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UOIT professor launches workplace bullying study

Global News with Muneeza Sheikh 29 August 2018

It’s a problem many don’t know how to detect — bullying in the workplace.

But a University of Ontario Institute of Technology (UOIT) professor is trying to make it a little more clear.

“The actions of a bully can actually happen every single day and in small, in subtle ways,” said Dr. Hannah Scott, UOIT professor from the faculty of social science and humanities.

Years ago, she says she was a target of workplace bullying.

“I don’t think my story is unique. I think you can talk to anybody and I think they would be able to tell you, share a story of workplace bullying that they’ve witnessed or experienced at work. This is not a unique phenomenon,” said Scott.

Scott recently launched a study on that issue. She’s trying to change the way people think about it.

“I don’t think any of us are vulnerable. It’s just something we don’t tend to talk about because it’s really difficult to identify. So the idea here is to help people identify what those patterns could look like and to be able to name those things that the bully is doing,” said Scott.

The study is anonymous and confidential. Participants are asked questions in an effort to better understand what they go through when bullied on the job. So far, Scott has received more than 1,500 responses.

“Initially, we thought maybe two to 300 people would respond to a public survey that was really meant to be a pilot study. The responses have been incredible. It really seems to be touching a nerve in the public realm,” said Scott.

Workplace bullying can be hard to detect. Employment lawyer Muneeza Sheikh says it’s important to have more information on it.

“It is refreshing to see that now we’re going to have this study that might fill a gap because in the past, we had the federal government and our provincial government doing their own study in terms of who’s being harassed in the workplace, who’s being bullied,” said Sheikh, a Levitt LLP senior partner.

Scott says she’s hoping this study opens a lot of eyes to the problem.

“I’m really hoping that it will be able to help name those actions so that when they go to human resources or when they go to their grievance officer, it won’t take years and years to create a file, perhaps it will take weeks and months,” said Scott.

Scott is collecting data until Sept. 15. She will then be spending months analyzing and establishing the trends.