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How Workplace Bullying is Impacting LGBT Employees

New study: 56 percent of bullied LGBT workers report being bullied repeatedly.

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Harassment in any form can be debilitating. In the recent news we have read about more and more women coming forward sharing their experiences of sexual harassment, whether it was in the workplace or otherwise—these women felt powerless to men at the time.

New research indicates that LGBT workers are facing bullying in an area that should be a safe place—their office or place of employment. Two in five LGBT workers (40 percent) report feeling bullied at work, 11 percentage points higher than the national average of all workers combined. Fifty-six percent of bullied LGBT workers report being bullied repeatedly, according to a new nationwide survey by Harris Poll on behalf of CareerBuilder.

Michael Erwin, director of corporate communications and social media at CareerBuilder said, “Bullying of any kind or of anyone has no place in the workplace – period,” and continued, “Employers have a responsibility to create a safe working environment for all employees. They can minimize this destructive behavior by offering sensitivity training and enforcing anti-bullying policies across their organizations.”

Would you recognize workplace bullying?

Workplace Bullying is repeated, health-harming mistreatment of one or more persons (the targets) by one or more perpetrators. It is abusive conduct that is: Threatening, humiliating, or intimidating, or. Work interference — sabotage — which prevents work from getting done, or. Verbal abuse.

No one should have to feel threatened in their place of employment, no matter what.

We already know that traditional bullying can lead to emotional distress: The Workplace Bullying Institute’s 2012 survey reported that the stress from bullying is associated with emotional disorders such as anxiety and panic attacks, as well as physical ones, from loss of sleep to stress headaches. Ellen Walser deLara, a family therapist, professor of social work at Syracuse University, and author of the book Bullying Scars: The Impact on Adult Life and Relationships, writes that adults bullied as children or teens can suffer for years afterward with trust and self-esteem issues, as well as psychiatric problems. She calls the phenomenon adult post-bullying syndrome.

This latest CareerBuilder survey revealed that 53 percent of bullied LGBT workers say they were bullied by one person, and 13 percent say it happened in a group setting. Fourteen percent of LGBT bullied workers say they were bullied by someone younger, and 61 percent say they were bullied by someone older.

Some of the most common examples of bullying given by LGBT workers who were bullied on the job according to this new survey were:

  • 61 percent were falsely accused of mistakes they didn't make.
  • 50 percent were ignored—comments were dismissed or not acknowledged.
  • 47 percent were gossiped about. (Likely it trended online too).
  • 42 percent were picked on for personal attributes such as race, gender or appearance.
  • 40 percent were constantly criticized by a boss or co-worker.
  • 31 percent were purposely excluded from projects or meetings.
  • 28 percent experienced comments being made about them during work meetings.

Dealing with workplace bullying

Michael Erwin suggests the following recommendations when handling office tormentors:

  • Document everything. Take notes of your interactions with the bully and keep them in a private place. Use them if you have to show them to a third party, such as your company's Human Resource department or a lawyer.
  • Rise above, but don't be afraid to confront. At first, try to minimize time spent around the bully, and ignore any bullying behavior. But sometimes, enough is enough, and you need to confront them. Explain how the negative treatment makes you feel, and ask them to stop. Sometimes perpetrators are not aware of the effect their actions have. Fifty-three percent of workers who were bullied at work confronted their bully, and 20 percent said the bullying stopped.
  • Bring in the experts. Seventy-two percent of workers who were bullied at work do not report it to HR. Your HR team is trained in dealing with workplace conflict and can step in to help you solve the issue.

What about LGBTQ youth?

Today, October 19th is GLAAD's Spirit Day, which is a means of speaking out against LGBTQ bullying and standing with LGBTQ youth.

Eighty-six percent of LGBT youth report being harassed at school and nearly 64 percent of LGBT students have reported hearing homophobic remarks from teachers or school staff due to their gender expression. This can be early stages of people in authority mocking others that they are responsible for.

It's so imperative we create and teach tolerance in our world today. "We now have this new word bullycide in our lexicon, referring to people who have died by suicide as a result of bullying behavior," said Monica Lewinsky in an interview with InStyle, "Twenty percent of suicide in teens and young adults are because of bullying. In particular with teenage girls, suicide rates are at an all-time high for the last 40 years."

The Tyler Clementi Foundation was formed shortly after the death of college student Tyler Clementi. Although tragedies can bring positive outcomes, there will always be the emptiness of where Tyler could be today.

Tyler, at the age of eighteen, was a victim of the worst type of invasion of privacy, cyber harassment, and digital humiliation. In August 2010, Tyler started his freshman year at Rutgers University, excited about having the freedom to live openly as a gay man, as well as playing his violin at a high level of expertise at
the university. Sadly, this all came to a screeching halt just weeks after school started.

One evening, Tyler asked his roommate, Dharun Ravi, for some privacy, because he had a date. Ravi agreed, but what happened next was horrific. Ravi secretly recorded Tyler and his date on his webcam and invited others to view it online. No one stopped this invasion of privacy. By the time Tyler discovered what had happened, it had already gone viral on Ravi’s Twitter feed, and Tyler was the topic of ridicule and cyber humiliation. He also found out that Ravi was planning to do it again. It was simply too much. Tyler decided to end his life by jumping off the
George Washington Bridge a few days later.

To honor Tyler, his parents, Jane and Joe, organized the Tyler Clementi Foundation, a New York City–based nonprofit dedicated to fighting cyberbullying and helping countless youths, adults, educators, and communities understand the importance of being an “Upstander” who pledges to stand up in the face of online shaming.

As we live in a society that is digitally connected, it's become easy for these offline bullies to take aim at their victims through a keypad. We have to remember, there's a soul on the other-side of the screen. In the foreword of Shame Nation: The Global Epidemic of Online Hate, Monica Lewinsky reminds us again, "But ultimately, as a society we can—and must—do better to help protect others online, be mindful of our own clicking behavior, and remember neutral compassion."

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