Intimidation, Threats, Berating, Teasing, and Overworking. These are just some of the many issues victims of workplace bullying endure on a day-to-day basis.
A lot of attention has been given recently to the bullying epidemic taking place in our schools and in the workplace. Horror stories of bullied kids killing themselves to be free of the constant torment they face from peers have even pushed several states to create laws against bullying, encouraging individuals to report school bullying incidents to authorities. Recently, the New York State Legislature passed an Anti-bullying in the workplace bill that would prohibit employers from misusing their authority over subordinates. From the playground to the office, the struggle for power continues well into adulthood and the effects of adult bullying can be severely detrimental. Adult bullies don’t get any less cruel, in fact they develop more ruthless and calculated ways to mentally deplete a person.
Workplace bullying is defined as the repeated mistreatment of individuals or groups using persistent aggressive or unreasonable behaviour through tactics like verbal, nonverbal, psychological, physical abuse and humiliation. In the majority of cases, bullying in the workplace is perpetrated by management but it can also occur with clients, subordinates and co-workers.
This article will cover some reported cases of workplace bullying to expose its severity and show where it can lead when not dealt with appropriately.
Driven to Death
Take for instance the recent suicide of Carl Dessureault. The 44-year-old Quebec bus driver was incessantly being harassed by co-workers because he resembled a man police were after in connection with a rape. He was taunted by fellow employees with disturbing questions like “What’s it like to rape women?” and ”Who’s your next victim”. The abuse and teasing got so bad Dessureault took time off on the advice of his supervisors. When he returned to work, the mocking resumed. Dessureault sought counselling and was put on antidepressants as well as medication to lower his blood pressure. Sadly, on September 17, 2010, the bus driver who had worked with the Reseau de Transport de Longueuil for 22 years ended his suffering for good.
No Help For Dedicated Nurse
Margaret Gettins, a nurse at the Royal Bolton Hospital in England, also experienced insufferable name-calling and harassment from fellow colleagues, leading her to take her life in July of 2010. The taunts began when the 50-year-old had been moved from the orthopaedic rehabilitation ward to a unit which treats stroke victims. Gettins kept a diary detailing the torment she suffered at the hands of staff. In the 4-page suicide note she left her husband and daughter, she revealed the names she was being called. She had spoken to her husband about the problems she was having at work and he suggested she take it up with her ward manager. But Mr. Gettins does not believe she ever did. Instead, she resorted to the only option she felt she had.
Another tragic case is that of Stuart McGregor, a young man who had always dreamed of being a chef, but after he scored a highly sought-after apprenticeship in a kitchen in Bendigo, AU, his dream soon became a nightmare. The manager of the kitchen was set on making Stuart’s work life a living hell. Gordon Ramsay’s kitchen was Angel’s Paradise compared to what Stuart felt he needed to endure to succeed in the highly competitive restaurant industry. Name-calling, berating and inappropriate remarks about Stuart’s sexuality were just the subtle beginnings of a mounting problem. Just before the end of Stuart’s three-month probation period, he was invited on a camping trip, but declined to go after the manager told him he ”would have blood up [his] arse and grass on [his] knees” if he went on the trip. He was expected to do things that he hadn’t been taught and made fun of when he wasn’t doing them correctly. When Stuart asked a question about a particular soup recipe, the manager said he had to call the CEO of the company to ask for it. If he didn’t make the phone call he was in trouble, if he did, he was made to look stupid. One incident like this could have been tolerable, but these continual put downs lasted two years and eventually his mental health deteriorated sharply, and he took his life.
Managing Editor Shoots Himself
On July 30 2010, Kevin Morrissey, the managing editor at the University of Virginia literary magazine Virginia Quarterly Review, shot himself. Mounting evidence suggests the harsh treatment from Morrissey’s VQR editor, Ted Genoways, was in great part responsible. Morrissey had also struggled with depression for many years. Genoways had a tendency to berate Morrissey according to fellow co-workers, family and email communications retrieved between the two. Genoways was already known for unusual management practices, like making his staffers read all his incoming emails and forwarding only what was deemed pressing. But all hell broke loose when Genoways put Morrissey in charge of the office while he was away on a prestigious Guggenheim fellowship. One of the staff members made a wisecrack about Alana Levinson-LaBrosse (a wealthy donor on the board of directors) during a meeting which Morrissey wasn’t even at. Genoways got word of the news, accused Morrissey of “unacceptable workplace behavior” and ordered him out of the office. According to The Hook, which did a full cover story on Morrissey’s death, the email stated: “If you are already at VQR office leave immediately and do not return to the office until July 26.” Genoways also told Morrissey not to talk to his co-workers. Morrissey made over 18 pleas for help with officials in UVA’s human resources, ombudsman’s, and president’s offices and two days before his death, was told “it would stop”. This was no conciliation and as Morrissey feared, despite the University’s assurances, he received angry emails from Genoways. Morrissey would receive a last email from Genoways an hour before his death which Morrissey’s sister, Maria, found open on his iPhone. On his desk in his apartment, she also found a book covered with notes. He was reading Working with the Self Absorbed: How to Handle Narcissistic Personalities on the Job.
Racism That Led To Rampage
The Hartford Distributors shooting, which occurred on August 3, 2010 in Manchester, Connecticut, was the deadliest workplace shooting in Connecticut history. Omar Thornton gunned down eight people and injured two others at Hartford Distributors, a beer distribution company, before taking his own life.
Thornton had complained about being racially harassed at work telling friends and relatives that in the two years he worked at the company he was confronted with blatant racism. Friends and family reported Thornton had found a picture of a noose and a racial epithet hanging on a bathroom wall at work. Will Holliday, Thornton’s uncle said, “He went to the Union a couple of times with issues concerning what was going on, and it was not dealt with appropriately. The killing rampage occurred moments after a disciplinary hearing in which Thornton was forced to resign after an alleged videotape showed him stealing beer from the company. Thornton made calls to his mother and to police after gunning down the eight people. Just before committing suicide, he told the State Police Trooper William Taylor he shed so much blood because “this is a racist place.” Thornton, who was one of only four black workers among the company’s 69 dockworkers and driver. So many cases of workplace bullying go unreported. Scared to lose their jobs in such an unsteady job market, victims of bullying shroud themselves behind a wall of silence and endure suffering until they can’t bear it any longer.