CANOE Network

The Toronto Sun CareerConnection

Pushing back at workplace bullies

For fed-up nurses at one New Brunswick hospital, the "code pink" is their unique way of coping with one of worst scourges of the modern workplace -- the bully boss.

The nurses could no longer stand the vile temper and bad language directed at them by one particularly belligerent physician, but hospital administrators were not sympathetic.

"They came up with a solution on their own to curb his behaviour," said Marilyn Noble, a Fredericton-based researcher in workplace bullying.

"When he is on a rant, they call a code pink. Any nurse who can spare the time comes and stands in a circle as a silent observer and watches him. The impact is he looks up, realizes there are witnesses who might report him and he shuts down."

Workplace bullies -- people who target workers for intimidation, belittlement and humiliation -- are themselves becoming the targets of individuals and groups promoting respectful and safe workplaces in Canada.

Marilyn Noble, a researcher studying workplace bullying at the Muriel McQueen Fergusson Centre for Family Violence Research in Fredericton, says she has been besieged by people with stories about office bullies.

When Noble appeared recently on a CBC Radio phone-in show, the lines lit up with people talking about their grim situations in the workplace, including one man who said he was suicidal after dealing with a supervisor he described as a "sociopathic serial bully."

Heather Gray, CEO of Threat Assessment and Management Associates, said there's much more at stake in controlling bullying than simply keeping workers productive -- it's a major safety issue.

Gray points to the case of OC Transpo in Ottawa, where four employees were fatally shot in April 1999 by Pierre Lebrun, who then took his own life.

Lebrun had been teased for years by his co-workers at the public transit, but the company had never addressed the bullying problem.

-- CP

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