Copyright TIGERS Success Series
By Bill Crampton

Who knew he would take his life? Jamey was different. And the bullies cashed in on this difference.

Jamey Rodemeyer, a 14-year-old boy from Williamsville, NY, took his life Sunday, September 25. His parents claim bullies tormented Jamey for years over his struggles with his sexualty. The bottom line is that sticks and stones do break your bones but words destroy lives.

The Workplace Bullying Institute of Bellingham, Washington, reports that 64 percent of people targeted by bullies in the workplace lose their jobs once bullying is exposed. One reason is that people who experience bullying often quit their job. Another reason is that workplace bullies are protected under state employment law unless the bullying falls under federally protected categories such as age, gender, and disability.

The reality is that playground bullies that evade the law grow up to be workplace bullies. And a society that fails to stop bullying at the playground level rears adults that are intentionally cruel and manipulative.

Dianne Crampton, Founder of TIGERS® Success Series a work team culture consultancy, says that in the workplace “We have identified behaviors that build strong oranizations and behaviors that predictably tear teams and organizations apart based on whether organizational behavior is trustworthy, interdependent, genuine, empathetic, appropriatly risk taking and successful. Bullying is an empathy deficient behavior that hurts the organization and the individual. It is intentionally aggressive behavior anchored by anger, low self esteem or competition run amuck that is aimed at hurting another person. Bullies often do not care whether they hurt the feelings or welfare of another person. Sometimes they enjoy seeing people suffer. When bullying is allowed in the workplace it breeds fear, disrespect and group think where observers often go along with the abuser. The consequence is a diminished sense of team, productivity, morale and increased turnover. Unless leaders are quick to take action, bullying can take root at any level of operation.”

Bullying, by definition, is aggressive behavior that is intended to cause humiliation, physical or emotion pain, or diminishment to another person or group of people. It results in the abusive treatment of others and almost always involves an imblance of power.

According to Crampton, “Hostile work environment law suites often focus on sex, age, race or disability harassment because these are human rights violoations. But more subtle sources frequently occur that damange workplace trust, interdependence, empathy and genuineness. For example, spreading malicious rumors, gossip, or innuendo that is not true is bullying behavior. So is undermining or deliberately impeding a person’s work by setting them up to fail. People do this deliberately by withholding needed information, yelling or name calling, through snide comments, publicly picking on mistakes and belittling the opinions of others. These are all intentionally aggressive acts aimed at controlling another person or diminishing their social value. These acts expose the perpetuator as a person with a low empathy ethic because they are unable to recognize how their aggressiveness impacts others.”

When bullying occurs between employees, it often runs below the management radar and should not be taken lightly when it is exposed. At the organizational level it impacts moral, productivity and high turnover in positions. At the personal level it often impacts the physical and emotional health of a person.

An employee who is experiencing bullying needs to firmly tell the offending person that their behavior is not acceptable. One way to do this is to ask this person what they mean when something offensive is said. More often than not the person will say they were kidding. An appropriate comeback is to say calmly, “No I am serious. What did you mean by that because it felt like a put down and that isn’t acceptable to me.

If the bullying continues it is important to keep a factual diary of daily events and record what happened in as much detail as possible. The names of witnesses should be included in the record and the outcome of the event. Documenting the character, number and frequency of bullying episodes helps to establish a pattern and this includes keeping copies of correspondence. Then take your concern to the person identified in your workplace policy. If the offender is your immediate supervisor, then proceed to the next level of management keeping in mind that exposing the incident could result in job loss.

According to the Bellingham, Washington Workplace Bullying Institute 35 percent of US workers claim they are victims of workplace bullying.