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Bullying to be discussed at meeting today

Time to speak up: Doris DeCosta will join a discussion on bullying at the Employee Assistance Programme AGM this morning

Are you a bully? Doris DeCosta would be shocked if anyone answered yes to that question.

She counsels bullies and people who have been bullied in the workplace and was surprised to learn just how few people recognise it as a problem.

“It’s a topic that needs to be talked about,” the executive director of the island’s Employee Assistance Programme said. “It’s something that has to be looked at because when employers don’t look at it, it gets entrenched in the company’s culture, so people think it’s okay when it’s really not.

“Bullies are, by nature, creatures haunted by their own inadequacies.

“On one level they realise this, but the public persona they present is a mask of bravado and superiority. In other words, they’re very competitive people and that skilled person in the workplace could be the target of bullies.”

Ms DeCosta will be part of a discussion panel on bullying at the EAP’s Annual General Meeting today. Sara Clifford of the Human Rights Commission, Donna Harvey-Maybury, human resources director of the Fairmont Southampton and Edward Lamb, the Commissioner of Corrections, will also weigh in.

Bullying takes many forms. According to Ms DeCosta, “excessive criticism, humiliation, shouting, verbal abuse, constantly changing instructions, refusing requests, threats, excessive workloads and unrealistic goals” are all examples.

“People don’t realise the impact bullying has,” she said.

“It’s very repetitive. It’s something that occurs over time and if you’re beat down by stress because of bullying every day then that’s going to cause you to have psychological problems, sleep disturbances, lack of concentration, decreased job satisfaction, mistrust in management, decreased job commitment, increased job stress, high levels of anger and anxiety, absenteeism.”

The number of people affected here is in keeping with what’s seen elsewhere in the world although the island is fortunate not to have had a tormented worker “go postal”, she said.

“That’s why I think it’s so important for companies to put something into place — a code of conduct, whatever you want to call it. How people treat each other is so important.”

One case presented her with two individuals where the bullying had gone on for more than ten years.

The situation remains unresolved.

“What amazed me is how long it went on,” she said.

It’s typical for the accused to be defensive, Ms DeCosta added.

“Sometimes people don’t recognise they’re being bullied or the bully doesn’t think that they have a problem. They think that’s the way that you’re supposed to be spoken to in a work environment. You can look at it either as assertiveness or aggressiveness. It’s very subjective.”

While bullying typically occurs between manager and employee, there are types of bullying that occur with co-workers.

“Those schoolyard kids that were bullies, they become workplace bullies when they’re left unchecked.

“We have to try to get people to have enough courage to speak up.

“Self-care is paramount, people who are being bullied have to recognise they’re being bullied and that they’re not the source of the problem.

“Bullying is a form of control and has nothing to do with your work performance.

“It’s a power play. Remember you’re a target.

“They’re going to test the waters to see how far they can go.”

A bully test will be distributed at today’s meeting, which takes place 8.30am-11am at the Argus Building. General admission is $75; $60 for members.

•For more information contact Ms DeCosta on 292-9000 or ddecosta@eap.bm


A bully test will be distributed at the Employee Assistance Programme’s AGM this morning.

Below, a few of the questions:

1. I find it difficult to deal with failure, especially in a personal sense.

2. I tend to forget things easily.

3. I believe others have more talent than me.

4. I believe I can fulfil my dreams and be as successful as others.

5. I feel people should be able to take a joke; too many people are indecisive.

6. When I make a decision, I stick with it; I do not reverse my decisions.