Anti-Bullying Awareness Month – Addressing Bullying in our Schools and Businesses

Did you know that October was National Anti-Bullying Awareness Month? Bullying is a serious national issue which sadly has a negative impact from youth in the schools all the way up into the business world. This post will briefly share a little information and provide some resources.

Webster’s defines bullying or a bully as someone who uses browbeating language or behavior to be habitually cruel to someone weaker than himself. This can particularly apply to someone who has physical strength, power by position, or as a member of a majority group, uses this strength to belittle and harm a person. Instead of using their strength to bully others, people should have a positive impact by using their strengths to assist and mentor others.

Starting with our youth, bullying can be particularly harmful if unaddressed, and can lead to destructive behavior on the part of our children. The victims of bullying can turn inward, turn to alcohol and drugs, and in the worst cases get involved in gangs or attempt suicide. I wrote a blog two years ago in terms of how especially gay bullying can even grow from an individual issue into a serious drain on our national economy and well-being. (Link to “The Macroeconomics of Gay Bullying”).

An anti-bullying billboard I saw when I went to Atlanta for my college homecoming last weekend.

Here are some resources for school environments:
• The boys of Robert Land Academy in Vancouver, Canada have taken a pledge to not bully nor be a bystander when they see bullying happening, and you and your school can also take the pledge (link).
Anti-bullying resources from GLSEN (Gay,Lesbian and Straight Education Network)
• “Bully Free – It Starts with Me” resources from the US National Education Association.
• Check out a new cool book for children on anti-bullying by leading diversity, inclusion and anti-bullying consultants AK Consulting.

And now the discussion is turning beyond bullying in the schoolyards; business leaders are now more openly discussing the issue of bullying in the workplace. Last year I wrote a blog (link) about how schoolyard bullies can grow up to become workplace harassers. Even last week at my local Triangle Society of Human Resource Management (TSHRM) monthly luncheon meeting, we had an excellent speaker (Jennifer Alfonso of She taught us the difference between bullying and harassment, the different styles of bullying and how to identify them, the tremendous costs to a business when bullying is present, and the importance of having corporate policies to address bullying.

Bullying is bad for our schools, our country, our economy and our business and together we need to be vigilant to continually battle against it. Let us use our talents and strengths to build up each other and our world!

School Yard Bullying. Workplace Harassment. What’s the Connection?

Late last year I wrote a blog on the macroeconomics of gay bullying, arguing that not only are individual children harmed by bullying, but our entire country and our economic system suffer as well. When kids are bullied in school, whether LGBT (Lesbian, Gay, Bisexual, Transgender) or for any other reason, they often react by engaging in destructive behavior including turning to drugs and alcohol, and dropping out of school. This in the long term harms our country within the competitive global marketplace.

And now I am in good company. Earlier this month, I was very pleased to see our nation’s president, Barack Obama even address this as a critical national issue. (Link to newspaper article.) This article states that 13 million children a year are bullied, which puts them at much greater risk of falling behind in school and engaging in destructive behavior. President Obama highlighted the need to “dispel the myth that bullying is just a harmless right of passage or an inevitable part of growing up. It’s not.”

Laura and Kirk Smalley weep in the background while listening to President Obama talk about their family's tragedy. Their 11-year-old son shot himself after being bullied at school.

But let’s take the next step. What happens with the bullies when their bullying is not addressed? They often can grow up and become bullies in corporate America. There is a fancy Human Resources term for this bullying in the extreme – it is called harassment. There are laws as well as corporate policies against harassment. But the bullying can be more subtle and take forms such as employee intimidation and threats of job loss or promotion blocking. This greatly threatens employee productivity as they operate from a sphere of fear instead of freely being able to offer their best to their businesses. Corporations really need to address all forms of employee bullying, blatant and subtle, if they hope to build the highest performing team. A fully inclusive and executed diversity policy that creates a welcoming environment for everyone coupled with “zero tolerance” of any form of workplace harassment, bullying or intimidation will maximize employee job satisfaction, loyalty and productivity.

Thanks to Katie Gailes of SmartMoves International who provided some ideas and inspiration for this blog entry.