MURFREESBORO — Bullying is often perceived as a nerd being shoved into the lockers by a larger, stronger student, or the rough, big kid stealing lunch money from a shy student on the playground. But the phenomenon is much more prevalent than in schools.
At a presentation offered by MTSU students in professor Dr. Jackie Gilbert’s Principles of Management class, the topic of workplace bullying was discussed for a group of Oakland High School students Monday morning.
“Corporate bullying is not illegal, so very little is being done about it,” said MTSU student-presenter Ashley Garth. “Bullies need control, and they will do so using verbal abuse, offensive conduct, and conduct that is humiliating, demeaning or offensive to the victim.”
As part of a multi-week feature, the college students discuss various forms of bullying with high school students throughout the month.
“These students are acting as change agents,” said Gilbert. “We felt the high school students would respond to learning something from people close to their own age.”
The presentation consisted of videos, photo slide shows, skits which some volunteers from the audience were a part of, and a question and answer session. To encourage students to participate, candy was offered to students who asked questions or suggested answers, correct or not.
“Workplace bullies will bully to get ahead,” said Kristen Cardoza, another presenter.
The group discussion focused on why certain people are targets of bullies, including being more skilled than the bully, or being more independent.
“Targets pose a threat to the bully, whether it is perceived in the workplace or in their personal life,” said MTSU student Jane Horne.
According to the presented statistics, 35 percent of the American workplace — an estimated 3.5 million people — have been subjected to workplace bullying. Approximately 62 percent of reported bullies were men, while 80 percent of the recorded victims were women.
One factor that aids in continued bullying is the response of the manager, Cardoza told the audience.
“If the manager doesn’t respond or gives positive feedback to a bully, the behavior will continue,” she said.
Workplace bullying can have some serious effect, both to the individual and to the company. When a worker’s morale and mental and emotional well-being are threatened or beaten down, productivity can suffer. The long-term effects of being bullied can also cause physical distress, causing a worker to need time off.
“The targets of bullying are often more ethical and a good worker,” Horne said. “Victims will often quit to save their physical and mental well-being, which can have an effect on the workforce and economic consequences for the company.”
The presenters explained to the audience how to address workplace bullying, from confronting the bully and reporting the behavior to getting involved in legislative changes.
“The problem is that bullying is often hearsay, a lot of he said, she said. And then there is a debate whether bullying is free speech,” Horne said.
The high school students seemed to understand the topic and readily answered questions put to them by the presenters.
“It was a good presentation. I liked that they used video clips,” said Oakland student Abby Hackney, who thought the use of examples from television shows and films that were recent aided in understanding.
“This is something that could be helpful in the future,” said Alexis Stark, who also attended the presentation.