Workplace bullying is an epidemic sweeping across the nation. Psychology Today calls it the “silent epidemic.” A common misconception is that all companies have policies in place to protect targeted employees. The truth is the majority of companies don’t have policies or the training to recognize bullying.

Bullying is legal in Illinois and thriving. Over the summer, the Illinois Department of Human Rights held a half-day training session for workers on defining and surviving bullying in the workplace.

Targets of workplace bullies are devastated by the continued abuse and suffer from physiological and emotional pain. The majority lose their livelihoods as the result of quitting or being fired, labeled as being insubordinate when they stand up to their tormentor.

Because we are an at-will employment state, unscrupulous companies will not fire competent targets, but will used the legal maneuver of bullying to cheat long-employed workers out of collecting employment security benefits for years of exceptional service and replacing them with lower-paid employees.

 Ultimately, keeping bullies on the payroll has a huge financial impact on companies, affecting productivity, morale, customer satisfaction and creating revolving door employees not invested in the company’s success. 

Last month, Career Builder released a study on workplace bullying with disturbing results. Twenty-eight percent of workers surveyed reported being bullied at work. Women are more likely to become targets of bullying, and 45 percent of bullies are in supervisory positions. A third of victims reported the abuse to HR, but 58 percent of the time HR did nothing to protect employees from bullying and from companies that use it to their financial advantage.

In February, Illinois state Sen. Ira Silverstein introduced SB 2943, The Workplace Bullying Prohibition Act. The bill would make bullying illegal, set up processes to protect workers and educate companies and their employees about proper workplace conduct.

Let’s work together to make Illinois a bully-free state. Bullying is personal and it’s cruel. Let’s teach our kids that this kind of behavior is not acceptable anywhere, especially by adults who should be setting good examples for our children. 

Arlene Salamendra

LaGrange

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