Charles Benayon

Founder & CEO of Aspiria


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“It Never Happens Here”: Workplace Bullying

harper-titleThe first thing one thinks of when hearing the term bullying is schoolyards or cyber bullying, but when these bullies grow up, they often become bullies in another environment: the workplace.

The statistics are alarming – 40% of Canadian employees have experienced one or more acts of workplace bullying at least once a week for the last six months; a staggering 74% of employees have been bullied at some time in the workplace, and 75% of employees that have been bullied leave their workplace! The result of this bullying can have a devastating impact on your workforce with decreases in productivity, an increase in employee turnover, an increase in absenteeism, an increase in health issues ranging from depression to harming oneself or others, an increase in legal costs, workers compensation, or management time, and a decrease in company morale.

Besides the stigma of workplace bullying, many employees are hesitant to report it to their HR departments because they might be concerned of the repercussions, or of being labelled a whistleblower, or of their perpetrator, particularly when their manager is involved, making things even worse for them at work.

Although we are more likely to laugh off an insult or comment at work or to treat it as a personality trait (particularly when a boss or manager is verbally offensive to you at work) but the fact is, it is bullying and it won’t stop until you do something about it. It seems there is a very fine line between a strong management style and bullying, but if you are feeling repeatedly mistreated, then chances are you are being bullied.

Employers often treat bullying and harassment as one and the same, however they are different: workplace bullying is repeated, unreasonable and unwelcome behaviour directed towards an employee or group of employees that creates a risk to health and safety. Workplace harassment is unwanted behaviour that offends, humiliates or intimidates a person, and targets them on the basis of a characteristic such as gender, race or ethnicity.

I have found that in most cases employees know when they are in a bullying situation, but what they don’t know is what to do about it that is safe and effective. I have outlined below a few approaches to reduce workplace bullying at your organization:

  1. Create a protective environment for employees that will foster positive and respectful relationships.
  2. Employees need to feel safe at work. Develop an internal anti-bullying workshop to create awareness of the issue, teach people social and emotional skills, post applicable company policies in visible areas, and develop team-building exercises.
  3. Provide support (third party EAP counselling) to those who may be affected by workplace bullying and take active steps to stop it from occurring again.
  4. Create a bullying response process to ensure everyone in the organization responds in an appropriate way when they see bullying or conflict occurring.
  5. Provide intervention and prevention programs.
  6. Create anti-bullying policies and procedures.

When is bullying acceptable? Never. Whether it is in the schoolyard, online, or at work, there is no situation in which an individual should be made to feel harassed, ridiculed or inferior. Make sure your organization does the right thing and takes actions towards creating a safe and collaborative environment.

If you have an anti-bullying policy at work, does it go far enough in protecting your employees? If there isn’t one in place, do you know what steps to take towards implementing an anti-bullying policy? I look forward to a lively discussion on this topic.

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Part 2 of 3: The Under-serviced Student

mental-health-ireland-390x285“We’re seeing twice as many kids as we were 10 years ago” Dr. Hazen Gandy of the psychiatry division at the Children’s Hospital of Eastern Ontario in Ottawa. Dr. Hazen is referencing the growing number of teenagers presenting themselves at emergency rooms across Canada, with self-inflicted injuries and suicidal thoughts.

From 2009/2010 to 2012/2013, this Ontario hospital reported a 64% spike in hospital visits for mental health issues, which has led to overcrowded wait rooms and overburdened hospital beds. Statistics of this magnitude should shock us, but more importantly, we should be concerned as to the availability of resources to the rising number of teens who need them.

In some cases, chronic and long-term mental illness can lead to suicide ideation and attempts in teenagers, although mental health professionals are finding that more and more students do not fit the traditional criteria for disorders associated with self-harm and suicidal ideation. Instead, they are average students who suddenly don’t feel like they can manage.

Part 1 of this 3-part blog series explored the profile of a university/college student in 2014, where performance stressors, academics and financial pressures and “helicopter parents” all contributed to a deficiency of coping skills in this demographic. Simply put in economical terms, the supply is not meeting the increased demand for mental health services across Canada. But remember, these statistics only reflect the number of students who present their symptoms at emergency rooms – in effect, some of the most extreme suicidal episodes. That leaves a massively under-serviced student population who might be on outpatient counselling waiting lists and not necessarily acting on their negative emotions and thoughts, at this time.

With misdiagnoses, exhausted counselling resources, few affordable options and societal misperceptions of mental illness, we are only beginning to understand that the mental health care system currently in place is not meeting the needs of our young people. When a cultural crisis like this takes place, anything less than a concentrated overhaul in the way we perceive mental health is a Band-Aid solution that treats the symptoms of the trends we’re seeing, and not the causes.

In my next blog, and the final piece in this series, I will explore our call to action in our homes, workplaces and community, when it comes to supporting our students. What are your thoughts on the rise of mental health issues in the student demographic? Some mental health professionals are tentatively calling it an “epidemic” – do you think this is accurate? I look forward to your thoughts below.

Sources:

http://www.thespec.com/news-story/4414618-canadian-mental-health-services-strained-as-self-harming-teens-seek-help/