Dealing With Workplace Bullies – Why Was BC Late To The Party?

WorkSafeBC begins enforcing the policies against bullying and harassment in the workplace on Friday, Nov 1. It has been a long time coming and it caused us to look back on the issue and why BC took so long to adopt measures that were more quickly adopted elsewhere.

Editor’s Note: This feature was originally published 08/10/10 its truths remained, sadly, for quite awhile after it was published. With the media focus brought to bear on the tragic death of Amanda Todd and Premier Christy Clark’s call for new legislation, something is finally being done about the issue in the workplaces of BC. Now we can focus on schools, homes other areas of life in BC where bullying and harassment still exist. In seeking to prevent bullying elsewhere, some valuable clues can be found in Shivji’s work.

By Shaheen Shivji. 08/10/10 – With three provinces taking workplace bullying seriously enough to implement legislation, is BC next?

A provincial organization with a small staff and meagre budget, BullyFreeBC was started in the office of former Liberal MLA Lorne Mayencourt with that goal in mind.

The group, which came to be in April 2007, is now supported by many individuals and organizations, including the BC Human Rights Coalition.

Over the last three years the organization has been building strategic relationships with leaders and influencers in all working sectors and political parties throughout the province.

When asked why the organization has not launched an all-out
public awareness campaign to elicit additional support, Robyn Durling, Communications Officer for the B.C. Human Rights Coalition and Chair of the BullyFreeBC Communications Working Group

Robyn Durling

“So far media across the country have been extremely fair and respectful in highlighting this issue, but we chose to hold back because the pragmatic way for our organization to move forward was first to build a broad coalition of supporters,” adding,

“With that in place, this fall BullyFreeBC plans to launch a public awareness campaign that we hope will achieve sustained traction in support of legislative reform that prohibits workplace bullying in British Columbia.”

The organization’s efforts have so far yielded a $15,000 grant from the Law Foundation of BC, the creation of a draft legislative framework, and a province-wide petition for Workplace Bullying Law Reform to address the problem directly.

Prior to 2004, Canada had no legislation to protect employees from workplace harassment. In 2004 Quebec was the first province to ban psychological harassment in the workplace, not only in Canada, but also in all of North America.

Saskatchewan followed with its own legislation in 2007 and, in June of this year, Ontario under the Occupational Health and Safety Act implemented its own legislation.

Workplace Bullying Petition
Efforts by BullyFreeBC and The Law Foundation of BC have resulted in a petition which is available online at .

BullyFreeBC plans to launch a public awareness campaign in support of legislative reform that prohibits workplace bullying in BC

Just as Ontario passed its legislation, the School of Business at Queen’s University released research on workplace bullying, which was published in the Journal of Applied Psychology.

“Even with the best preventative measures in place, harassment may still occur, caution authors, Jana L. Raver of Queen’s School of Business, and Lisa H. Nishii of Cornell University. “If it does, leaders should clearly communicate to employees that they are taking the situation seriously and that all forms of mistreatment are unacceptable.”

What is Workplace Bullying?


Dr. Lisa M.S. Barrow

Dr. Lisa M.S. Barrow, author of In Darkness Light Dawns: Exposing Workplace Bullying and Hope for a Healthy Workplace, says “It is repetitive abusive behaviour that devalues and harms others on the job.

The intent of bullying is to intimidate and torment, stripping a person of his or her dignity and self-esteem. For the most part, workplace bullying relies on the formidable weapons of hostile actions and words. If not addressed, the targeted person may resort to harmful activities which could include violence in the workplace.”

First-time author Lauren Weisberger hit a home run with her book, The Devil Wears Prada. The astounding success of the book led to the 2006 blockbuster movie, which saw Meryl Streep play bully boss Miranda Priestley and Anne Hathaway play the bullied assistant Andrea Sachs.

Miranda Priestley, referring to her assistant, Andrea Sachs: “Is there some reason my coffee isn’t here? Has she died?”

Workplace bullying is starting to be recognized by Canadian legislators

Weisberger’s book, brimming with tongue-in-cheek humour and pulse-pounding emotion that all working people can relate to, is set in Manhattan’s uber-cool high-fashion industry.

Weisberger writes eloquently about haute-couture clothes, top models, fashion shows, glamorous parties, hobnobbing with A-listers and, most importantly, she highlights a serious problem in organizations worldwide: workplace bullying.

At the outset of the book, readers are introduced to Andrea Sachs, a new university graduate full of zeal and confidence who has a passion for writing. By the middle of the book, the beloved Andrea has lost her confidence and is on prescription medication for anxiety. Working for Miranda Priestley has taken its toll on young Sachs.

Workplace bullying is a pervasive issue not only in the movie but in real life, where often it is the competent and intelligent worker who becomes a target of the workplace bully.

The ripple effects of bullying include loss of reputation, financial hardship from potential job loss, legal fees and health-care costs.

They are also felt by organizations that tolerate this behaviour, because in the long run they can also face hardships to their bottom line, reputation and recruitment efforts. These repercussions can in turn affect provincial labour-recruitment initiatives and increase health-care costs.

Journalism Student Work
Shaheen Shivji was a journalism student at the University of the Fraser Valley when she wrote this feature. She has since gone on to a successful career in communications.

University of The Fraser VAlley

University of the Fraser Valley

To read work published on Abbotsford Today by UFV journalism students simply go to the Journalism Student Work heading under the Education section or simply Click Here.

Previously Published:

Shane Perusse
Issues: The Right to Remain Silent

Cover Photo: Copyright 2006, Please consider making a donation.

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