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Is your workplace a bully-free zone?

It’s no secret that, unfortunately, bullies are everywhere. We see and hear about kids being bullied at school and on the playground, and online cyber bullying is gaining momentum. However, when we look at the big picture, adults also fall victim to being bullied – especially at the workplace.

There’s a national prevalence of workplace bullying. According to a 2014 survey by the Workplace Bullying Institute (WBI), 27 percent of Americans have suffered abusive conduct at work; another 21 percent have witnessed it; 72 percent are aware that workplace bullying happens.

As defined by the WBI, workplace bullying is repeated, health-harming mistreatment of one or more persons (the targets) by one or more perpetrators*. It is abusive conduct that is:

  • Threatening, humiliating or intimidating, or
  • Work interference — sabotage — which prevents work from getting done, or
  • Verbal abuse

Bullying isn’t always physical, either. According to the WBI, workplace bullying is driven by perpetrators’ need to control the targeted individuals, is a set of acts of commission (doing things to others) or omission (withholding resources from others) and more. Keep in mind, though, that just because some practices in the workplace don’t seem fair, it doesn’t mean you are being bullied. If you have a concern or believe you or someone you work with is being bullied, please make sure to take action to find out.

Sharon Williams, employee relations manager, said Employee Relations is always ready to meet with individuals who feel they have been the victim of bullying.  Any of the ER specialists can help employees work through this difficult situation. 

“Each person’s situation is different, and so we would work with the individual to help them,” Williams explained. “That might include providing them other resources, providing them options and alternatives or helping them decide what they want to do next.”

The Center for Healthy Living on Purdue University’s campus also offers support through the employee assistance program. Nancy Cook, BSW, MSW, LSW, is an employee assistance counselor at the Center. Cook advises those who feel they are being bullied to keep records of what occurred, who was involved, the date, time and place, and what actions you took.

Cook added that she recommends initially confronting the bullying and requesting the behavior stop. “If this is unsuccessful, go to your supervisor and report with information you have gathered.”

It’s important to remember that workplace bullying, just like other forms of bullying, isn’t to be taken lightly. Exposure to bullying can negatively impact a person’s health and well-being.

Purdue University strives to make its campus a friendly and productive workplace, and the Employee Relations team works on behalf of all employees to help ensure positive working relationships campus-wide.

“Workplace bullying is unacceptable at Purdue or anywhere,” Williams said. “The sooner Employee Relations knows about the problem, the sooner we can work to help the employee.”

If you feel you or someone you work with is the victim of workplace bullying, please contact your area’s Employee Relations representative. You can also schedule an appointment for employee assistance counseling by calling the Center at 49-40111 or through the Center for Healthy Living portal.

*This definition was used in the 2014 WBI U.S. Workplace Bullying Survey. 

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