Has a supervisor berated you in front of others? Is
the employer asking you to perform unsafe work? Is the organization making
impossible work demands? Does the body language or actions of a client
intimidate you? If you answered yes to any of these questions you are likely a
target of bullying.
A new web-based resource developed by University of New Brunswick (UNB)
researchers shares ideas and tools workplace parties can use to help raise
awareness and develop bullying and harassment prevention strategies.
According to the authors of this new web site Towards a Respectful
Workplace "workplace bullying includes both words and actions that make
others feel incompetent, ashamed, worthless, excluded, unwelcome, or unsafe.
These uncivil and disrespectful behaviours make people feel bad about
themselves. Sometimes they even fear for their safety. Workplace bullying
disrupts work, and undermines self-confidence, effectiveness, and credibility.
It includes unwanted and unwelcome verbal, psychological, emotional, social,
physical, and sexual threats or behaviour. It erodes workplace trust and
compromises workplace safety."
An American study published by the Workplace Bullying Institute in 2007
reported 38 per cent of all workers are bullied at work. This same study, the
largest undertaken to date on this issue, found more than 70 per cent of bullies
are bosses. Other findings of note include:
- stress affects the health of 45 per cent of those bullied,
- women are targeted in 57 per cent of cases and often by other women,
- 40 per cent of those bullied never complain, and
- when made aware of bullying, employers do nothing or makes matters worse
in 62 per cent of cases.
Workplace bullying can impact the personal lives of targets, affecting their
health and their social relationships with co-workers, friends, spouse and other
Bullying can also create financial hardship for targeted workers. According
to the Canada Safety Council, 75 per cent of workplace bullying victims quit
work. Organizational success can also be impeded as a result of this high
turnover, along with absenteeism, sick/stress leave, long term disability, and
Towards a Respectful Workplace offers workers, their representatives,
joint committees and other workplace parties a range of information and tools to
better understand bullying. For instance, an Employee's Guide outlines
what can be done individually and collectively when they become aware of
bullying issues in their workplace. The Organizations' Guide posted
online offers resources focused on gathering and analyzing information and the
essential steps in developing, implementing and monitoring a bullying prevention
"People will be able to compare their own situations with the examples that
we provide on the website," said Marilyn Noble, co-chair of the workplace
violence and abuse research team from UNB. "Managers and unions will learn how
to track what's going on in their organizations and monitor the impact of their
efforts to improve the situation. They'll learn what kinds of support systems
they need to put in place."
The challenge here in Ontario though remains convincing employers, often
through joint committees, to implement bullying and wider violence prevention
The Ontario government did respond to the demands of workers and their
representatives and introduced a voluntary Workplace Violence Prevention
Workers, their representatives and the Ontario Federation of Labour (OFL)
though aren't convinced this voluntary approach is enough and are campaigning
for a workplace violence regulation similar to other Canadian jurisdictions.
According to the OFL, such a regulation must include bullying, harassment and
other forms of psychological violence presently excluded from Ontario's
In 2004, Quebec became the first jurisdiction in North America to amend its
labour code to protect workers against psychological harassment, including
bullying. Saskatchewan, Manitoba and the federal jurisdiction have since
followed suit adding bullying and/or harassment provisions in workplace health
and safety regulations.
A private members Bill introduced by NDP-MPP Andrea Horwarth on Dec 13, 2007,
seeks to amend Ontario's Occupational Health and Safety Act to include
protection of workers from harassment and violence in the workplace, including
protection from psychological abuse and bullying behavior.
Want to access
the UNB's web-based bullying resource 'Toward A Respectful Workplace'?
to read the OFL Violence Regulation lobby kit?
to know more about the MOL's Voluntary Workplace Violence Prevention
Want more information from
the U.S.-based Workplace Bullying Institute?
read a WHSC hazard bulletin on workplace violence including bullying?
Want to know about violence awareness and prevention training offered by the
WHSC call 1-888-869-7950 or contact a WHSC
office near you.