The next time you read a general piece about workplace bullying that attracts a lot of comments, take a look at how people describe their experiences of being bullied at work.
More often than not, you’ll read through dozens of personal stories mixing details of what happened with expressions of pain, despair, and anger. Most commenters recount their own experiences with workplace bullying; others share stories of close family members enduring it.
Rarely, however, are these comments loaded with ALL CAPS rants or snarky putdowns. No, such remarks tend to come from folks who ridicule the very notion that we should take workplace bullying seriously.
I first noticed this in 2008, when Tara Parker-Pope, health writer for the New York Times, wrote a column about workplace bullying that garnered wide attention. It attracted hundreds of online comments (unfortunately, they are no longer on the website), including story after story posted by bullying targets and their family members. I would use terms such as poignant, heartfelt, compelling, and authentic to describe the largest share of them.
I’ll defer to my friends in clinical psychology and mental health counseling to assess the emotional states reflected by such online comments. For me, however, they reinforce the destructive, targeted nature of workplace bullying and why it’s so important for us to address it.