October is Bullying Awareness Month, a perfect time to address the horrors of bullying. Bullying isn’t found only in schools; it also occurs regularly in companies, where financial losses and decreased morale can be commonplace. Observers tend to merely move mindlessly through their daily schedule, wring their hands, or just look the other way. A rare few may call for justice.

“Who is ultimately responsible for the bullying behaviors that pass for civility from a distance, but carry innuendo that is obvious to anyone within earshot?” asked Dr. Beth Plachetka, LCSW, EdD and owner of Safe Harbor Counseling. “The behaviors, interactions, and isolation can result in shaming and silencing valid ideas. The same behaviors that ripple through a company, department, or school cause insecurity and limit creativity by inciting fear that we are next. Then we look away and tell ourselves that we’re safe because the target must’ve done something to deserve being bullied.”

According to Dr. Beth, the outcome is poor service delivery, diminished profits, and unachieved goals. No type of business is exempt. “Without a doubt, the highest level of leadership in an organization is ultimately responsible for allowing bullying,” she said. “A board, a president, a superintendent, the titles are numerous – whoever is at the top is responsible.”

Dr. Beth offers several recommendations to all types of organizational leaders. “Have policies and procedures that are clearly stated, and require that they are enforced evenly with all employees,” she explained. “No special consideration should be given in exchange for favors, or for family members. If the policies and procedures are ineffective, change them.”

Bystanders and witnesses can only intervene if action will be taken by those in charge; the person or people at the top of the organization must establish the organizational culture and maintain it. “The buck stops at the top,” added Dr. Beth. “To whom much is given, much is required.”

For consultation on this and other topics, please contact:

Beth Plachetka, LCSW, EdD
Safe Harbor Counseling / Dr. Beth Speaks
76 S. Main Street, Suite A
Sugar Grove, IL 60554