Preventing bullying at work

After more than two decades of providing our continuing educational symposia face-to-face, we successfully presented our Spring 2020 event virtually. Although I imagine most of us missed the networking that usually occurs at these events, we were relieved to still be able to “go on with the show.” Relational aggression and bullying continues to be a major workplace concern, and some of our experts warn us acts of aggression may increase as employees work at home, return to workplaces, and/or are stressed by the challenges related to COVID-19. With our country deep into protests calling for racial equity and police reform, the need for us to address aggression is further heightened.

To kick off our day, we appreciated the experience shared by Edward Stern on the topic of workplace policies. Mr. Stern served as the U.S. Department of Labor for 41+ years as an economist and policy/program analyst, served on the DOL Workplace Violence Committee, and now researches, writes, and advises on workplace bullying. One of my favorite quotes that Edward shared is this: “Bullying is not a management style; it is abuse. It is about anger and aggressiveness.” (From Randi C. Wood – see source.) During his keynote talk we learned about obstacles from management in establishing a culture that prevents relational aggression, along with examples of various forms of bullying. In the end, we are reminded that merely having a policy alone without support and enforcement does not prevent relational aggression.

Our second morning speaker, Gian Lozano is the First Vice President for AFGE Local 2157 who has had a passion for developing behavioral solutions for organizations spanning over twenty years. Mr Lozano addressed how we can change toxic work cultures. We learned about the domains of bullying as well as the costs to employees and organizations. A key message shared during his talk was how important employee engagement is to healthy organizations. He spoke of a framework of engagement that can create high levels of value and motivation, and transform work group culture from toxic and dysfunctional to healthy and thriving. I particularly appreciated a tip he shared later in the afternoon panel discussion about “the power of the apology.”

Debra Harris, Ph.D, is a Senior Instructor II within the OHSU/PSU School of Public Health. Dr. Harris helped us understand  how important it is that we become familiar with union protections, legal precedents and standards about workplace mistreatment and abuse. In her talk we heard examples of what workplace bullying can look like, tips for responding to it, and how it can destroy organizations. She concluded her talk by offering advice on how to develop a healthy workplace culture.

In our afternoon session, we added expertise shared by Institute Faculty Member and Oregon Healthy Workforce Center Co-Director Leslie Hammer, Ph.D., Lynda Enos of Human Fit, and Richard Goerling of Mindful Badge. Each of these presenters shared tips related to their expertise: Dr. Hammer on what supervisors and leadership can do; Lynda Enos on bullying in healthcare and prevention tips, and Richard Goerling on the science of anger and aggression, and what can lead to prevention and de-escalation of aggression. This session was skillfully facilitated by Anna Meiners, Cascade Centers, with questions summarized and shared by our Institute’s Nichole Guilfoy. We highly encourage you to listen to this panel when you get a chance.

Thank you to our supporters and collaborators for helping us make this event such a success. We must remember how important this issue is and consistently act to move our organizations toward healthy cultures that seek to prevent all acts of aggression, including relational aggression and bullying.

Visit the webpage to download handouts and listen to recordings.




One response to “Preventing bullying at work

Comments are closed.