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Written by: Michèle Luit

As part of my consulting practice, I lead workplace investigations into allegations of harassment, discrimination and psychological harassment or bullying.  What has changed for me over the years is that the work has not lessened and it appears that bullying is running neck to neck with harassment in being the # 1 barrier to healthy, happy and safe workplaces.  So let’s chat about that for a moment, if you have the time.  Bullying is typically not a one-time event but is action directed at another or others over a significant period of time.  The actions to demean, discredit, devalue are repetitive in nature and often result in the following symptoms being evident in the workplace: 

  • Increased absenteeism
  • Decreases in production
  • Low morale and high turnover
  • Employees are distracted
  • Employees are uncomfortable with choosing sides
  • Employees think next time the target could very well be them

Barbara Colorosa in her book, the bully, the bullied, and the not-so-innocent bystander, (2015), encourages us to help our children to develop the skills, as bystanders, to step up and intervene.  It is never our intention to put them at risk but there are times when the bully will step back if someone asks the question as to why this is happening. 

Never mind the school yard; there are bystanders in the workplace as well.  I recall being invited to lead a mediation between two professional colleagues whose ability to work together was fraught with anger, embarrassment and confusion.  In an open office area, where the two decided to resolve their conflict in public, other employees found a way to walk around them as if there was no disruption.  Upon returning to the work area, the supervisor also chose to ignore the situation, isolating herself in her office.

My colleagues, Linda Crockett and Pat Ferris and I, recently had the opportunity to speak at the annual conference for the Vocational Rehabilitation Association (VRA) of Canada.  Our role was to facilitate a conversation on Workplace Bullying with the conference delegates. The group was comprised of a few HR professionals and a large number of vocational counsellors.  It was a wonderful opportunity for us to share what we know with those that see the damage that workplace bullying leaves in its wake in the workplace and beyond.

I commend those of my clients who provide opportunities to talk about this dynamic on an annual basis, who have developed corporate policy and invested the time to ensure all employees, yes leaders too, are well informed about appropriate and inappropriate behaviours in the workplace.  It is estimated that the average cost to replace one employee is approximately $100,000 but this does not take into account the significant costs that become both a financial and reputational liability for the company when a financial settlement is negotiated or imposed.

For more information about my work and the work of ABRC, please visit me on LinkedIn and www.abrc.ca@bullyingalberta on the web.