Workplace Health

Bullying in the Workplace

One definition of workplace bullying states that it: “is a persistent pattern of mistreatment from others in the workplace that causes either physical or emotional harm. It can include such tactics as verbal, non-verbal, psychological, physical abuse and humiliation.”   (Wikipidea) When the bullying involves a group of individuals targeting an individual or individuals, it is called mobbing.  The leader—manager, co-worker, or subordinate—rallies others to engage in verbal and nonverbal aggression, personal attacks, social ostracism, isolation, humiliation, rumor, innuendo, and so on with the goal of getting rid of the targeted individual.  

Women are more likely to be bullied than men; according to the Workplace Bullying Institute (2007), women represented 57% of reported cases.  Men, it was noted, are more likely to engage in aggressive bullying behavior.  Cyberbullying, using the telephone or internet with the intent to shame, ridicule, or harm another, is a relatively new form of bullying brought to public attention by the shocking news of teen suicides attributed to peer cyberbullying.

According to psychologist Dr. Sophie Henshaw, “mobbing is ‘bullying on steroids,’ a horrifying new trend where a bully enlists co-workers to collude in a relentless campaign of psychological terror against a helpless target.”   She also stated that at least 30% of bullying is mobbing with a rising tendency. Fear of becoming a target causes many individuals to support bullying behavior. An Australian study completed by Faure-Brac (2012), claims that for every reported case as many as eight to 20 cases go unreported.

Certain workplace stresses can contribute to mobbing—increased financial pressure due to market demands; organizations driven by bureaucracy, such as government departments; beliefs that support bullying as “personality conflicts;” supervisors and managers lacking skills to deal with mobbing and bullying; values not centered on caring for others.  Witnesses of bullying or harassment who turn a blind eye are guilty of perpetuating the problem because if nothing changes, nothing changes, and the bullies move on to the next target.

What can you do if you are the target of mobbing?  Faure-Brac suggested a number of steps: first, practice good self-care and get out as soon as possible; document everything in case you decide to take legal action in the future; take the time you need to sort out future plans, and this could include having your doctor prescribe stress leave; find a therapist to help develop coping strategies, a lawyer who can advise of legal recourse, family physician who is informed of the work situation, supportive family and friends; practice good self-care; find activities that help diminish stress—exercise, creative pursuits like painting or coloring; try to find joy in every day or reasons to smile.

By: Judy Urquhart, MSW

Navigating the Organizational Impact of Legalization

In April of 2017 the Canadian Federal government proposed new legislation that will establish a legal framework for the production, distribution, sale and possession of marijuana/cannabis. Marijuana use will become legal for adults, with provinces left to determine the appropriate means for sale (likely through a regulated retailer). While there is much work to be done, the effective date of the legislation is expected to be Summer 2018.

As this groundbreaking legislation unfolds, employers need to consider the impact on the workplace. While employers should continue to expect that employees perform work duties unimpaired, they need to proactively review drug and alcohol related policies to be prepared. Given the increased complexity of this issue around legal responsibility to accommodate disabilities, organizations should consider legal consultation to ensure they are on the right side of employment and human rights legislations where there is prescribed medical use of cannabis for treatment purposes. 

Organizations will need to re-examine how they provide support for employees with drug and alcohol addiction. The consequences of legalization on addiction is not well understood but fairly debated, however at HumanaCare we are seeing a significant increase in addiction within our employer health services cases.  Through the first 5 months of 2017, there was a 40% increase in addiction related Employee and Family Assistance Program (EFAP) cases compared with 2016. Of particular concern is the increased incidence of addiction cases for employees located in more remote and isolated communities. Many cases involving mental health have a cause and effect relationship, where substance abuse will exacerbate a situation, adding more complexity and severity (calls related to suicide increased 165% over the same period, with many having co-morbid addictions). Employers need to empower managers, supervisors and health and safety staff with knowledge and resources to effectively deal with employees that are impaired on the job and to address absenteeism due to addiction related issues. 

Employers need to take action now to review their health benefits and people strategies to identify any gaps/opportunities to ensure best-in-class support for managers and employees. Additionally, employers should look to organizational policy and procedure best practices to mitigate risk where workplace safety is a critical element to the organization.  

EFAP, Disability Support Services and education play an important role in an organization’s response to productivity, safety and employee health matters. These valuable services formulate a strategic response, allowing companies to proactively manage through challenging circumstances. Organizations must seek a partner who provides strategic guidance to lift the veil on areas of concern and build a value-driven roadmap to success.


About HumanaCare

HumanaCare is an integrated mental and physical wellness service provider because a compassionate, holistic, employee centered care model is a prerequisite to more improved, long lasting outcomes. Employees are subsequently less absent, more engaged and productive at work, generating a significant return on investment for their company. For our clients, we deliver improved outcomes through our Employee and Family Assistance Programs, Disability Support Services, Medical Second Opinion Services, Chronic Disease Management and Eldercare Support programs. HumanaCare has more than 38 years of Canadian healthcare experience.