Workplace bullying: Prevalent and increasing in the Northland

By KBJR News 1

July 14, 2014 Updated Jul 14, 2014 at 9:50 PM CST

Duluth, MN (NNCNOW.com) - If we all had our way, at the end of our nine to five, we'd leave work at work.

But for two-and-a-half years, Barb didn't have much of a choice.

"It was hard," she said. "I went home and just bawled my eyes out. What can I do? I can't quit my job. I need this job,"

Day after day, Barb was bullied by her supervisor.

"Everything I did, was not good. I got to the point where if I put a piece of paper on somebody else's desk, she would berate me for doing that. And we were supposed to work together."

"Barb says strong emotional support from a coworker kept her going during the tumultuous time. That support led her to form the "Peace Squad."
Once a month, this group of bullied workers - and friends - meets in the back corner of this restaurant,.

"We're trying to create peace in an upside down world that someone is living in in their workplace," she said.

Over dinner they share their stories and experiences, trying to make sense of why they're being targeted.

"It's very important to show that we are supporting someone who is being bullied so they can go to back to work, and feel like, OK, I know somebody believes what I'm saying."

This group isn't alone.

A 2014 survey, conducted by the Workplace Bullying Institute, found 27 percent of adults have suffered abusive conduct at work.

"We have to start thinking about adult bullying with the same commitment that we are focusing on youth bullying right now, said UWS Professor Maria Stalzer Wyant Cuzzo, an expert in conflict resolution.

Cuzzo says there are two different types of workplace bullying.

Intentional and Accidental.

"People who have power, like supervisors, but very small. They know exactly what they're doing and they intend to do it. They are very difficult to deal with. An accidental bully is someone who may not be as sensitive to how they're actions or behaviors are affecting their colleagues," Cuzzo said.

Cuzzo cautions tough supervision is often times mistaken for bullying, which is why she's advocating for more awareness about the issue.

"We also have to move toward having more workplace bullying policies. This is something that is not common. In fact, the US, is one of the few industrialized nations that has not created laws about workplace bullying," she said.

"You have to make some hard decisions. If you want to save your health. If you want to save your mental health and physical health," said Barb.

Barb says she's in a better place with her workplace bully out of the picture.

"It's a real treat to work in my office right now. The people are wonderful."

The focus now is to spread the word: There is no place for bullying in the workplace.

"It's a very small grassroots effort. It's a scary effort. It's very scary." Barb said.

Just this spring, Tennessee became the first state to pass legislation addressing workplace bullying. Several other states have tried to do the same, but attempts fell flat.

We were invited to the monthly meeting of the "Peace Squad" with the promise we wouldn't disclose the location, people's names or where they work.

They say these meetings could put their jobs are in jeopardy.

One woman said the bullying in her workplace has gotten so bad, she's ready to hand in her resignation.

Resources:
Workplace Bullying Institute

Healthy Workplace Bill

Written by Kevin Jacobsen
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