bullyingBella, a fifth grader fighting a life-threatening blood disorder, was paired with the Denver University Division 1 women’s volleyball team as part of Team Impact.  She was given a locker and helped out at practices.

Because of her illness, she has to wear hearing aids, and some of her elementary-aged peer started to tease her about it.  When her “big sisters” on the team heard about it, they decided “no one was going to mess with one of our family.”  Nine of the college women went to Bella’s classroom the next day to give a presentation about the value of being different while emphasizing that bullying is not acceptable.

Those women showed up. They stood up.

Unfortunately, bullying is not confined elementary schools. According to the Workplace Bullying Institute’s 2014 USA survey, over 27 percent of respondents have experienced bullying in the workplace. Respondents said that 56 percent of workplace bullying is initiated by bosses. Moreover, while that is thankfully less than half (still too much!) the study did find that 72 percent of employers overlook, deny, or even encourage bullying.

The Institute offers solutions and resources for targets of abuse and employers.

Others are standing up against bullying. A report in Bloomberg BNA shares about the increase in workplace cyber bullying, stating a case in which a juvenile corrections officer was bullied by coworkers for having no fingers on his right hand. The article advises companies to consider wise policies in balance with the need to protect rights allowed by the National Labor Relations Act.

Dr. Barbara Fredrickson, author of Positivity, has studied positive emotions for decades. She looked at  bullying by college coaches, and explained, “In terms of bonding, loyalty, commitment to a team and personal development over time, negativity does not work as well as positivity.”

Ohio State’s Dr. Ben Tepper has made studying abusive leadership in the workplace his specialty. Tepper explains, “The studies all say that there’s no incremental benefit to being hostile. Hostility always produces diminishing returns.”

When you see abusive treatment or bullying, don’t look the other way. Stand up and show up. Point out the abusive behavior. Ask that it stop. By all means, do not encourage it. Be like the volleyball team. You may not fix everything, but you will bring awareness, which potentially can reduce its frequency. If all of us showed up and stood up, we could help others feel valued – every day.

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