By Candy Woodall
Sometimes bullying in the workplace is obvious, revealed in screaming and shouting tantrums where insults are hurled at victims.
Other times it appears in the form of “crazy critics” who micro-manage employees and find fault with everything, doling out harsh criticisms, according to Lynda Randall, founder of the York College Women’s Business Center Organization.
But workplace bullying that’s a little harder to observe involves a level of exclusion initiated by a perpetrator’s need to control a targeted individual, she said. In that scenario, the victim is repeatedly excluded from invitations, co-worker outings or emails or ends up ostracized in the workplace.
Bullies also present a Dr. Jekyll and Mr. Hyde effect, in which they pretend to treat a co-worker well to their face, only to spread rumors, tell lies and treat them poorly behind their back.
“It’s very difficult to fight back. Often it’s the targets who end up losing their jobs because they don’t know what to do or just quit to get away from the bully,” said Randall, a partner with New Level Advisors LLC.
Randall, who serves as vice president of the Susan P. Byrnes Health Education Center board of directors and chairs its leadership committee, will be the featured speaker during a York College event next week.
Beginning at 11:30 a.m. Tuesday, Dec. 11, the college’s Women’s Business Center Organization will present “How Bullying Affects Productivity: Predominantly a Woman-to-Woman Problem?” in Alumni Hall. Tickets are $25 and must be purchased online at www.wbcoyork.org by Friday.
“We hope if we create awareness, we can create change,” Randall said.
Identifying the problem: To convey her research and message on the increasingly common workplace problem, she will tap leadership skills honed as an executive coach. Randall works as a consultant to the J.D. Brown Center for Entrepreneurship at York College, she was named one of Central Penn Business Journal’s Women of Influence in 2012, received the 2010 Athena Award for Leadership by the York County Chamber of Commerce and is a member of several local business organizations.
Leading people to identify and stop bullying is important to ending a problem that Randall said harms physical and mental health, creates a nonproductive culture in offices and causes an economic loss to the company.
It’s a problem in York County and across the country, she said.
A third of people in the workplace have been bullied at the office, according to a national survey conducted in 2010.
Research showed that, unlike sexual harassment, bullying is often a same-sex problem; about 80 percent of workplace bullying of women is done by other women.
The causes vary, depending on the psychology of the bully, but 42 percent of victims surveyed by the Washington-based Workplace Bullying Institute said they believed their bully was threatened by the victim’s technical skills. Victims also suggested the bully had an abusive-toxic personality.
What to do: Randall recommends the following five tips to help victims fight back: They should name the abuse as bullying, get help from a physician and mental health worker, investigate options in the workplace (transferring to another department, switching desks, taking leave, etc.), document all abuse and tell their stories to a human resources worker or similar professional.
“Emphasize that it causes an economic loss for the company if it causes the victim to concentrate on the bullying instead of work. It can also lead to absenteeism,” she said. The problem affects the entire workplace, not just the bully and the victim.
“You can’t have real teamwork if there is a bully present,” Randall said.
A bully sometimes influences colleagues, who may not be aware of the true problem between co-workers, and causes them to also ostracize the victim, she said.
“Bullies like to feel power, they like to manipulate and keep people off balance, and they like to be in control,” Randall said.
Co-workers who notice bullying or think they are being manipulated should take a stand against it and refuse to participate in things from which another peer is excluded, but they often fear becoming the next target, she said.
“We’re trying to create good role models and a culture that doesn’t allow bullying. Bullying is a serious problem. It ruins lives,” Randall said.
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