October is National Bullying Prevention Awareness Month and Oct. 2 is the official Wear a Blue Shirt Day to bring attention to this very important issue.

There has been much education and information regarding bullying in schools with our children. However, there is another population that exists but is seldom spoken of. Bullying often occurs in adult social circles and in the work place. Be it a youth, teen or an adult, bullying is a very destructive form of abuse for all recipients.

According to the Workplace Bullying Institute (WBI), bullying is defined as “a systematic campaign of interpersonal destruction that jeopardizes health, career, job” and “is a non-physical, non-homicidal form of violence.”

Unfortunately, no state has passed anti-bullying workplace laws. The absence of these laws allows employers to neglect the problem, however, there are many things employers can do to deter this heinous act.

The WBI discusses that a bullying recipient is targeted because a threat, a perception that is wholly in the bully’s mind but it is what this person feels and believes, was perceived. Interestingly enough, targets appear to be the veteran and most-skilled person in the workgroup.

The WBI explains, through research and thousands of interviews, that targets refuse to be differential and that bullies take steps to enslave targets. When targets move forward to protect their dignity and their right to be treated with respect, bullies will intensify their acts of hatred and intimidation to win control.

Targets are generally more skilled than their bullies, better liked, and have heightened social skills. Targets are empathetic, often even for their bullies, ethical and honest. Some are whistleblowers who expose fraudulent acts.

Targets tend to be truthful, sincere and above board. Unfortunately, the most accessible targets are those with personalities based on a devotion to help, heal, teach, develop and nurture others.

The Balance points out that behaviors of bullying can appear as the definition of a hostile work environment and possibly be considered harassment.

“Harassment becomes illegal when tolerating (bullying) becomes a condition of your employment,” meaning you have to live with it or leave. Bullying “rises to the level of harassment when any reasonable employee would consider the behavior(s) uncomfortable, offensive or hostile.”

The Balance provides some examples of bullying acts that step over the benchmark of a hostile work environment — denying an employee access to resources, assignments, projects or opportunities; lack of performance reviews; withholding information needed to perform one’s job; excessive micro-managing; treating a worker differently than co-workers; sabotage and interference; and humiliation.

The upside is that individuals in social circles and employers can do something about bullying.

In social circles, do not follow bullies, take a stand, say something, enact new behaviors. Often others are frightened to step outside of a bully’s control but it only takes one person to begin a new wave of thought.

In the workplace, bullies must experience negative consequences — no promotions, rewards or accolades. It requires nothing short of flipping the work culture upside down.

Targets are not alone. There are websites and blogs to find education, comfort and empowerment to not only withstand the abhorrent behavior but perhaps be the agent that forces change. The WBI website will be reporting their next survey results this year.

Angela Wynne is a Lompoc resident.

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