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I have been an anti-bullying advocate for years. Long before anti-bullying became cool and everyone jumped on the bandwagon. As a victim of bullying, I don’t like to see it happen to others. As an advocate, I’m frustrated.

I hear a lot of talk from agencies and governments about how bullying needs to be stopped. Yet, when it comes to taking any real action towards stopping bullying, all I get is hot air. It’s all talk. No one wants to take action against those who feel they have the right to push others around. I’m not sure why they do it. Power? Amusement? I honestly don’t get it.

Back in my early 20s I took a course through Grant MacEwan. It was called “Public Relations and Advertising”. I learned one thing there; people are cutthroat and I didn’t have the balls for it. After only one semester I dropped out. I realized I was far too nice and wasn’t able to undercut my fellow students. I’m still that way. I’ve often turned down writing jobs only to recommend a friend I know is better suited for it than me. Other writers have looked at me like you would a retarded puppy when they hear that, but it’s the way I am. I know my writing. I know what I can do and I know when I’m not going to produce the best product. Clients appreciate it and trust me with future projects. I’ve always felt it’s a better way to work.

Today, however, I realized that I’m a minority. I already have Non-Verbal Learning disorder, which makes communicating with others difficult. I don’t read non-verbal cues and, so, miss out on much of what’s being said. Imagine being dumped in a small fishing village somewhere in China with nothing but the clothes on your back. That’s a little what it’s like for me.

This became clear when I was out shopping today and looking for a new plug for my kitchen sink. I went into Home Depot and could not get anyone to help me. Frustrated, I went to the customer service and got, what I later learned, some bad advice. Frustrated, I mentioned that I didn’t like waiting for 10 minutes for someone to come and help me. The girl looked me in the face and said in absolute sincerity, “you know, if you’re negative, then negative things happen to you. You should be positive.” I was stunned.

I consider myself a nice person. I try to see something pretty in everyone I look at and try to compliment people when I can. Very often I’ll lend a hand to a stranger when it’s needed and I try not to be cranky too much. I don’t always succeed at that last one, but I do try. When the woman made that comment, she made an assumption; I’m a negative person and it was up to her to show me the error of my ways.

As I was leaving I said, “I am a nice person. I could have been here yelling and making you feel bad, but I recognize my frustration and that you are not the source of it. So I come here politely and tell you the problem. However, all being nice got me was you telling me what a negative person I was. Thank you.”

I felt angry at this woman, this stranger, making such an assumption. It stayed with me like a bad lover and I didn’t nearly enjoy the day as much as I might have wanted to. The lesson I learned was being nice only gives people permission to treat you however they like. Yet I go on being nice.

So it is that I’m often the target of bullying. Like Sheldon from “Big Bang Theory”, I don’t understand much of human interaction but I do try to follow the rules only to find that the rules are arbitrary. So it is that I’m the weird kid who has trouble understanding why the joke that everyone else laughs at is funny. Often the joke is about me. However, I’ve learned that I don’t have to put up with bullying. I don’t have to put up with it, but there’s no one out there who will help me stop it.

I was working for About Staffing when an assignment went bad. It happens and details don’t matter. However, I’d reinjured my knee and was thinking about going to Worker’s Compensation Board for help. About Staffing decided not to use me because of what happened with the job. That happens. I was angry, but I couldn’t dwell on it. As the day wore on, though, my knee got steadily worse and I made the decision to go to WCB. Later that day I got a phone call from the agent from About Staffing screaming at me that he was going to call the other agencies in Edmonton and tell them not to use me. He also claimed that my phone call had been recorded, a crime in Canada (you cannot record calls without informing the party they’re being recorded, first). I was stunned and felt abused.

Here’s where I found out the uselessness of Canada’s bullying laws. First I went to a lawyer. They felt sympathy for me, but nothing more. All he’d done was issue threats. Until he acted on them, they couldn’t do anything. So I contacted ACSESS, the Association of Canadian Search, Employment and Staffing Services, is a governing body that acts as a watchdog for behavior with employment agencies. I put myself on the line and issued a formal complaint. The verdict? I got a letter that stated, “we do not find any breach of the ACSESS Code of Ethics and Standards and this file is now considered closed.” Since the agency didn’t actually DO anything they’re not to blame for anything.

I cried.

According to our country and those we rely on to protect us, it’s not bullying until something is physically done. People can scream, threaten and say all the nasty things they like. They can beat you down verbally and make you feel horrible.

Suck it up.

No one will help you. You can plead with people to help you. You can get angry and feel as helpless as you like.

Shut up.

There is not a law or governing body that will come to your aid.

How do you move forward from that? How do you keep going when it happens again and again? I’m not 8 years old and getting taunted at school. I’m a grown woman who simply doesn’t understand people being bullied by people who are supposed to be colleagues.

I’m a nice person. I don’t want to be bullied any longer. So if you read this and you’ve been bullied at work, please share it on your Facebook or Twitter. Maybe if enough people read this the powers that be will realize that words do hurt. Threats do make a difference. Maybe we can convince someone out there to stand up and stop this.

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Recently I published a blog outlining my experiences in the Grant MacEwan Professional Writing program. The blog was less than glowing and I received many responses I expected. One person claimed I was whining and I was doing the program a disservice. Another person claimed I had my aggression dialed up to 11 on a scale of 10”. I honestly expected those responses and they give me a certain amount of pride.

However, there were some people who read the blog and saw it for what it was; one woman talking about 2 years of abuse and bullying by fellow students. These people, whom I am proud to claim as friends, contacted me and expressed sympathy and shock over my treatment. These were the same people who tried to comfort me during my school year and often tried to help put a stop to this abuse. They are true writers destined for great things.

I know some people were upset with my blog. That doesn’t concern me. I learned long ago that a writer cannot be concerned with what others think about their opinions. A writer tells the truth and damn the torpedoes, full speed ahead. It’s what gets us into so much trouble and if you aren’t prepared for that, you’re not prepared to be a writer.

What surprised me about the negative responses I received was not the vitriol, but the fact that they blamed me for my situation. I need to say here that those people who supported me and showed their sympathy for me are not the ones I’m talking about. I’m talking about those people who called me a whiner or complained that I didn’t try hard enough.

If you saw someone push someone down on the ground, you wouldn’t turn to the person on their ass and say, “well, if you hadn’t been standing there, you wouldn’t have gotten pushed. It’s really your own fault, you know.” Well, if you’re an asshole you might.

The people who hated my blog expressed one common opinion; it wasn’t their fault so it had to be mine. They never said or did anything bad to me so why was I blaming them? No, according to them they were innocent so the problem had to be me. I was a whiner. I was aggressive. I was negative. In one response the excuse was my social shyness.

So, let me get this right, I was bullied to the point where I had to receive counseling and I had to bring a complaint against an instructor (which I later retracted after I was put in a new class) but that was all my own fault. I woke up shaking most mornings from anxiety and fear but that was my own fault. I considered going back on anti-anxiety meds (thank you to those friends who talked me out of it) but that was my own fault.

 

I should be clear here; I will not take responsibility for someone being an asshole to me.

These people who responded to my blog claimed I was being unfair. They didn’t say or do anything to me. One said she’d been nice to me, how could I claim she was a bully? I was being horrible to them by making them responsible for what a few people did.

No I’m not.

When you become a writer you have an obligation to make your voice heard. That’s being a writer. That’s in the very nature of every single writer in existence. Being a writer means putting your voice out into the world. What in the world do you think a writer is?

This was a program designed to train writers. Writers don’t have the luxury of hiding their head in the sand. So how can I hold them responsible for the actions of their fellow students? Easy. They did nothing.

To those students I say this;

If you saw bullying happening and did nothing, you’re guilty. If you heard of bullying happening and said nothing, you’re guilty. If you knew your friends were bullying and said nothing, you’re guilty. If you knew it was happening around you and you did nothing, you’re guilty. If you suspected it was happening and didn’t stop it, you’re guilty. If you never tried to help the person being bullied, you’re guilty.

It is no longer acceptable to hide behind “I did nothing.” That’s the point. You did nothing. Therefore, you are just as much a bully as the abuser. If you’re a writer and did or said nothing, then that makes you worse than the abuser. You’re a coward and have no business being a writer.

Every single person has a responsibility to stop abuse. It doesn’t matter if it’s a parent abusing a child, a child abusing a parent, spousal abuse, kids bullying each other, a teacher bullying a student or any other type of bullying or abuse. There is one very effective weapon we have against this kind of behaviour; our voices.

When one person speaks against abuse and bullying, it empowers the victim. If you see it or know of it or hear it happening, say something. If not to the bully, then say something to someone in authority; a teacher, a parent, a priest, anyone. Make it known that it’s happening. Don’t blame the victim and tell them it’s their own fault.

Speak out even if you only whisper.

Perhaps the first voice is a whisper, but enough whispers can be as loud as thunder.

It’s time the truth came out.

I have decided I’ve lived with this long enough and it’s time someone told the truth.

I got shafted.

Let’s start at the beginning. I spent 10 years of my life caring for my parents until the death of my father. At that time I tried to revive my writing career but was failing phenomenally. I’m not the most disciplined writer sometimes and no one’s interested in hiring a writer whose glories are all in the past. So, I screwed up my courage and went back to school. I had two choices; return to the University of Alberta and get a Master’s degree or even obtain a degree in business communications or go to Grant MacEwan’s Professional Writing course. I’d been hearing about the PROW program for years and believed it would do what it said, get me contacts within the writing industry.

As the knight in the Indiana Jones movie said, “she chose poorly.” (Well, he actually says “he”, but then I’m not a he so I’ve happily changed it.)

I have very fond memories of my time at U of A. I made friends there I’m still friends today. I use every single thing I learned there, both in and out of the classroom, in my writing. I was an English Literature major and a Religious Studies minor. I even recommend writers, new and established, read religious texts to help improve their writing. I could have gone here.

Instead I chose the PROW program. What I didn’t know at the time I enrolled was the program was in the process of being shut down. Many of the classes I wanted were phased out by the time I arrived. I didn’t find out about the program shutting down until a full semester into my program. By that time it was far too late to leave the program. Nice.

There are still the contacts, though, right? Wrong. Many of the instructors I had (with an exception or two) had severe ego problems. These were not people I wanted to keep as contacts, professional or otherwise. One instructor had a habit of telling us, in detail, about the problems in their life. This included details about their marriage, family and even hopes and dreams. This may sound cold, but I don’t care if you and your partner (husband, wife, pet toy) aren’t talking. Teach me. Another instructor constantly told the students they weren’t ready for “real” writing experience yet. In the writing world, this means publishing. When asked when we would be ready, the instructor said “we would know.” How’s that for a vague answer. So, this instructor kept a constant barrage of pushing us down so they could feel better about themselves. I received a warning from the school for doing an assessment for class on the magazine, “Playboy” because of the nudity. Oh, just to let you know, there were pictures of naked women all over the halls. That was art, I was told. “Playboy” was smut. Really? Depicting beautiful, naked women in exquisite poses is smut? In depth, forward-thinking articles about current events is smut? Right.

These were the contacts I was supposed to rely on in order to move my career forward.

These people could barely keep their own egos out of the way of their teaching. Instead of encouraging, I heard a lot of double-talk. “Yes, go ahead and send in your article/story/whatever but I don’t think they’ll take it. You’re not ready yet.” Then get me ready! Even when I graduated I was hearing this nonsense. However, that, while annoying, I can ignore. What happened in my second year sent me straight to counselling.

The first incident I’ll talk about is about person X. X had some psychological issues, but having come from that track already in my life I tried to be understanding. This person was very animated, which made me nervous, but I tried to be patient. We were grouped together for a project and things seemed to be going well enough.

I don’t know if X was having a bad day or if X just needed the attention. When we met for a weekly meeting to see the progression of our various parts, I asked to present my stuff first as I had to go and pick up my mother (who has Alzheimer’s) for her weekly night out. There are few things that come before my writing and my mother is one of them. I started to present my stuff and suddenly X was standing up, hitting the projection screen with her hand and screaming at me about Russian dolls. This was a website project on revenants (undead). I had no clue what was going on. Humiliated, I left my stuff on the table and quietly walked out. Once outside, I burst into tears and went into the office. I’d had enough. I was quitting the class. After the program head’s assistant calmed me down a bit, I went to get my mother and talked to my best friend about what happened. Then I truly calmed down.

The instructor of the class allowed me to do my project on my own instead of grouping me with someone else. That was acceptable. Here’s what wasn’t. Every single other person in that group saw what happened. When the instructor asked them about it, not one person stood up for me and said, “yes, it was over the top.” No one. See, X was such a manic personality, that she was doing all the organizing and would spend up to 16 hours a day doing the project. The others just had to sit back and watch the A-grade roll in. They hung me out to dry for a grade.

The next incident involved the same instructor who was teaching a different class. Again, I was grouped with some people and thought things would be fine. They really weren’t. In order to hand in a copy that was coherent and clean, I needed at least a week for editing purposes. My group members had no problem handing things in a half an hour before they were due. One half hour to edit a 100 page document. Not happening. I lost marks because of them. When I told the instructor what was going on, she simply said that I needed to work around it. No help given at all. I was ready to quit school over that one.

The last incident involved an instructor I once had great respect for. Other people complained, but I thought they were wonderful. Until I asked a question. Now, I’ve lectured at the University of Alberta for 10 years as a guest lecturer. People will ask all kinds of questions. There’s no malice, just curiosity. Let me give you some history on this instructor. This married instructor, the prior year, had intimate relations with a student who was in his class at the time. That’s not a problem. Goes on at the U of A all the time. However, this instructor and student then published a paper online justifying their affair.

You can hear the brakes screeching on this one, can’t you.

I won’t link the paper because I have no desire to name this instructor publically. I’m sure my fellow students from Grant MacEwan will know who I mean, but that doesn’t matter. It was a very public event. The paper was poorly written and was so self-serving as to work against the authors. It was a case of “methinks she doth protest too much”. In other words, they knew what they were doing was wrong but they did it anyways. They’re adults. They can take responsiblity for their own actions, thank you very much.

I had no idea about any of this. I had an assignment in which the instructions were poorly given (I was not the only person who suffered a low grade because they misunderstood the assignment). I protested my grade, as was my right, and said I hated the assignment. I did. I’m allowed to say that. Over the next 10 or so emails, I was berated and left to believe I was a horrible person and student. This instructor made it very clear in the first class that if they didn’t like you, you would fail. I wasn’t sure what I’d done to warrant this instructor’s wrath, but I wasn’t going to fail on account of their ego. Back to the office where their solution was to put me in the online course. Fantastic. I felt like I was punished for what my instructor did. It still makes me cry to think about it.

If it hadn’t been for the school counsellor I would have slipped some pills long before. I was that much on edge constantly. My fellow students noticed and avoided me. I don’t blame them. You can’t hang around with someone who’s liable to burst into tears at any moment. At this point in my writing I have to point out I’m crying so much it’s hard to see the screen. Yes, it still hurts that much.

My plan upon graduation was to find a position doing technical writing for a software firm (I really enjoy that stuff). Or maybe work doing tech writing for an oilfield or engineering firm. Instead, I was broken and battered from my time at Grant MacEwan and the firms saw it. I readjusted my vision for myself and am now working temporary in various positions while I sell my writing.

What has been the effect of all of this? Sadly, I want very little to do with my fellow writers. The only thing Grant MacEwan taught me is that writers are people whose own lack of belief in themselves makes them hurt those they should be helping. I know, logically, this is actually the exception, but it is a lesson I learned very well from Grant MacEwan.

I wish I’d gone to the University of Alberta.

All my life I’ve been the kid on the edges. You know the one; the one sitting on the side of the playground, reading. She’s the one pretending it doesn’t hurt to be left out or made fun of. The one standing along the bleachers at the high school dance, bouncing along to the music that no one asks to dance. She’s the one that’s learned to do things on her own. No one’s going to ask her to join them. It hasn’t been easy, and sometimes it has been very hard, but there’s an advantage to knowing how to do things on your own.

That life I have integrated into myself and embrace it. I am who I am and make no apologies for that. I’m a libertine, a polyamorist, pansexual, lover of life who makes her own way mainly by brute force and sheer determination. Would I like to have a clique? Sure. Then when things go horribly wrong I have someone to blame. I only have a small group of very good friends who remind me that when things blow up in my face, it’s my responsibility. They also come to the front and help me celebrate life’s victories. Those are many and they are sweet because I got there on my own.

I have battles I choose to fight. One of which is bullying. Of course, bullying comes in many forms including; abuse, rudeness and racism. To me, all of these are just bullying. They don’t always take priority; I simply don’t have that much energy. Which form I’m battling depends on what’s happening in my life. This time it’s racism.

By now, everyone’s heard of Trayvon Martin and how he was gunned down by a bully. Yes, George Zimmerman was nothing more than a bully with a gun and a stupid Florida law behind him. There are so many issues here that I want to address that it’s hard to keep them from crowding each other out. However, recent events in my personal life pushed me towards making a statement.

Let me say I never intended to say nothing. This is such a huge issue I felt it was vital, as a writer, to take my time and really mull over what I felt and wanted to say about this. This is not a simple situation and, as a Canadian and a writer, I felt it would be irresponsible to pound out words said in the heat of the moment. Now I’ve had a chance to think about it and I have something to say.

I am no stranger to racism. Growing up, my father was a closet racist. He held to the idea that “those” people were inferior, but tried to keep that to himself. I loved my father, don’t think I didn’t. I was very close to him but I heard the “jokes” and the snide comments. They were very subtle and I only heard it as I stood at the periphery of the adults speaking. When I got a bit older I questioned this attitude and the rest of my family defended him. It was harmless, I was told. Or, I was told that he was simply pointing out a truth about a certain culture. Indians drink, for example. Blacks like hot weather (please don’t ask me how this one came to be. I’m not sure myself).

As an adult I protested this subtle racism and was pushed to the edges of my family. I was being over-sensitive. I should learn to live and let live. I was tilting at windmills. Yet, my mother contended that Chinese were the best accountants and my father insisted that blacks were best at blue collar jobs. Finally I told my family that it had to stop or I would never talk to them again. Luckily, it never came to that.

I have friends from all walks of life; asian, white, Muslim, Jewish, Christian, pagan, black, you name it. I try to respect everyone’s beliefs and am very curious about their lives (which generally leads me to asking questions other people don’t ask). It was a shock, then, to be the victim of this subtle racism I’ve fought against all my life.

One of my friends is Polish and is very proud of his heritage. I ask questions and try, in vain, to pronounce his name as it’s meant to be said. Usually I give up and revert back the Anglicized version of his name. Recently, he posted a picture on Facebook with a caption in Polish. I assumed it said something positive so I posted, “I agree”. The picture was pretty.

He sent a message back to me saying how rude I was to post in English on a Polish posting. That I shouldn’t have said anything and stayed in my place. I wondered why my place suddenly became the back of the bus. When I replied, I pointed out that ostracising someone based on their culture or language was racism. He didn’t like that. I cried.

So let’s go back to Trayvon Martin. I would like to make a comment about Florida’s “stand your ground” law. From what I understand, this allows a person to shoot first and ask questions later. Okay. I’m Canadian and maybe I’m being a bit dense on this, but it seems that this is the dumbest thing I’ve ever heard of.

Let’s do a comparison. A police officer, in most places around the world, has to train for months, learn the laws of the land, take counselling and generally prove he is worthy of both the badge and the gun. If a shooting does occur, an inquiry is called. He is questioned by his superiors and by the local internal affairs department, has to fill out paperwork and takes more counselling. In all of this he MUST have “just cause”. This means he has to be able to prove, beyond a doubt, that he believed his life or the life of someone else was in imminent danger.

In Florida, if I understand right, if you’re a private citizen all you need to have is a gun. This law says that the owner of said gun only needs to PRESUME the threat of imminent danger. The danger doesn’t actually need to be there. No one sees a problem here? What about a gun-happy idiot like Zimmerman who was told by the 911 operator to take no action? No. Zimmerman creates some imaginary threat in his head and kills a boy with skittles in his pocket. I imagine there are unicorns and werewolves in Zimmerman’s world, too.

Now, why was Martin killed? He was a black kid wearing a hoodie. That was the threat. I’m not sure which Zimmerman found more threatening; the hoodie, the fact he was black or the skittles. Skittles can be scary, you know. That whole “taste the rainbow” sure sounds ominous to me.

Racism is such an odd creature. I’m not sure I understand the idea of ostracising or hurting someone because they’re different. To tell me I can’t comment because I don’t know the language is patently silly. To shoot a boy because he’s a black kid wearing a hoodie is criminal. All of it is just sad.

My heart goes out to the family of Trayvon Martin. I would like to show my support but, as there are so many ribbons out there, I’m choosing a different method. I’m going to wear a hoodie for Trayvon. Maybe if more people wore them, people like Zimmerman wouldn’t find them so frightening.

A while ago I came across Dan Savage’s “It Gets Better” project. Although I haven’t uploaded a video, I have watched many videos people have done and applauded them. I was the victim of bullying in school. Not because I was openly pansexual, but because I was simply different. Even now adults think it’s all right to poke fun at that difference. It doesn’t bother me as much now, but I am aware of it.

Today I watched Rick Mercer’s video, “Rick’s Rant – Teen Suicide“. In it he tells adults, both straight and GLBT, that telling kids it gets better isn’t enough. That something needs to be done to stop the bullying. In it he says that 300 kids committing suicide from bullying per year is 300 too many.

I agree.

When I worked for Alberta Government, Alberta Education, I raised the question of bullying. I asked what was being done to stop it. Nothing, I was told. It isn’t a government concern. I went to the bathroom and quietly cried. If it isn’t a government concern, who’s is it? When we see the kid being bullied, when we hear about it, when we witness it, who’s concern is it? When a child kills himself and tears his family and friends apart because of bullying, why aren’t charges laid?

As an adult, if I am harassed (when you’re over 18 it’s no longer bullying, it’s harassment), I can go to the police and get help. I can go to the courts and make that person leave me alone. If I’m a teenager and I’m bullied, I can go to teachers. I can go to the principal. I can go to my parents, but what happens? Often the schools claim it’s the word of one student against the other. Really? A teacher can’t see when a student is obviously afraid and depressed enough to take their own lives? Especially when that student begs for help? Okay, so what proof do we need? Video? Okay, parents, arm your kids with cameras from now on.

We adults seem to keep thinking that bullying is a part of growing up but think about the facts for a second. If you went to work and were pushed around, beat up, called names, constantly, would you work there for long? What if your lunch or your money was taken from you daily by your co-workers? What if nasty pictures were posted all over the office? What if your co-workers spread vicious gossip on the company website? Would your bosses put up with that for long? Would they tell you that they couldn’t prove harassment was happening? Would they say it’s your word against someone else’s?

We have laws protecting adults from such activities but nothing protecting teens. If an adult were to commit suicide because they had to face the sheer harassment that teens do, someone would be held accountable by law. Companies and colleges have very clear harassment clauses and make the penalties for such behaviour very clear. Why are there not the same rules and regulations available for kids? Is it so unreasonable to get Alberta Education to create a harassment policy that is clear with clear consequences? Why aren’t police involved when it  comes to light that these kids commit suicide from harassment. As an adult, the law is on my side. Why not the same for kids?

300 suicides per year in Canada is 300 too many. Please. If you want to do something then speak up. Spread this blog. Spread Rick Mercer’s message. Write to government officials. Tell schools and school authorities that it is time to make this stop.

A child shouldn’t have to die to be heard.

300 children shouldn’t have to be subjected to fear, depression, ostrasization, loneliness because they’re different.

300 dead children means 300 torn families and lives affected.

300 too many.

Many of us, growing up, had periods in our lives where we were either the subject of bullying or bullied others. Usually in school anywhere from grade 1 to 12 and varying in intensity. For myself, I was the bullies object of choice.

I was very much a loner in school, content to play by myself, as the other kids were very confusing to me. I grew up around teenagers and considered them normal. Kids my own age were boring and immature. Why, they didn’t listen to groups like Nazareth or Led Zepplin and had never even heard of the movie “Tommy” or “The Posiedon Adventure”. What on earth did I have to talk to them about? I think the other kids were just as confused about me and, in the way of kids, dealt with it through teasing and bullying. At one time it got so bad that I had to be switched to another junior high school one month in as I was being beat up on a daily basis. My parents feared for my safety.

Once we graduate high school (or in a few rare cases, university or college), that’s all over with. Right? Adults don’t bully and if they do, they’re one of “those people” and we don’t associate with “them”. You know the type; no job, in and out of jail, abuse their kids/wife/husband/neighbours/whatever. Shiftless, dirty, uneducated. Those are the only adults that bully. Right? What if they’re not?

If you’ve ever held down a job in your adult life, you’ve probably gotten involved in or been subjected to office politics. Those little mind games that people in a job do to one another to get ahead and make themselves seem more important. There’s another name for it recently coined; “office bullying” and it’s just as damaging now as it was in school.

What is office bullying? Office bullying is any behaviour which is detrimental to an employee’s mental, physical or psychological health. You have probably been subjected to it at one time or another and either put up with it for the sake of the job (bills have to be paid, after all) or switched jobs. The problem is that neither option deals with the heart of the matter.

There is several types of bullies and most of them have learned that this aggressive behaviour is the way to advance their career. What amazes me is that adults think this behaviour is acceptable in the work place. We expect children to treat each other with dignity and respect but when we fail to do it ourselves we call it “office politics”. Bullshit. If we cannot treat others in a manner that is productive, respectful and healthy then we cannot reasonable expect children to do so. “Do as I say, not as I do” is a bad idea and never works. You want to stop school bullying? Then show your kids that bullying in any form is not acceptable.

So how do you know if you’re an office bully? Here’s my criteria; if your child said something similar to a peer that you say to a co-worker, would you be proud or ashamed? If your child behaved at school in the way you behave at work, would you praise or punish him or her? (This also works if you don’t have kids. Just imagine how you would feel if you saw kids behaving the way you do) If you’re not proud and praising your child for the behaviour you do then you’re an office bully and you need to stop.

How do you know if you’re a target of a bully? Personally, I think you’d know, but just in case you didn’t, here’s my criteria; if you feel harassed, violated or threatened, you’re the target. If you think your job is in jeopardy, you’re the target. If you saw your child being treated the way you are, would you stand for it? (Again, you can substitute a generic “child” if you don’t have kids). If you wouldn’t stand your child being treated this way, then what makes it okay for you to be treated this way?

Bosses: if you have office bullying going on, you have the power and ability to stop it. As the employer/supervisor/manager, you have an obligation to create a safe and healthy work environment. Bullying is not only detrimental mentally, emotionally and psychologically but physically the stress can cause illness. It also detracts from the quality and quantity of work produced by your employees. If they’re worried about the office politics going on, they’re not working and you’re losing out. It’s up to you to put an end to it. If you are the office bully, then shame on you. You should really know better.

Office bullying is a problem and so far there is very little attention paid to it in Canada. Yes, most offices have a “mutual respect” policy, but that doesn’t go far enough. There needs to be a venue for those being targeted to go and discuss their issues with either human resources departments or management. The employer needs to have clear steps to deal with office bullying in place.

You can stop office bullying. If you’re the target of office bullying then make sure your boundaries are understood and respected. If they aren’t, you need to tell someone. If you are the office bully, then it’s up to you to stop it. Work should be a place where you can feel respected and like you’re a contributing member. It shouldn’t make you feel like you’re eight years old and in the school playground again.

December 2017
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