I have been doing a series on abuse for the last few weeks in my Friday blogs, and am continuing on that theme this week on the subject of bullying and violence in the workplace. I will finish up the series next Friday on how to break the cycle of abuse.

To get started today on the subject of workplace violence and bullying, let’s begin by defining some terms so we are all clear on the definitions of violence, bullying, discrimination, workplace interpersonal conflict and harassment.

Violence is defined by an exertion of physical force as to injure or abuse. An instance of violent treatment or procedure. It is also an act of behavior that jeapordizes someone’s physical or psychological well-being. It involves a threat to one’s life, safety, health, or integrity. The intent to control, dominate, to injure or destroy, to deprive a person of dignity. Workplace violence includes verbal abuse, threats, physical attacks as well as near misses, psychological abuses, assault, sexual assault, discrimination of any kind, harassment and bullying.

Workplace bullying is a repeated pattern of intentional inappropriate behavior, direct or indirect (aggressive or passive), whether verbal, physical or otherwise, performed by one or more persons against another person or group of people which could reasonably be regarded as under,inning the individual’s right to dignity at work.

Discrimination is any practice or behavior, whether intentional or not, which has a negative effect on an individual or group, because of their race, ancestry, place of origin, color, ethnic origin, citizenship, creed (religion), sex, sexual orientation, age, marital status, family status, or handicap (disability).

A Workplace interpersonal conflict is defined as a an expressed struggle between at least two interdependent parties who perceive incompatible goals, scarce resources and interference from the other party in achieving their goals.

Finally, harassment is defined as engaging in a course of annoying and provoking comment or conduct, that is, or ought reasonably to be known to be unwelcome, and related to one of the protected grounds in the human rights code. The human rights code includes the following areas of protected grounds under the definition of harassment: Race, ancestry, place of origin, color, citizenship, creed, sexual orientation, age, marital status, family status, handicap and gender.

The profile of a bully looks like this:

Someone who is insecure, has low self esteem, poor or non existent social skills, little empathy, someone who is controlling, or manipulative, often driven by jealousy of ability, or jealous of relationships.

The profile of a target is someone who is very capable, dedicated, intelligent, honest with integrity, trustworthy, loyal and independent, sensitive, who has the ability to master new skills & perform new tasks. Someone who is well liked, imaginative, creative or innovative, with high moral standards.

Now that we have some definitions out of the way, let’s look at how to define whether your conflict involves a bully or is merely based on assumptions of another person. For instance, if you are a person who has trouble with confrontation, and even hearing that word makes you feel like the very nature of confrontation itself is an aggressive positioning of one against another, thereby defining, by you’re experience that confrontation equals bullying, you will have a hard time identifying between bullying and simple confrontation. Confrontation done well, does not have to involve force or violence, or even raising one’s voice to try and gain a position of power, or strength to confront. It can be done in a very straightforward way, involving both compassion and respect for the person you are confronting. Confrontation CAN be a very loving and caring act if performed with good intent, with no malice or undealt with anger in order to bring about a positive result for both parties involved.

If you are confronting a reasonable person, and not a bully, someone who is able to hear your voiced complaints or concerns, or request for change, this person will respond differently from a bully. They will take what you say to heart, they are able to listen, adapt and change, and give feedback positively, and take criticism well, they are empathetic and are concerned not only about their well being, but yours as well. They have a genuine concern and make effort to improve, change, adapt and accommodate to the best of their ability. They do not allow problems that crop up to become negative continuing patterns. They are looking for ways they can make the situation better.

The bully on the other hand, will try to adjust the truth so he does not have to adjust to it. When given feedback, they become defensive and immediately come back with reasons why something is not their fault. They cannot own or take responsibility for their own actions, and insist that other’s do, by their actions more than their words. They react as though you were the person who needs to take responsibility for their anger and bitterness. This type of person cannot hear or understand how to listen to reason, and cannot reason, they have to control their environment, a d when they cannot get away with that, the begin to bulky to try and get the environment to comply with their perceived ability to control it. They often minimize, blame shift, or make up exaggerated complaints against you, when you attempt to address a conflict. Excuses, rationalizations, minimizing… These are the traits of someone who cannot reason with you when you address a conflict. And when you do, this is often when the bully within them begins to emerge. The only way to deal with a bully is to stop talking, and set limits on their behavior. They do not respond to reason. This is where you need to ensure you have a healthy set of boundaries, so that you can hold your ground.

Know who to contact if you believe you are being bullied. Contact the management team in your workplace and make a formal complaint if necessary. Learn how to recognize the warning signs.
Get help. The negative effects of bullying over time do take their toll on one’s stress level, and psychological well being, as well as one’s productivity or positive attitude in the workplace. If you are experiencing burnout, you MAY be around people who are wearing on your overall well being. Burnout does not always involve bullying, nor is it always the cause, but it can be a symptom if you identify with any of the issues raised in this blog,

If you’d like to look at another great resource, check out my one-on-one Boundary Development Program which will help bring control back into your life!

Stay tuned for next week’s conclusion on the subject of abuse!

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If you have any questions on today’s blog or would like help on taking steps forward, I’d love to hear from you!  Post a comment below or visit my website and register for your Complimentary Strategy Session to discuss your situation in more detail.

Katie Meilleur – Certified Life Coach

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