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What do you think of when you hear the word bullying?

1997

I am walking down the path at school towards my classroom, severely self-conscious because of my new haircut. I had been overseas with my parents and had been taken to the hairdressers for a massive chop. I had walked in with beautiful waist length blonde hair – I now looked like a boy. I hadn’t wanted the haircut, but I didn’t really have much of a choice in the matter.

I could hear them before I saw them. ‘Oh my god! Look at Abbey’s hair!’
Laughter.
‘That looks horrible!’
More laughter.

I walked into my classroom, with the heat of everyone’s stares on me. You would think that they would have at least tried to hide the fact that they were laughing. When I got to my desk, I saw that someone had recently emptied a tube of glue all down the shelves (we each had three shelves underneath our desk for our workbooks). When I looked up and asked if anyone knew who had spilt glue all over my things, the laughter just grew louder.

Later that day my ‘friends’ were walking in front of me discussing how they couldn’t possibly be my friends any more. They actually said ‘because of that hair’. I slipped off to the bathroom and burst into tears.

The next few months were awful. People shoved me as they walked past; called me over to sit with them during lessons, and then all got up and walked away when I sat down. I ate lunch by myself and cried myself to sleep. I couldn’t understand how people could be so cruel.

****

One of my Facebook friends recently shared an anti-bullying post, saying ‘Words Hurt’. The post asks people to ‘like’ it, to show support for anti-bullying campaigns.

Bullying is a very serious issue – in recent years we have heard of young people committing suicide after being bullied, and even in some cases harming fellow classmates in revenge attacks.

Let me ask you again – What do you think of when you hear the word ‘bullying’?  Children in a playground? A little boy pulling a little girls hair? Cyber bullying? How about: adults being bullied in the workplace? Do you ever think about that?

The Washington State Department of Labor & Industries lists workplace bullying as ‘repeated, unreasonable actions of individuals (or a group) directed towards an employee (or a group of employees), which are intended to intimidate, degrade, humiliate, or undermine; or which create a risk to the health or safety of the employee(s).’

Bullying in the workplace can come in many forms, and it can come from people who work alongside you, below you or even from your supervisors.

Workplace bullying can affect an individual’s mental health, as well as their work ethic.

It is important to be aware of workplace bullying, as it can often go unnoticed. Individuals may not realize they are being targeted until someone points it out.

Employees should know their rights. They shouldn’t be scared to speak up if they feel they are the victim of bullying. Most importantly they should know that something can be done about it.

To learn more about workplace bullying click HERE

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