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More employees face stress of bullying in the workplace: Part I

Nearly all of us have been forced to deal with a bully at some point in our lives. In most cases, our traumatic incidents were limited to the schoolyard. The idea is that most children eventually outgrow the need to bully other people. Unfortunately, that isn't always the case.

In fact, bullying is quite prevalent in the workplace as well. It may not be overt enough to qualify as verbal or sexual harassment, but it is no less harmful. According to a recent article in the Miami Herald, workplace bullying is everywhere, including here in Florida.

A government study revealed that one out of every four workplaces in the US has a bullying problem. Unlike similar behaviors in the workplace, bullying is not actually illegal.

Sixteen different states have recently introduced legislation called the "Healthy Workplace Bill," but it has not been passed in any state. Under the proposed law, workers would be required to provide medical documentation to prove that they were being subjected to bullying and an "abusive work environment."

Because there is no law against bullying, managers and co-workers are often allowed to threaten, insult or mock other employees or find other ways to make their life miserable at work.

In the case of co-workers, bullying is often allowed because management does not put a stop to it. One expert who runs a "Workplace Bullying Institute" says: "They become more and more aggressive at work because it gets reinforced. Employers who are indifferent are rewarding it."

Men who bully at work will often target both male and female employees. But despite what you may think, men are not the only bullies at work. In fact, there are female bullies, and they tend to bully other women about 80 percent of the time.

Experts say that this can be especially dangerous because female bullies are often much more subtle and difficult to catch in the act. They may taunt and gossip or sabotage someone else's work. Sometimes the "silent treatment" is their weapon of choice.

It is an even larger problem when bosses and managers are the ones doing the bullying. Check back later this week as we discuss more about bullying in the workplace and what you can do to stop it.

Source: miamiherald.com, "Workplace bullying a growing problem," Cindy Krischer Goodman, 28 June 2011

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