VWP Course page 2 | Industrial & Construction Safety Solutions



Bullying in the Workplace

Workplace Violence

“Any incident in which a person is abused, threatened, or assaulted in circumstances relating to their work”

Violence can include:

  • Bullying
  • Verbal abuse
  • Threats
  • Near miss
  • Physical attacks
  • Psychological abuse
  • Assault
  • Sexual assault
  • Discrimination
  • Harassment


“Any practice or behavior, whether intentional or not, which has a negative effect on an individual or group because of their race, ancestry, place of origin, colour, ethnic origin, citizenship, creed, sex, sexual orientation, age, marital status, handicap (disability).”Human Rights Code

Discrimination can include:

  • Race
  • Ancestry
  • Place of origin
  • Colour
  • Citizenship
  • Creed
  • Sexual orientation
  • Marital status
  • Family status
  • Handicap


“Engaging in a course of annoying comment or conduct that is or ought to be known to be unwelcome, and related to one of the protected grounds in the Human Rights Code.” - Human Rights Code

Harassment can include:

  • Race
  • Ancestry
  • Place of origin
  • Colour
  • Citizenship
  • Creed
  • Sexual orientation
  • Marital status
  • Family status
  • Handicap

Workplace Bullying

Is a repeated pattern of intentional inappropriate behavior, direct or indirect (aggressive or passive), whether verbal, physical, or otherwise, performed by one or more persons against another person or group of people, which could reasonably be regarded as undermining the individual’s right to dignity at work.

50% of the adult population has experienced bullying at work, home or in society. Childhood bullies often become adult bullies and research indicates that unless there is a social intervention bullying will not stop. Bullying is practiced by both sexes; 1 in 30 persons may be or have bullying tendencies.

Bullying can take place between:

  • A worker and manager (supervisor)
  • A worker and coworkers
  • A worker and another person in the workplace (student, volunteer, outside service provider, family member, client, etc.)

Organizational Costs of Bullying

  • Reduced commitment
  • Decreased morale
  • Decreased productivity
  • Increased performance problems
  • Increased absenteeism
  • Increased health insurance costs
  • Burnout
  • High staff turnover
  • Increased employee/management conflicts and union grievances
  • Deteriorated service and customer relations
  • Increased legal costs
  • Tarnished image
  • Stagnate climate
  • Increased losses in management time

The Cost of Bullying in the Workplace

  • Effects on Staff
  • Constant high levels of stress and anxiety
  • Frequent illness/infections
  • Aches and pains in joints
  • Headaches, migraines
  • Tiredness, exhaustion, constant fatigue
  • Sleeplessness, nightmares, waking early
  • Flashbacks, can’t get bully or bullying out of mind
  • Skin problems
  • Poor concentration
  • Greater risk of alcoholism, drug abuse, or suicide

Effects on Families & Friends

  • Daily stress and eventual breakdown
  • Marriages/partnerships/friendships may be destroyed

Health care system suffers

  • Repairing the damage
  • Visits to the doctors
  • Prescriptions
  • Long term counseling
  • Psychiatric care

Profile of a Bully

  • Insecure
  • Low self esteem
  • Poor or non-existent social skills
  • Little empathy
  • Turns insecurities outward and attacks and diminishes the capable people around them
  • Has a need to control others

Profile of the Bullied

  • Very capable
  • Dedicated
  • Intelligent/intellectual
  • Honest with integrity
  • Trustworthy
  • Loyal & independent
  • Well liked
  • Sensitive
  • Master new skills/perform new tasks
  • Share knowledge & experience
  • High moral standards

Tactics Adopted by Bullies

  • Falsely accusing the target of errors not made
  • Staring, glaring, and nonverbal intimidation and clearly showing hostility
  • Discounting the target’s thoughts and feelings in meetings
  • Subjecting the target to the silent treatment
  • Exhibiting presumably uncontrollable mood swings in front of others
  • Making up their own rules that even he/she does not follow
  • Disregarding satisfactory or excellent quality of work
  • Starting or failing to stop, destructive rumours or gossip about the target
  • Encouraging people to turn against the target
  • Singling out and isolating the target
  • Publicly displaying gross, undignified, but not illegal behavior
  • Yelling, screaming, throwing tantrums in front of others to humiliate the target
  • Stealing credit for work done by the target
  • Abusing the evaluation process by lying about the target’s performance
  • Being insubordinate for failing to follow commands
  • Using confidential information to humiliate the target privately or in public
  • Retaliating against a person after a complaint was filed
  • Encouraging a person to quit or transfer
  • Sabotaging the target’s contribution to a team goal/reward
  • Stalking or spying

What Can Employers Do?

Create a zero tolerance policy

  • This policy should be part of the wider commitment to a safe and healthy working environment and should involve HR
  • When witnessed or reported the unwanted behavior should be addressed immediately
  • Structure the work environment to incorporate a sense of autonomy, individual challenge/mastery, and clarity of task expectations for employees (including employees in decision making processes)
  • Awareness campaigns for everyone. Encourage reporting
  • Ensure management has an active part in the staff they supervise, rather than being far removed from them
  • Encourage open door policies
  • Investigate the extent and nature of the problem. Conduct surveys
  • Improve management’s ability and sensitivity towards dealing with and responding to conflicts
  • Establish HR contact
  • Have a demonstrated commitment from the top about what is and what is not acceptable behavior

Formal Action Sanctions for Bullying

  • Formal apology
  • Educational sessions
  • Counselling about behavior
  • Verbal warning
  • Written warning
  • Transfer of the individual
  • Suspension or loss of privileges
  • Suspension or discharge of staff
  • Concerns addressed by Human Rights Commission
  • Legal/Police intervention
  • Concerns addressed by professional colleges

What Can the Individual Do?

  • Talk to someone you trust, you may not be the only one having problems
  • Keep a log of dates and times
  • Never meet alone with a bully, go with coworkers
  • Talk to your employer
  • Is the issued covered under the OHRC?
  • If you are forced to quit file a claim with the MOL – constructive dismissal. You may be entitled to termination pay


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