|By Dr. Olivia Johnson|
The isolation of a job in corrections can leave many feeling out of sight and out of mind. And being out of sight and out of mind tends to allow certain things to go unaddressed. A general consensus I have noticed when talking with CO’s has been that they believe no one cares about their wellbeing and that workplace bullying and bad behavior is at an all time high. Just listening to these stories is enough to make you cry, but I have to ask: What is wrong with us that we have become so cold as to not care about a fellow officer? When did backstabbing, gossip, and all around bad behavior in the workplace become acceptable? Of course perception and reality may be two different things, but if so many CO’s are feeling this way, doesn’t that say something? If it doesn’t, it should.
Anyone accepting a position in corrections understands the threat of the criminal element, the idea that they could be injured or even killed by an inmate. That is reality. And no matter how sad this reality, what is often difficult for many CO’s to understand is how a co-worker, supervisor, or administrator could deliberately and sometimes, even with malice attack them verbally or mess with them just because they can. Sadly, many of these problematic individuals are able to continue this bad behavior without being addressed, disciplined, or terminated. Call them what you want, but I call these individuals ‘workplace bullies.’
According to the Workplace Bullying Institute (WBI, 2014) bullying by is “threatening, humiliating, or intimidating … work interference – sabotage which prevents work from getting done, or verbal abuse (p. 1). Even sadder than having to address workplace bullying, are the statistics WBI revealed. Twenty-seven percent of survey respondents indicated being victims of workplace bullying, either in the past or currently. Another 72 percent stated that they were aware of workplace bullying and sadly, bosses accounted for the highest number of workplace bullying incidents. Another 72 percent of “… employers deny, discount, encourage, rationalize, and defend it” (para. 2). A 2010 survey revealed some 13.7 million Americans said were currently being bullied at work, with the number around three times this for those bullied in the past (Riggio, 2011, as cited in Psychology Today). These numbers are alarming. If so many are victims and so many are aware of workplace bullying, what can be done to stop the bully and the bullying behavior before if affects workers, the organization, and the morale?