Bullies identified as students, co-workers and even customers, say experts

Dave Masko's picture

COOS BAY, Ore. – Bullying comes in many forms, and social scientists say it’s not just kids in school who are being bullied; in fact, “workplace bullies” and customers who bully those who work in the tourism and hospitality industry is a growing problem, say experts, "because recession weary Americans make more bullying type demands on those who serve them in our society.”

“Bullying is something we all hope not to have to deal with much beyond the eighth grade. Unfortunately workplace bullies are a problem many people face. Unlike playground bullies who often, not always, resort to using their fists, workplace bullies generally use words and actions to intimidate their victims,” states the New York Times “Career Planning” web site About.com that references numerous social scientists and career counselors who hear “horrible things” that students do to other students, as well as adults who also engage in bullying with those who either work for them, with them or serve them in some way or means.

Bullying in the workplace flourishes in a time of recession

If fact, this reporter recently presented two lectures for students at the “Oregon Coast Culinary Institute” on the campus of Southwestern Oregon Community College in Coos Bay. While the lectures focused on the subject of “customer service in a time of recession,” discussions with students -- who will enter employment in the tourism and hospitality industry: the largest industry in Oregon and worldwide – pointed to “numerous examples of being bullied on the job. In turn, the students related how they were bullied by their co-workers, their bosses and even customers who make unreasonable demands on workers who fear job loss in a state with record unemployment.”

Thus, many adults are “taking it,” because they don’t want to be fired by those who seem to get away with bullying because they know their victims do not want to lose their jobs and careers.

In turn, as the culinary arts field continues to grow at a vigorous pace in Oregon – due in part to the state’s timber industry faltering since the start of the Great Recession in 2008 with fewer housing starts and demand for lumber – the focus for these recent lectures, on working in the tourism and hospitality industry in a time of recession, took on the dark side of the business when it comes to ‘the stuff that workers must take” or risk losing their situation.

One culinary institute college student noted: “I thought that I was done with bullies after high school. It seems to never end with the perverse nature of some to want and dominate others for some sick pleasure.”

“A workplace bully may be your boss or your co-worker. No one should ever make you feel uncomfortable at work. If you are a victim of bullying in your workplace consider speaking to someone in the human resources department for help in dealing with it,” stated a recent New York Times report on the challenges of working during a time of recession.

School age and adult bullies produce a “50 percent chance your child or even you will be bullied”

At the same time, Minnesota Public Radio presented a May 9 report that points to a landmark study by the Minnesota Department of Health and Education that states “there’s more than a 50 percent chance your child has been bullied – or bullied another student – at least once.”

The study, which examined data from last year's Minnesota Student Survey of more than 130,000 students, found that 13 percent reported being bullied regularly, once a week or more. If that held for the state's entire student population, it would mean more than 100,000 students in Minnesota are bullied on a regular basis.

“The study found that nine percent of students reported they had bullied others on a regular basis and another three percent reported being both a bully and a victim at least once a week,” Minnesota Public Radio reported.

Bullies in school is a growing problem, and not going away anytime soon

From bullying using cell phones to making bullying threats online, to outing gay students – who may commit suicide – to a whole host of new bullying that’s going on in this digital age at many of America’s schools, Minnesota’s State Education Commissioner Brenda Cassellius said “the report is more proof that school officials must do more to address bullying.”

"We want welcoming, engaging, supportive environments in all our schools," Cassellius said. "But we have to help children and teach them the skills so that when conflict arises, they're able to deal with it in a healthy way."

Moreover, a recent White House “bullying conference” noted that “students regularly involved with bullying — either as a bully, a victim, or both — also are less likely to earn As and Bs. They skip school more often, and they report higher rates of alcohol, tobacco and drug use. Also, such students also are more likely to report having experienced or witnessed family violence, including sexual abuse.”

Kids who are being bullied may be committing suicide more

According to the report, “more than a quarter of Minnesota students who have been a frequent bully or victim also have thought of suicide in the past year. However, researchers note that the link between bullying and suicide is complex. There is rarely a single reason why young people take their own lives, said Maureen Underwood, a social worker who works with the Society for the Prevention of Teen Suicide.”

Underwood said bullying might make youth who are already vulnerable more susceptible to thoughts of suicide.

"Lots of kids are depressed and lots of kids are bullied, and all of these kids are not suicidal," she said. "So there's something that separates the kids who choose suicide from all the rest of the kids who come up with healthier ways to cope with being victimized."

Kids grow up to be adults who are also bullied or become bullies themselves, say experts

According to the New York Times “Career Planning” web site About.com, there are proven ways and means to combat bullying in the work place.

Techniques include:

-- Don't allow the bully to intimidate you or make you feel bad about yourself. You know your true worth. Don't forget what that is.

-- Do your job and do it well. The workplace bully wants you to fail and when you don't he or she will be defeated.

-- Make sure your superiors are aware of your work. Workplace bullies often try to spread the word that you are not doing your job well and will even go as far as to report the smallest infractions to your boss. Your actions will carry more weight than his or her words.

At the end of the day, experts at the Oregon Coast Culinary Institute advised students who will soon enter the adult workforce to “not allow the bully to isolate you from your colleagues,” and to keep up your workplace friendships.

Add new comment