While many of us are inclined to associate bullying with grade school and children, that isn't the only arena where bullying takes place. Bullying can happen to anyone, anywhere: at school, at the office, at home, and — perhaps most prevalently nowadays — online.
And although bullying is unacceptable in any arena, it's workplace bullying that I’d like to give some special attention to today. It’s a subject that gets much less attention than it deserves, to the detriment of everyone involved.
And what better time to address it than the week of Pink Shirt Day?
The Story Behind Pink Shirt Day
You may have noticed a flood of pink shirts in your neighbourhoods, offices, and newsfeeds earlier this week.
That's thanks to an anti-bullying movement called Pink Shirt Day.
Some of you may be familiar with this social holiday. For those of you who aren't familiar with the origins of Pink Shirt Day, here's a quick overview.
In 2007 in Nova Scotia, Grade 12 students David Shepherd and Travis Price noticed a Grade 9 student being bullied for wearing a pink shirt to school. In response, David, Travis, and some of their friends went out and bought pink shirts to hand out to other students at school to wear.
By the end of the week, there was a sea of pink in their school's halls in a show of support for the student who was bullied.
This heartwarming story quickly spread across the nation, leading to the social holiday we now know as Pink Shirt Day. This day is recognized around the world as an opportunity for all of us to come together and stand up against bullying.
While wearing pink on Pink Shirt Day is a great way to raise awareness and show that you stand against bullying, taking action against bullying is an ongoing effort. It's important that we all lead by example every day of the year, in every context — even at work.
Bullying in the Workplace
Bullying in the workplace can take many forms, most of which tend to be psychological rather than physical. It can include (but is certainly not limited to) sexual harassment, discrimination, gossiping, excluding, taking away work or responsibilities without cause, or even blocking requests for training, leave, or promotions.
Workplace bullying does not include denying requests for good reasons or disciplining appropriately with just cause. It's also different from things like constructive feedback, enforcing workplace policies, and evaluating performance.
While more and more workplaces are taking workplace bullying seriously and implementing policies and procedures to address the issue, not all workplaces have progressed to that point yet. If you work in such an environment, there are actions you can take if you are a victim of bullying or if you witness workplace bullying.
If you're being bullied, make sure you keep a factual record of events as well as documentation of your performance. This can include items like quantifiable results of projects you're working on or positive feedback from your manager or other key stakeholders.
Try to avoid being alone with the bully and avoid the urge to retaliate since this can make you look like the aggressor. If you feel comfortable doing so, let the bully know their behaviour is unacceptable. If the bullying persists, speak with your supervisor or, if your supervisor is the bully, speak to their supervisor (and always, always make sure you present the facts in a factual, professional manner).
If you see someone else being bullied, stand with the victim to let the bully know their behaviour is being seen by others. Keep records of the event(s) and encourage the victim to take action.
Call 911 if you or someone you know is in immediate danger.
Bullying in the workplace:
- Visit the Canadian Centre for Occupational Health and Safety's Bullying in the Workplace fact sheet for information about workplace bullying and support resources
- Call the Family Violence Info Line at 310-1818 to get help anonymously 24/7 in more than 170 languages
- Call the Child Abuse Hotline at 1-800-387-KIDS (5437) for help 24/7
Support for kids and teens: