Author of Newly Released Book on Workplace Bullying Supports Bill 168, an Amendment to Ontario's Occupational Health and Safety Act

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Debate in the Ontario legislature will resume Tuesday on Bill 168, which, if passed, would amend the Occupational Health and Safety Act to help protect Ontarians from workplace violence and harassment. Dr. Lisa M. S. Barrow is a researcher, consultant and the author of the newly released book titled In Darkness Light Dawns: Exposing Workplace Bullying (Purple Crown Publishing, 2009). She is in support of Bill 168.

Under Bill 168, employers would be required to develop violence and harassment policies and programs. "Citizens should contact their MPPs and urge them to support Bill 168," workplace justice activist Dr. Lisa M.S. Barrow says. "The bill is a step in the right direction, sending a strong message that violence and harassment have no place in the workplace."

Bullying, a term she uses synonymously with harassment, is defined as repetitive, abusive behaviour that devalues and harms other people on the job. Bullying relies on hostile actions and words, not violence, she says. "But it is profoundly and powerfully destructive nonetheless. Day after day, bullies intimidate and torment their prey, putting the self-esteem and overall health of targeted individuals at risk."

The impact of workplace bullying on individuals, families, companies, the economy and society as a whole is largely overlooked, Dr. Barrow says. "Corporate leaders, government legislators and the public at large must wake up to workplace bullying as the true menace it represents to our collective health, wellness and prosperity."

Currently, very few organizations in Ontario have policies and programs of the kind Bill 168 would require. Quebec is the only province with legislation that specifically addresses workplace bullying, although several jurisdictions have workplace violence laws, such as those included in Alberta's Occupational Health and Safety Code.

According to the Calgary law firm Macleod Dixon LLP, Bill 168 is Ontario's response to workplace violence regulations of the kind included in Alberta's Occupational Health and Safety Code. "However, unlike Alberta's Code, and similar legislation in other jurisdictions, Bill 168 will require Ontario employers to develop and implement policies relating to both workplace violence and workplace bullying."
For Dr. Barrow, the proposed amendments to Ontario's Occupational Health and Safety Act couldn't come too soon.
"Anti-bullying and anti-violence legislation will help change attitudes and behaviours in the workplace just as anti-sexual harassment and anti-discrimination legislation did a few years ago," she says. "Until such legislation passes, though, countless employees in Ontario will continue to suffer in silence, often alone, with no recourse. These are the people we must remember as the debate continues. These are the people Bill 168 seeks to champion and protect."


WHAT IT IS: Repetitive abusive behavior that devalues and harms other people on the job. Workplace bullying intimidates and torments the targeted individual, putting his or her self-esteem and overall health at risk.

HOW COMMON IT IS: Very. Millions of employees are subjected to bullying behaviour in Canada and the United States.

WHAT FORMS IT TAKES: According to researchers Charlotte Rayner and Helge Hoel, the five categories of workplace bullying include:

  • Threat to professional status (e.g., damaging the person's reputation, humiliating the person in public or accusing him or her of lack of effort).
  • Threat to personal standing (e.g., calling the person names; insulting, teasing or intimidating him or her; or devaluing the person based on age).
  • Isolation (e.g., preventing access to opportunities, deliberately withholding important information or isolating the person physically or socially).
  •     Overwork (e.g., imposing undue pressure to produce work, setting impossible deadlines or making consistent and unnecessary disruptions).
  • Destabilization (e.g., failing to give credit where it is due, assigning meaningless tasks, removing responsibility or setting the person up for failure).

WHAT TO DO IF YOU ARE THE TARGET OF WORKPLACE BULLYING: Tell someone about the bullying. Document what is happening to you. Read In Darkness Light Dawns: Exposing Workplace Bullying by Dr. Lisa M.S. Barrow (Purple Crown Publishing, 2009) for understanding, encouragement and advice. For more information and to order:
WHAT TO DO IF YOU WANT TO HELP CREATE A HEALTHY WORKPLACE: Create an anti-bullying in the workplace policy. Raise awareness about bullying in the workplace. Read In Darkness Light Dawns: Exposing Workplace Bullying by Dr. M.S. Lisa Barrow for insights and tips. For more information and to order:


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