Bullying in any situation is uncalled for and certainly not the fault of the victim. Unfortunately, in Canada one in six employees report being bullied at some point during their career. Workplace bullying encompasses everything from physical altercations to sexual harassment to verbal attacks. Everyone has the right to a safe work environment but unfortunately young workers are more likely to be bullied due to their lack of workplace experience, and vulnerability. It’s extremely important for the mental health of all youth on the job that they recognize the signs of bullying and know how to report it.

The effects of bullying can produce several different side effects including (but not limited to:  insomnia, anxiety, physical discomfort (such as stomach pains), loss of appetite, isolation, and poor work performance.

How do I know if I’m being bullied?

Bullying has four characteristics:

  1. It is repeated behaviour. If you feel put down by repeated personal attacks by a co-worker or employer, this is bullying. These repeated personal attacks can me verbal or physical, however, any instance of physical intimidation or assault should be reported immediately to a trusted employer, teacher, parent supervisor, etc.
  2. It is intentional. Bullying is intentionally physically or emotionally hurtful behaviour towards someone else.
  3. It is harmful. It is emotionally or physically harmful to a person’s wellbeing.
  4. It is a perceived loss of power. Typically bullies feel threatened by their perception of the person they are bullying. They may feel the person is outperforming them at work, or simply better-liked by co-workers.

Bullying can be emotional or physical. Some typical forms of workplace bullying are:

  • name-calling
  • threatening
  • undermining a person’s ability to do their job
  • embarrassing someone in front of co-workers
  • physically assaulting a co-worker

Bullies can be your co-workers, customers, or your manager/boss, and these actions can take place in person, or via electronic means (cyber bullying).

An important distinction is how to tell when you are NOT being bullied.

These are examples of usual workplace interactions that should not be considered bullying:

  • Policy enforcement
  • Performance evaluation
  • Constructive feedback
  • Discipline, suspension or firing with just cause
  • Difference of opinion

What should I do if I’m being bullied?

When a person is feeling bullied in their place of business, reporting it is key. Before taking it to a third party, be sure to try and document the instances, including the date, time, and action that took place. When you are ready to talk to someone, go to your employer, teacher, parent, or other supervisor.

You have the right to a safe workplace and the company you work for should have processes in place for these types of incidents, and make you feel psychologically supported.

For more information on workplace bullying, visit the Canada Safety Council website.