OPED: Bullying: 'Speak up, speak out or speak to'

Chris Hertig
Spring Garden Township

The "Stop bullying, start talking" editorial in the Our View section of the June 2, 2016, York Dispatch was well-done and shed some important light on a problem that is all too often invisible to anyone save the victim until a crisis occurs.

Billy Sechrist, of York City, holds a photo collage of his daughter, Shania, at his home Friday, May 27, 2016. Shania Sechrist, who was 15 and a student at William Penn Senior High School, took her own life after she came home from school Wednesday. Amanda J. Cain photo

A few observations on bullying (however random) are that there is a strong relationship between suicide and workplace violence that is preceded by bullying. Bullying is the gateway that starts the depression, withdrawal/isolation and subsequent tragedy.

Women might be bullied more than men. One study I read indicated a slightly greater rate for women. This could be because of reporting differences; women might more readily report the abuse than men.

Father: Bullying cut daughter's life short

Being demonized through vicious gossip and being falsely blamed for failures is common in bullying scenarios. Amplification of this via social media is a growing concern. Social media exponentially extends the reach of the bully, gives them 24/7 access to their victim and provides an incubator for those who help enable the bully.

Bullies need enablers or facilitators. They need people to not report them or intervene. These are the most common enablers; those who say or do nothing. Often these people are in denial about the behavior. Some claim they were unaware of it.

A more active facilitation is being a conduit for nasty communications. “Cheerleaders” may participate in bullying either openly or covertly; lurking in the background, but chiming in with their nastiness and contributing to the victim’s injuries.

Sometimes the bullies are in positions of authority or use those in authority as enablers. Those in leadership positions must be alert for bullying behavior, and they must lead by example. This starts at the top of the organization. If the CEO acts like a werewolf, there will be bullying all along the organizational hierarchy. In extreme cases, the bullying could  extend to third parties such as customers, patients, etc.

Cultures in the workplace, school or volunteer organization might foment bullying. And culture counts more than policy. The informal organization trumps the formal one. If the organizational culture is not supportive and transparent, it can easily become an incubator for nastiness.

The disabled are often bullied. A marvelous piece by Blair Hagelgans makes some excellent points. Caretakers for the disabled might also be bullied, as they are automatically isolated because of their commitment of care.

Bullying has very real human costs as well as organizational ones. Aside from increased rates of depression, illness, suicide and retaliatory violence, there is lowered productivity, less learning, increased absenteeism and quitting. Turnover might increase in the workplace. The whole organization suffers, although this may not be readily seen. Metrics may provide some indication of the presence of bullying. Their judicious employment would be one approach to mitigate the problem.

Bullying causes too much grief to be ignored or accepted. “Speak up, speak out and speak to” if you see bullying.

— Chris Hertig lives in Spring Garden Township.