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Discover Fauquier February 2019
Did you know that one in three working
Americans reports being bullied in
the workplace? This is a startling
number and represents the amount
of mistreatment that is taking place
in organizations across America.
Surprisingly, this is not new. Andrea
Adams, a forerunner from Great Britain,
began studying workplace bullying in
1990. It is only a phenomenon that
has received more emphasis based
on recent mass shootings and bouts
of depression. The FBI conducted a
longitudinal case study from 2000
2016 and found that 70% of mass
shootings occur in a place of education
or commerce. This leads to the belief
that the workplace can be considered
dangerous and bullying is certainly a
contributing factor.
What exactly is workplace bullying?
There is no universal definition
that has been accepted as the one
descriptor. Dozens of researchers
have coined definitions and behaviors.
Based on my experience and research
as an expert in the field, I define it
as: repeated mistreatment of an
employee, including social exclusion,
isolation, not greeting, ignoring
the victim's presence, humiliation,
demeaning, belittling, excessive
deadlines, excessive monitoring of
work, few or no tasks, threats, insults,
and criticisms, all of which may lead to
high levels of stress and other health-
endangering factors. This definition
does not include physical abuse,
which includes behaviors that have
escalated beyond workplace bullying
and into workplace violence, such as
hitting, punching, shoving, and the like.
I have experienced workplace bullying
in four different organizations with
no connection to one another. These
experiences led me to further desire to
research this topic to determine why I
had become a target and what I may
be able to do to stop these behaviors.
As the common denominator, I
found that I was targeted based on
my personal characteristics. I am
a model employee who arrives at
work early, stays late, takes on extra
responsibilities, is usually promoted
within six months to a year, ethical, and
maintains professional interactions
with co-workers. I learned that this can
be perceived as a threat to others. We
live in a society where Generations
X, Y, and Z are lazier than the Baby
Boomers and Silent Generation,
and thus many of these individuals
want promotions and other work
opportunities handed to them without
much effort. When a model employee
who may unintentionally hinder what
they can get without working hard
comes along, there is a threat they
consciously or subconsciously feel
they need to remove. These were the
circumstances I found myself in at the
four aforementioned organizations.
There must be improvement in the
workplace experience for Americans
to continue to thrive, develop, and feel
satisfaction from their contributions
to an organization. Upon further
research and experience, I found the
one thing lacking in all of the situations
I encountered that would have made a
difference, not only in my experiences
but in those of many throughout the
country, is the notion of respect. It
sounds so simple, yet there is minimal
respect for others exercised throughout
society on a day-to-day basis. More
strikingly, there is little consideration
from bullies of how targets may feel
based on their actions and verbal
responses. I encourage the idea of
treating people the way you would want
someone to treat a person you greatly
admire and respect, such as a parent,
grandparent, mentor, friend, teacher,
or other important person in your
life. This interaction is likely genuine,
attentive, kind, caring, and helpful.
Unfortunately, these attributes are not
always taught in the home and may
need to be taught at a pre-school or
elementary level to ensure that children
understand how to treat one another
with kindness and respect. These
positive behaviors may matriculate
through the levels of grade school and
ultimately into the workplace on an
adult level. This is just one strategy
of many to move toward a direction
of improving
experiences in
the workplace.
we must start
Workplace Bullying:
Where Do We
Start to Solve the
By Dr. Sabrina Brandon Ricks, Ph.D.
President, SBR Workplace
Consultation Services
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