Phoenix residents filled a City Hall room on Friday to learn how to prevent and respond to bullying in the workplace and how bullying at work is often connected to earlier bullying in the schoolyard. The public presentation, put on by the Equal Opportunity Department’s Phoenix Human Relations Commission, was part of the Faces of Diversity Brown Bag Series, which aims to increase respect for individuals and make people feel welcome in the city through different meetings each year, said lead equal opportunity specialist Marquita Beene. November’s topic was “Empowerment in the Workplace: Creating a Bully-Free Zone.” Bullying is something that is universal,” Beene said. “It is something that can impact you no matter what your current status or place in life.” A 2010 Workplace Bullying Institute survey cited in the presentation found that half of the U.S. workforce reported either being bullied or witnessing bullying at work. Despite workplace bullying happening frequently, people are not as aware of it as they should be, said Nicole Stanton, advisory board member for the organization Stop Bullying AZ and wife of Phoenix Mayor Greg Stanton.
Stanton created Stop Bullying AZ as a bullying prevention initiative in 2012. Although she was never bullied herself, Stanton said her older brother came home from school every day terrified of his bullies. “I watched that happen to him, and it was really impactful on me,” Stanton said. Stanton said the organization was initially started for her brother, but once children and adults started emailing her their own bullying stories, she realized it was something bigger. A member of the Phoenix Human Relations Commission saw a presentation by Stanton on bullying earlier this year and asked her to apply it to the workplace for the commission’s series, Beene said. Stanton said her organization focuses primarily on children and does so because once children turn 18, they enter the workforce, where bullying may continue if it isn’t remedied earlier.
“If they were bullies in school, they are likely to be a bully in the workplace,” Stanton said. “That is not going to change.” Stanton offered advice in the first part of the presentation on what to say to bullying victims and how to tell if someone is being bullied, from physical warning signs to changes in mood or behavior. Stanton said it is important for people to understand what bullying is so they can create the appropriate response to it. “If we call everything bullying, then it kind of demeans and degrades people who are actually going through it,” she said. Carrie Severson, founder of Severson Sisters, a nonprofit organization that encourages self-confidence in females, discussed workplace bullying statistics, signs and responses during the second part of the presentation.
Severson said the main difference between bullying in school and bullying at work is that children are bullied because they are viewed as less than the bully, while adults are targeted because they are viewed as a threat to the bully.
When an adult feels a coworker is better than him, he will sabotage or manipulate the target with the goal of getting the coworker to quit or be fired, Severson said. But she said bullying cases usually do end with the target quitting or just never speaking up. “No one is going to fight for your job but you,” Severson said. Not only do most workplace bullying cases go undocumented, but there are currently no anti-bullying laws for the workplace in any U.S. state, according to the presentation. Severson said the majority of people she talks to who have been bullied at work want to know their legal rights. The only thing she can do for them, she said, is teach them about how to get their power back and speak up.
Beene said a large percentage of the complaints that go through the Human Relations Commission every day are labeled as discrimination yet are actually bullying cases. She said this is because people want to have some sort of lawful action, but that is currently not possible with bullying incidents. The city is creating a policy, expected to pass sometime next year, to teach employees and human relations people to prevent bullying in their workplace, Beene said. “In the city of Phoenix, most people strive to respect other people,” Beene said. “But I don’t think we always do the best job at doing that.”
By Stacia Affelt, On Monday, November 18th, 2013-Contact the reporter Stacia.Affelt@asu.edu
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