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Workplace Bullies
By Carl ToersBijns, former deputy warden, ASPC Eyman, Florence AZ
Published: 12/19/2011

Bully e Prisons are places where high stress and high anxiety are analogous to the social climate of negative work conditions and behaviors. There are expressed and unexpressed influences in this environment that are prejudicial and contrary to many laws passed to protect workers and coworkers from the undue influences of workplace harassment. The fact that these laws are often ignored makes this a most important issue to talk or read about since it has many consistencies related to harassment, discrimination, abuse, conflict and violence.

Unfortunately, within corrections, there are those who engaged in this behavior of bullying others they work with or supervise. The bottom line in this social conduct of harassment and discrimination or abuse leads one to have to deal with the workplace bully. This kind of person is usually open about his or her opinion about race, sexual preferences, discrimination or harassment. In fact, it is their open devious mannerism that makes them so effective in focusing the deeply seeded feelings about coworkers and even their supervisors. Bullies draw no lines in their targets. They often bully the prison population as well as those that work inside the place. It is safe to say that 50 % of the workforce engages in some type of behavior related to workplace bullying. However, the actual number of correctional officers who impose their will on others is much less but nevertheless, a force to reckon with while at work.

"Bullying is a compulsive need to displace aggression and is achieved by the expression of inadequacy (social, personal, interpersonal, behavioral, and professional) by projection of that inadequacy onto others through control. Bullying is sustained by abdication of and perpetuated by a climate of fear, ignorance, indifference, silence, denial, disbelief, deception, evasion of accountability, tolerance and reward (e.g. promotion) for the bully." (Tim Field, 1999) Harassment is any form of unwanted and unwelcome behavior which may range from mildly unpleasant remarks to physical violence. Harassment is termed sexual harassment if the unwanted behaviors are linked to your gender or sexual orientation. Racial harassment is when the behaviors are linked to your skin color, race, cultural background, etc. If the harassment is physical, the criminal law of assault may be appropriate. If the harassment comprises regular following, watching, repeated unsolicited contact or gifts, etc., the term stalking may be appropriate. Discrimination is when you are treated differently (e.g. less favorably) because of your gender, race or disability.

Working as a correctional officer, one is normally perceived to be strong physically and psychologically sound. Therefore, one would think that your chances of falling prey to a bully are therefore reduced by the mere comportment of the job and position as correctional officers. This is a wrong assumption to make for all persons are subject to the entrapment of the bully and the mechanics involved in the process. Underestimating the intense repetitiveness of the bully to break your armor or spirit can result in being victimized and subject to bullying. In most cases the bullying process takes place in two phases or levels that are easy to follow. The first phase is the control phase. One can easily recognize this conduct by the constant criticism and daily nit-picking of how you perform your duties, your attitude or your manner until you reach the second phase or level and are pulled into the trap of taking action against the bully but come off being accused of false charges, ill prepared for such work conditions, and if the bully is totally successful, it could result in forced resignations, or long term illnesses that result in eventual resignations or prolonged stress / anxiety attacks at work.



Editor’s note: Carl ToersBijns (retired), worked in corrections for over 25 yrs He held positions of a Correctional Officer I, II, III [Captain] Chief of Security Mental Health Treatment Center – Program Director – Associate Warden - Deputy Warden of Administration & Operations. Carl's prison philosophy is all about the safety of the public, staff and inmates, "I believe my strongest quality is that I create strategies that are practical, functional and cost effective."

Other articles by ToersBijns:


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  2. john on 01/01/2012:

    great article

  3. none on 12/29/2011:

    Well just as offenders are suppopse to keep their mouths shut about assaults and things that happen my experience is so are staff. I am a nurse and subject to bullying and when reported a bogus report came out in htat I was saying things about the amnager which was untrue

  4. crespin79 on 12/21/2011:

    Well written and informative article.

  5. crespin79 on 12/21/2011:

    Targets, victims and witnesses of bullying have a few avenues to pursue (as compared with victims of sexual harassment) when subject to obvious acts of aggression, spreading malicious rumours, excluding someone socially or from certain projects, undermining or impeding a person’s work or opinions, unjustified exclusion from certain projects, removing areas of responsibility without cause, insulting a person’s habits, attitudes, or private life and intruding upon a person’s privacy. Others include being rude or belligerent, destroying property, assaulting an individual, or setting impossible deadlines. In the United States, although bullying is recognized as detrimental to occupational health, there is little political or corporate interest in stopping it.

    In schoolyard bullying, the bullies are children, whose behaviour is controlled by the leaders, i.e. the school administration. In workplace bullying, however, the bullies are often the leaders themselves, i.e., the managers and supervisors. Therefore, reporting a bully to the HR dept, for example, may expose the target/victim to the risk of even more bullying, slower career advancement, or even termination, on the grounds of being a “troublemaker!”.

    Workplace bullying has severe consequences, including reduced effectiveness and high employee turnover. An employee who suffers any physical or psychiatric injury as a result of workplace bullying can confront the bully, report the bully to the HR department or to the trade union, if any, or bring a claim of negligence and/or a personal injury claim against both the employer and the abusive employee as joint respondents in the claim. If the law does not persuade employers to deal with workplace bullying, the economic reality will persuade them. Training sessions can help when combined with a confidential reporting structure, but it is difficult to alter the basic nature of some individuals, who may need counselling.

    Maxwell Pinto

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