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Bullying in the Workplace: When Rainy Days and Mondays Do More Than Get You Down

After a sunny and relaxing weekend in San Diego, most of us aren’t overly excited to return to work on Monday (especially when presented with the option of sleeping in or enjoying yet another free day outdoors). Though for some employees, the very thought of starting each work week brings about a great deal of anxiety and trepidation. This stress is often associated with a hostile work environment which is the result of an office bully. When most of us read the word “bully”, it takes us back to school yard days when there was that one classmate who was bigger, faster and always seemed to single us out. Yet unlike the bully from our youth who might have given us a good shove on the playground, the office bully is far more subtle in the harassment.

Office bullies will often employ such subtle tactics as discounting a co-worker’s thoughts or ideas during a meeting, instigating rumors and gossip, rolling their eyes when a certain person speaks, using the silent treatment or purposely not inviting a certain individual to office outings. For those who are being bullied, it’s embarrassing or seems juvenile to confide in a work colleague or boss that a co-worker is “mean” or “doesn’t include me”. Although it might seem trivial and a little bothersome in the beginning, over time the bully’s subtle tactics take an emotional toll. “It can be damaging to be constantly dismissed in front of peers,” said Joel Neuman, director of the Center for Applied Management at the SUNY-New Paltz School of Business. “The thing that is upsetting about it is that people come to expect it and say, ‘Well, that is what it’s like around here.’ It shouldn’t be part of the culture, but often it is.”

Bullying in the workplace has become all too common and is not isolated to a certain vocation or profession. The Workplace Bullying Institute found in a nationally representative poll that 37% of the U.S. workforce, or 54 million employees, have been or are currently being bullied in their workplace. “Anything that affects 37 percent of the public is an epidemic. But it’s a silent epidemic,” said Gary Namie, the Institute’s director.

A recent Ventura County Grand Jury investigation found that bullying is also occurring within government. The Jury’s report found that some county employees had even vacated their positions in order to get away from the bullying. Those same employees did not file complaints within their departments because they felt it would only worsen their situations and that fair and impartial investigations of the bullying incidents would not take place.

It would be easy to confine the Grand Jury’s findings to Ventura and to discount the likelihood that similar bullying is not going on in the workplaces of the City of San Diego. Yet the unfortunate reality is the fact that bullying may be occurring in various City departments. As your union, MEA is not only dedicated to fighting for, and enforcing your contractual rights, but is also committed to protecting you in the workplace by ensuring that you feel both physically and emotionally safe and secure. If you ever feel intimidated or bullied by a co-worker or boss, please call MEA. Even if you are not comfortable with making a formal complaint, your Labor Representative can help you to evaluate your options, or you can contact the Employee Assistance Program (EAP) at 619-236-6373.

Although you might not necessarily look forward to Monday mornings and the start of a new work week, you should never feel severe stress or anxiety at the simple thought of walking into your workplace.