Create a Safe Culture: Preventing Workplace Bullying


The Canadian Centre for Occupational Health and Safety (CCOHS) defines workplace bullying as “acts or verbal comments that could ‘mentally’ hurt or isolate a person in the workplace.”

CCOHS notes that, while bullying is a workplace issue, it can sometimes be difficult to identify. Some examples include: excluding or isolating someone socially, intimidating a person, and constantly changing work guidelines.

Bullying can unfortunately create an unhealthy workplace that can have an increase in absenteeism, turnover and stress, as well as decreased productivity, motivation and morale.

One way employers can help is to create a workplace violence prevention program that addressing bullying behavior.

CCOHS offers many suggestions on what a workplace violence prevention program should contain. Some of those include:

  • Define what you mean by workplace bullying (or harassment or violence) in precise, concrete language.
  • State in clear terms your organization’s view toward workplace bullying and its commitment to the prevention of workplace bullying.
  • Outline the process by which preventive measures will be developed.
  • Encourage reporting of all incidents of bullying or other forms of workplace violence.

Have you had to address any incidences of bullying in your workplace? What do you feel is the best way in which to prevent employees from being bullied?

As you work to create a safe workplace for everyone, remember you can count on Seton to help prevent accidents and injuries.  Give us a call at 855-581-1218 or visit and we can help answer any safety product questions you may have.

Workplace Bullying: Where Can You Turn To?

Workplace Bullying

If you think you’ve outgrown and left the bully back in the schoolyard, think again. That bully is now wearing a tie and carrying a briefcase. In fact, that schoolyard bully just morphed into something more sinister – he or she is now your boss or co-worker.

Workplace bullying is often called the “silent epidemic.” The helplessness, frustration, and stress often take their toll leading to serious illness, not to mention, mental and emotional trauma. In truth, the effects of workplace bullying are not restricted to the bullied. Management and the company also suffer economically with the loss of a good worker. Productivity suffers as more often than not, the bullied employees are the most productive and knowledgeable about the job.

Unfortunately, countries such as the United States still lack the necessary laws that cover bullying. Unless the bully physically assaults or sexually harasses the employee, in the eyes of the law, there’s nothing that can be done.

If you are being bullied, where can you turn to?

Workplace Bullying Institute (US)

The Workplace Bullying Institute is an advocacy group lobbying to get the Healthy Workplace Bill to pass into law. It’s a bill that addresses “abusive work environment” different from harassment and other existing labour laws. Why do workers and employers need this new law? According to their 2010 national survey, 35% of workers have experienced bullying and bullying is four times more prevalent than harassment. Furthermore, in their 2007 study, it was found that 44% or nearly half of the organizations with incidents of bullying did nothing to address their employees’ grievances while 18% actually retaliated against the employees who reported the incidents.

Employees and employers may visit their website to gather information from preventing bullying to providing solutions to workplace bullying. There is helpful information that includes signs and symptoms of bullying, economic and health impact of bullying, rational action plans to stop bullying, list of professionals who can help, and more.

Canadian Centre for Occupational Health and Safety (CCOHS)

Even in Canada, known for politeness, 40% of Canadian workers per week experience workplace bullying. This figure comes from the European Journal of Work and Organizational Psychology published in 2006. The surprisingly high number may have triggered the passing of Bill 168 also called Occupational Health and Safety Amendment Act (Violence and Harassment in the Workplace), passed in 2009. Bullied Ontario workers now have a better legal ground to stand on in a worst case scenario. The law specifies the responsibilities of the employers with significant consequences for non-compliance.

Workers in Canada may seek the help of CCOHS for information on workplace bullying and other types of workplace health and safety issues. Consult with them via their online inquiries form. According to their website, services are free and confidential.

Other Workplace Bullying ResourcesBullying Stops Here

AlbertaAlberta Learning Information Service

Alberta’s government site includes essential information and a list of services for professionals experiencing workplace bullying and harassment. According to the website, if the bullying is triggered by discrimination based on race, ethnicity, age, religion, disability, etc. you may be covered under the Alberta Human Rights Act. You may visit their site at or call their toll-free number, 310-0000 and enter 780-427-7661 for north of Red Deer or 403-297-6571 for Red Deer south.

Ontario Ontario Ministry of Labour (MOL)

While the ministry prefers internal resolution of the complaint, the bullied or harassed employee may seek assistance of their nearest MOL office. Visit their site for the complete list of offices and contact information.

British ColumbiaMinistry of Labour Employment Standards Branch

The site offers a Self-Help Kit for employers and employees, who are unable to resolve disputes internally. Complaints such as bullying and harassment may go through the process of investigation, mediation and adjudication depending on the merits of the case and the parties involved.

QuebecCommission des normes du travail

The province headed the fight against workplace bullying with the passing of the ALS legislation or the Act respecting Labour Standards in 2004. In it, the government addressed the issue of psychological harassment. The Commission des normes du travail offers a comprehensive information kit for French-speaking Canadians that would help them fight and prevent bullying.

ManitobaWinnipeg Health Region

The Winnipeg site contains helpful tips and information on how to stop and prevent bullying. Click the link for the Region’s Respectful Workplace Policy to see further resources including contact information of organizations that may help you.

For more information, read our previous post about workplace bullying.



Connect with Annaliza Vasallo on Google+

Workplace Bullying: A Silent Epidemic

Work Bully

Bullying is as toxic in the workplace as it is on the schoolyard. Considered a “silent epidemic,” workplace bullying is a critical safety, occupational and public health concern. Some businesses are beginning to acknowledge its dangers, but many deny it though it’s illegal in Ontario, Saskatchewan, Quebec and soon will be in British Columbia.

Bullying Awareness Week (November 12-17) is a good opportunity to start the conversation around workplace bullying. Left to fester, it causes stress related health issues in almost half of its victims and costs companies their reputations and sometimes their best employees.

Bullying also causes distractions and anxiety that put jobsite workers and others at risk and hurts the bottom line.

Bullying is learned behaviour and often people who were bullied become bullies. The competitive culture of many businesses can also fuel bullying.

A bully is a supervisor or boss, a worker or a group of workers who feel a desperate need to take control of one person by repetitive, harmful, non-physical, covert and deliberate mistreatment. This focused attack against one person, the target, is a form of psychological violence and according to the Canadian Safety Council one in six workers has been bullied.

It can be hard to recognize workplace bullying or know if you’re a target of bullying.

Here are 10 examples of workplace bullying:

  1.   Spreading malicious rumours and gossip
  2.   Physically abusing or threatening abuse
  3.   Intimidation
  4.   Withholding necessary information or purposefully giving false information
  5.   Constantly criticizing
  6.   Unwarranted or undeserved punishment
  7.   Undermining or deliberately impeding a person’s work
  8.   Insulting, swearing or shouting at a person when others can witness it or, conversely, when no one else will witness it so that the behavior is plausibly deniable.
  9.   Socially excluding or isolating someone
  10. Treating one worker differently than others and expected him to work longer hours

Are you being bullied?

If you’re repeatedly experiencing any of these abuses from one particular supervisor, manager, co-worker or group of co-workers, you may be the target of bullying.

A target tends to be anyone who poses a threat to the basically insecure bully, who is more technically skilled and experienced than the bully, for example, or better liked, more independent and non-confrontational – someone perceived to be less powerful or in a weaker position.

Being bullied can result in the target’s lost productivity, absenteeism and financial problems and increased stress levels, including Post Traumatic Stress Disorder.

If nothing is done to stop this bullying, the target can lose his self-esteem, suffer musculoskeletal problems, sleep and digestive disturbances, depression, and family tension and stress. Flourishing in a hostile environment of denial, secrecy, ignorance and fear, in many cases, bullying results in the person targeted quitting his job.

What do you do if you think you are being bullied?

  1. Talk about it with your friends, family and any co-workers you can trust
  2. Start keeping a detailed journal of every bullying incident, including date, location, time, nature of the experience, your feelings and any action you take
  3. You can take informal personal action by informing the bully that his behaviour is unacceptable, but if you do, be sure to have a witness, friend or union rep with you.
  4. Formal action is reporting the incidents in writing to a senior manager or human resources personnel.

Ultimately, bullying will only stop if employers recognize its existence and begin to change the company culture enabling it.

Here’s what employers must do:

They must ensure their supervisors and managers are not bullies by building “anti-bullying priorities” into hiring practices, advises Aaron Schat of McMaster University’s DeGroot School of Business.

  1. They must create zero-tolerance policies for workplace bullying with full commitment and support from senior management.
  2. When a bullying complaint is filed, they must treat it seriously and act on it quickly.
  3. Gather evidence from workers who may have witnessed a bullying incident.
  4. They must fully embrace the fact that bullying in the workplace is bad for business and for the morale of all workers and act accordingly
  5. They must not reward the bully but instead those who have the courage to step forward and those who step up and refuse to be a bystander when they see bullying happen.

Have you experienced workplace bullying or witnessed it? Talking about it is the first step in stopping it. Share your story. You could really make a difference.