This World Mental Health Day, ask yourself: Could you be a workplace bully?

WINNIPEG, MB, Oct. 9, 2015 /CNW/ - On Thursday, October 15, Mary Ann Baynton, Program Director of the Great-West Life Centre for Mental Health in the Workplace (the "Centre") will present What Would You Do? When Behaviour Borders on Bullying at The Better Workplace Conference, hosted by the Conference Board of Canada in Gatineau, QC. (Register here.)

The Canadian Centre for Occupational Health and Safety ("CCOHS") describes workplace bullying as including "acts or verbal comments that could 'mentally' hurt or isolate a person in the workplace." These acts do not necessarily have to be intentional. People accused of workplace bullying, including those in management roles, may be surprised and sometimes hurt that their behaviour is seen as harmful by their co-workers and employees. If a complaint is made and it is determined that it does not qualify as bullying, the complainant can feel invalidated and demotivated. This can be a lose-lose situation.

"Bullying at work creates a psychologically unsafe work environment filled with fear and anxiety, not just for the target – of whom the Canadian Mental Health Association finds nearly one in two (45 per cent) will suffer stress-related health problems as a result – but also for those around them, who are exposed to this toxic behaviour," Baynton says.

Tomorrow, on World Mental Health Day (Oct. 10), take a moment to consider what you can do to help stop bullying in the workplace – and if you, in fact, may be a bully.

Self-awareness is key. Ask yourself:

  • How do I interact with others when I am frustrated at work?
  • How does it differ from when I am feeling calm?
  • How do I interact with the person I perceive to be the weakest on my team?
  • How might I interact differently with a person I perceive to be strong and confident?
  • When am I more passionate or animated? What might that look like to others?

"It's easy to lose sight of how others might perceive our behaviours when we are passionate about our work," Baynton says. "We might not notice that our volume has increased, or that we are talking over others. In those instances, we might be quite surprised to learn the impact our actions can have. This is why it's important to develop self-awareness of how we express our emotions at work."

Baynton explains that this form of self-awareness is part of emotional intelligence, which she defines as the ability to manage one's own emotions in the workplace, as well as the ability to recognize and appropriately respond to the emotional distress of others.

One free online resource available to help anyone increase their emotional intelligence, but particularly supervisors and leaders, is Managing Emotions, a module of the Centre's Managing Mental Health Matters program, available on the Centre's website at www.workplacestrategiesformentalhealth.com

If you are the target of bullying, CCOHS suggests the following:

  • FIRMLY tell the person that his or her behaviour is not acceptable and ask them to stop. You can ask a supervisor or union member to be with you when you approach the person.
  • RECORD the harassing behavior, including dates, details, outcomes and witnesses, if available.
  • REPORT the harassment to the person identified in your workplace policy, your supervisor, or a delegated manager. If your concerns are minimized, proceed to the next level of management.
  • DO NOT RETALIATE. You may end up looking like the perpetrator and will most certainly cause confusion for those responsible for evaluating and responding to the situation.

Source: OHS Answers Fact Sheets, http://www.ccohs.ca/oshanswers/psychosocial/bullying.html
Canadian Centre for Occupational Health and Safety (CCOHS), last updated May 28, 2014. Reproduced with the permission of CCOHS, 2015

About the Great-West Life Centre for Mental Health in the Workplace
Established in 2007, the Great-West Life Centre for Mental Health in the Workplace (the Centre) is a leading source of practical ideas, tools and resources designed to help with the prevention, intervention and management of workplace mental health issues.

Focused specifically on the workplace, the Centre is working to increase awareness and understanding, and to help employers take concrete steps to foster a psychologically healthy and safe workplace and manage employee mental health issues.

As part of its ongoing commitment to workplace mental health, the Centre is helping to fund the Mental Health Commission of Canada's three-year research project into the experiences of close to 40 organizations across Canada that are currently working towards implementation of the National Standard of Canada for Psychological Health and Safety in the Workplace, including Great-West Life, London Life and Canada Life. The case studies will ultimately be shared broadly so that all organizations can learn from the experiences of the participating organizations.

Visit the Centre's website at www.workplacestrategiesformentalhealth.com

Find Great-West Life on Facebook, Twitter, LinkedIn, Google+ and YouTube.

SOURCE Great-West Life Assurance Company

Image with caption: "Managing Emotions, part of Managing Mental Health Matters, is a free, online resource available to help anyone increase their emotional intelligence, which can in turn help reduce the incidence of bullying in the workplace. (CNW Group/Great-West Life Assurance Company)". Image available at: http://photos.newswire.ca/images/download/20151008_C1381_PHOTO_EN_517361.jpg

For further information: Marlene Klassen, APR, Assistant Vice-President, Communication Services, 204.946.7705

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