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Issues: Dealing With Workpace Bullies – Why Is BC Late To The Party?
By Shaheen Shivji. With three provinces taking workplace bullying seriously enough to implement legislation, is BC next?A provincial organization with a small staff and meagre budget, BullyFreeBC was started in the office of former Liberal MLA Lorne Mayencourt with that goal in mind.
The group, which came to be in April 2007, is now supported by many individuals and organizations, including the BC Human Rights Coalition.
Over the last three years the organization has been building strategic relationships with leaders and influencers in all working sectors and political parties throughout the province.
When asked why the organization has not launched an all-out
public awareness campaign to elicit additional support, Robyn Durling, Communications Officer for the B.C. Human Rights Coalition and Chair of the BullyFreeBC Communications Working Group
“With that in place, this fall BullyFreeBC plans to launch a public awareness campaign that we hope will achieve sustained traction in support of legislative reform that prohibits workplace bullying in British Columbia.”
The organizations’ efforts have so far yielded a $15,000 grant from the Law Foundation of BC, the creation of a draft legislative framework, and a province-wide petition for Workplace Bullying Law Reform to address the problem directly.
Prior to 2004, Canada had no legislation to protect employees from workplace harassment. In 2004 Quebec was the first province to ban psychological harassment in the workplace, not only in Canada, but also in all of North America.
Saskatchewan followed with its own legislation in 2007 and, in June of this year, Ontario under the Occupational Health and Safety Act implemented its own legislation.
Workplace Bullying Petition
Efforts by BullyFreeBC and The Law Foundation of BC have resulted in a petition which is available online at http://www.gopetition.com/petitions/workplace-bullying-law-reform.html .
BullyFreeBC plans to launch a public awareness campaign in support of legislative reform that prohibits workplace bullying in BC
Just as Ontario passed its legislation, the School of Business at Queen’s University released research on workplace bullying, which was published in the Journal of Applied Psychology.
“Even with the best preventative measures in place, harassment may still occur,” caution authors, Jana L. Raver of Queen’s School of Business, and Lisa H. Nishii of Cornell University. “If it does, leaders should clearly communicate to employees that they are taking the situation seriously and that all forms of mistreatment are unacceptable.”
What is Workplace Bullying?
The intent of bullying is to intimidate and torment, stripping a person of his or her dignity and self-esteem. For the most part, workplace bullying relies on the formidable weapons of hostile actions and words. If not addressed, the targeted person may resort to harmful activities which could include violence in the workplace.”
First-time author Lauren Weisberger hit a home run with her book, The Devil Wears Prada. The astounding success of the book led to the 2006 blockbuster movie, which saw Meryl Streep play bully boss Miranda Priestley and Anne Hathaway play the bullied assistant Andrea Sachs.
Miranda Priestley, referring to her assistant, Andrea Sachs: “Is there some reason my coffee isn’t here? Has she died?”Weisberger’s book, brimming with tongue-in-cheek humour and pulse-pounding emotion that all working people can relate to, is set in Manhattan’s uber-cool high-fashion industry.
Weisberger writes eloquently about haute-couture clothes, top models, fashion shows, glamorous parties, hobnobbing with A-listers and, most importantly, she highlights a serious problem in organizations worldwide: workplace bullying.
At the outset of the book, readers are introduced to Andrea Sachs, a new university graduate full of zeal and confidence who has a passion for writing. By the middle of the book, the beloved Andrea has lost her confidence and is on prescription medication for anxiety. Working for Miranda Priestley has taken its toll on young Sachs.
Workplace bullying is a pervasive issue not only in the movie but in real life, where often it is the competent and intelligent worker who becomes a target of the workplace bully.
The ripple effects of bullying include loss of reputation, financial hardship from potential job loss, legal fees and health-care costs.
They are also felt by organizations that tolerate this behaviour, because in the long run they can also face hardships to their bottom line, reputation and recruitment efforts. These repercussions can in turn affect provincial labour-recruitment initiatives and increase health-care costs.
Originally Published Oct 13, 2010
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Shaheen Shivji is a journalism student at the University of the Fraser Valley
Issues: The Right to Remain Silent
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