepreneur, inspirational speaker, author/writer, program executive, and radio host