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Persistent Workplace Bullying
By Carl ToersBijns, former deputy warden, ASPC Eyman, Florence AZ
Published: 10/12/2015

Bully e So many articles have been written about workplace bullying, yet it appears to be happening more frequent than ever before. This makes this persistent trend to bully others an especially troubling concern or issue in corrections as this profession is filled with an abundance of ethical issues related to employee safety and violence that appears to be focused on those employees who do their jobs with due diligence and appear to be contributing to the positive efforts to provide an ethical environment driven by a negative culture that undermines civility, teamwork, compassion and fair treatment of co-workers and others.

One would hope a profession such as corrections fosters dignity and respect. Although generally speaking much is said about the job in a positive light, there are still those individuals who ruin the positivity with their own self-created negativity. We can only guess how this impacts or affects those around them whether they are prisoners or co-workers, contract employees or visitors.

This negative affect on the workplace is directly related to the sculpturing of workplace violence or excessive bullying. Such negative dynamics created barriers of ‘silence’ whenever there are mistakes made in their improper behaviors or performance. Most ignore or ‘keep quiet’ about such mistakes as they fear retaliation for speaking out about another’s behavior or misconduct.

This ‘silence’ leads to excessive stress and anxiety creating health issues that are a direct result of unmanaged anger or frustration that adds to hypertension, heart disease, depression and other deep rooted psychological problems combined with this health issue. It becomes a long-term affect rather than short term and solutions are often drawn to impact staffing issues as the call-ins or absenteeism for using their sick leave becomes excessive and more frequent in an attempt to escape the bully syndrome at work. Some transfer out or resign their positions but most of all, most begin to deteriorate in their performance that directly results in less quality control in safety and security elements.

Lastly, this lateral violence or bullying creates a negative workplace environment that often causes the good employees to leave creating a high turnover of experienced and high skilled individuals leaving the bullies and other incompetents behind to do the job. One can certainly see how these impacts the environment from other perspectives as it general contributes to high vacancy rates and high rates of critical incidents.

Today, more than ever, employers and staff have opportunities to intervene to prevent lateral violence and workplace bullying. There are multiple resources an organization can draw from to apply to their own setting. Employers should make it clear that bullying will not be tolerated through establishing zero tolerance policy enforcement. Education about and role-modeling of respectful interactions is also important. Poor behavior and performance needs to be addressed rather than ignored and it must be addressed by the wisdom of management to change the cultural disposition of the workplace and implement a re-tooling method to change behaviors and attitudes along the way.

Corrections.com author, Carl ToersBijns, (retired), has 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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