“Within two weeks he had already made his mark, and showed that he was a bully,” the worker said, “From the beginning of my first day at work, he would come in cursing at you, throwing things, bringing you down. Everything you would do would not be good enough.”
Tired of the abuse, he finally quit after nine months. But employment litigator Sheila O’Shea Criscione, who has specialized in bullying for the last 16 years, says the weak economy and high unemployment means most workers don’t feel they have that luxury.
“People are afraid to talk about it. They are afraid of retaliation. They’re afraid of being terminated as a result of voicing their concerns. In this job market, they’re afraid that they won’t have a position and there’s no other position to go to,” Criscione said.
But the decision to “just deal” with the bullying can take a toll. Dr. Alan Hilfer is the chief psychologist at Maimonedes Hospital.
“Absenteeism occurs, physical complaints occur. All of these stress related issues that we see; stomach issues, fatigue, increased anxiety, a dread of coming to work,” Dr. Hilfer said.
In-office bullying hurts a company as well. Absent or distracted workers can mean lost productivity leading to a smaller bottom-line. Some suggest the problem is serious enough that it’s time for legislation to specifically prohibit workplace bullying.
“Companies usually only react when there’s a law hanging over their heads,” Criscione said.
In fact, a “healthy workplace” bill that does just that has passed the New York State senate and is awaiting further action.
Similar legislation has been considered in 17 other states, including Connecticut and New Jersey.
“No one should have to suffer from bullying in any environment, whether it is workplace, schoolyard, anything,” the bullied worker said.