Bullying can be all around us

The life of a bully is not one of self-confidence or even happiness, it is a life filled with fear of not fitting in, not being accepted for who they are or the type of person they truly want to be. The life of a bully is one of restless discontent and an uncertainty of when they will be faced with someone just a little bigger, a little tougher, a little meaner and yes, even a bigger bully than they.

Does this sound like someone you know? After all, bullies come in all shapes, sizes, genders and walks of life. They can be highly educated or a high school drop-out, a politician, or a business person, they can work with you, work for you, or supervise you, they can live next door, and even be a member of your own family.

When many of us think of bullying, we think first of the student, the young and the vulnerable. But what about bullying in the workplace? According to a National Survey reported by the Workplace Bullying Institute’s Gary Namie, PhD, Research Director and Research Assistants: Daniel Christensen & David Phillips, workplace bullying was defined as “repeated mistreatment, intimidation, work sabotage, or verbal abuse.”

Statistics show that 27 percent of individuals have current or past direct experiences with abusive conduct at work. Another 72 percent of the American public are aware of workplace bullying, however, that same percentage either deny, discount, encourage, rationalize or defend bullying and 93 percent of the respondents surveyed support the enactment of the Healthy Workplace Bill, but few take any action to see that it is enforced.

Not ironically, in the workplace, the majority of bullies were reported to be supervisors and bosses. A common link between the workplace bully and the bully in the school is that they bully the same type of individual; the timid, the shy, the cooperative and agreeable. While 37 percent of the victims of bullying is considered to be compassionate and kind, with 19 percent considered cooperative, and 22 percent agreeable; 6 percent are they themselves abusive as well.

The victim of bullying often is faced with agonizing consequences. In the case of our young people, those choices often lead to the unthinkable – self harm and eventual suicide. We learned just this past week of another young person who could no longer take the abuse of a bully. A 14-year old freshman attending school in North Carolina took his own life due to bullying.

In the workplace, statistics show a significant impact on employee health, absenteeism, and productivity. According to the Workplace Bullying Institute, 71 percent of workplace targets were treated by a physician for anxiety (80 percent), depression (49 percent) and PTSD (30 percent); 29 percent considered suicide and half that rate actually followed through.

If these numbers don’t alarm you, maybe they should. We are losing our young people daily to this problem, and the long-term effects on young adults’ mental health carry over into the workplace. Productivity suffers when our employees are not well or feeling anxious and ill- equipped to deal with a supervisor who is a bully.

In our schools, one in three students report being bullied during the school year. Cyberbullying accounts for 43 percent, but more than 33 percent report one-on-one bullying. Ironically, those who see bullying happening are reluctant to intervene; they don’t want to get involved.

This same principle is almost identical in the workplace, co-workers walk away for fear of being bullied themselves or being victims of retaliation. This has been proven to be the wrong thing to do. Once the bystander, fellow student or co-worker intervenes the bullying stops within 10 seconds 57 percent of the time according to the U.S. Department of Health and Human Services. Standing by, or walking away is not the answer – we must stop the bully and their bullying, and it will take every one of us to do so. In the case of the young man in North Carolina, his fellow students were aware of the bullying, they didn’t want to get involved.

His teachers and faculty members were “casually” aware there was a problem. When the news of the student’s death reached the school, one person described the alleged bullying as “a long running event.” This goes back to the saying that if you see something, say something and it goes for bullying as well.

The following are just some of the characteristics of a bully as reported by the World Health Organization as well as being included in the research conducted by the Workplace Bullying Institute:

Bullies generally have a need to control and dominate others through intimidation and threats; they are quick tempered and impulsive; find it difficult to see a situation from another person’s point of view; refuse to take responsibility or deny wrong doing; blame the target; are good at talking their way out of situations; get into the faces of others going toe-to-toe whenever possible; they are insensitive to the feelings or needs of others; they talk over others and lack empathy.

If you are a regular reader or my writings, you may be wondering why I have chosen to write about this topic; I am writing about bullying because it matters. The victims of bullying don’t deserve to remain in the shadows. The victims of bullying don’t always speak up. Whether it is in the workplace where a supervisor takes advantage of a subordinate because they can, or in our classrooms where the quieter student is pushed into the lockers, cyber-bullied or ridiculed because of their differences, if we see it we must stop it; turning our backs and walking away won’t stop the bully – it only empowers them, and you become a part of the problem – the problem of intimidation and bullying.

There is a song titled “If it is to be, It is up to me.” I can only hope that this commentary can become a catalyst that will stop the bullying in our schools and in our workplace.

Have a great day.

Vicki Westling is a Dunkirk resident. Send comments to editorial@observertoday.com