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  • Lori A. Jazvac

Let's Promote a Healthier Workplace

Set the scene…

It’s your first day at work and things are going fairly smooth. You have met your co-workers, your boss seems friendly and the work seems interesting enough, yet challenging. You have been told that there is a room to grow and move up in a forward-thinking organization that offers strictly 9-5 hours.

A couple of days into your first job, you start to get a glimpse of the annoying co-worker who enjoys complaining about her life and "miserable job" every morning. How about the member on your team that seems to be making too many mistakes that will likely impact your work? You have been introduced to the another co-worker who is known for making inappropriate personal remarks on occasion. Friday has arrived -- you've been assigned a key project and need to take your work home with you on weekends without exception –- so much for work-life balance.

Already two weeks into your new job, and your boss suddenly transforms from a polite manager into a demanding tyrant, telling you that your work is "not good enough" and pushing you to exceed every deadline. You have done some research on the company and had two interviews for this role. But you may be thinking right now that this is not what you had signed up for.

  • Is your perception suspecting a toxic work environment entirely correct?

  • Should you stick it out for the long haul hoping that things will change?

  • Or should you quit now and save yourself the stress?

The answers to the above questions depend on your determined attitude, mindset, and understanding of the organizational culture, but ultimately, how you can drive positive, healthy, and productive behaviours to implement change in your new workplace.

The Toxic Workplace

Welcome to the toxic workplace that affects a large number of today’s modern workplaces starting with subtle bullying tactics to downright pressure-filled environments that can zap your energy and spirit, and even impact your health.

According to the Workplace Bullying Institute’s 2017 US Workplace National Bullying Survey, bullying is defined as “repeated mistreatment of an employee by one or more employees; abusive conduct that is: threatening, humiliating, or intimidating, work sabotage, or verbal abuse.”

While workplace bullying remains an epidemic in North America, many employers are failing to take responsibility for its prevention and correction. From subtle nuances to blatant threats, outbursts, and embarrassing or harassing behaviours that are totally unacceptable, many bullying tactics pass without further questioning, inspection, or robust action. In fact, many are accepted for fear of employees losing their job or stirring up controversy.

This topic impacts 25% of employees in the workplace and was addressed in a seminar earlier this year by Dean DeGroot and Dr. Janet Wall on Bully-Proofing the Workplace. Establishing boundaries and claiming a locus of control along with employing assertive strategies goes a long way to gauging workplace behaviour.

The following statistics confirm the seriousness of this issue in today's workplaces:

  • 19% of Americans are bullied; another 19% witness it.

  • 61% of Americans are aware of abusive conduct in the workplace.

  • 60 million Americans are affected by workplace bullying.

  • 40% of bullied targets are believed to suffer adverse health effects.

  • 29% of targets remain silent about their experiences.

  • To stop bullying, 65% of targets lose their jobs.

Workplace bullying in Canada poses a serious concern in many workplaces with 40% of Canadians having experienced one or more acts of workplace bullying at least once a week for the last six months.

Here are 10 tips to promote a healthier workplace:

  • Readjust your expectations and perspective. Don’t expect to like all your colleagues. Model positive behaviour by working to coexist peacefully with your team and work together harmoniously.

  • Set clear expectations and boundaries right from the beginning.

  • Put aside personal differences and focus on meeting the strategic objectives of the organization. Always remain professional and keep your emotional intelligence in check.

  • Leverage your strengths as well as the strengths of your co-workers. Use positive reinforcement with your team to promote winning outcomes. Celebrate milestones accomplished as a team.

  • Respect your co-workers’ differences. Agree to disagree when necessary.

  • Treat career-related obstacles and interpersonal squabbles as learning experiences –- transform challenges into opportunities -- mind over matter.

  • Diffuse workplace challenges with some light humour whenever possible.

  • Use a creative problem solving approach to initiate and implement collaborative change that will promote engaging team-building behaviours.

  • If challenges become too overwhelming, respectfully address your concerns with management and suggest initiatives for bully-proofing your workplace through implementing training sessions or an HR Committee.

  • Emphasize a collaborative, results-driven, and win-win approach rather than shifting the blame by garnering the support of management and all staff.

A toxic workplace becomes unproductive and stressful, resulting in high turnover rates and absenteeism, while directly impacting the bottom line and the health and morale of all employees.

It all starts with deciding to make a change with the first step...

Assessing workplace values, setting firm guidelines, building morale, and strategically revamping the culture and team dynamics is essential to creating a healthy and respectful workplace. Encouraging collaboration rather than competition helps mitigate workplace bullying behaviours.

However, awareness and recognition is the first step in identifying what constitutes workplace bullying, and then taking the necessary steps to initiate transformation.

We all need to do our part to promote a healthier workplace by embracing our strengths, respecting the uniqueness and diversity of our co-workers, and empowering each other to greater heights of success. Let's get the conversation about bully-proofing in the workplace moving forward in the right direction and take a stand.

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