Solutions Digest: Bullying in the Workplace

Click here for a PDF of this document.

Prevalence of Bullying in the Workplace

Nearly half of all American workers (49%) report they have been affected by workplace bullying. In 2010, two U.S. surveys conducted by Zogby International for the Workplace Bullying Institute found that 35% of workers have experienced bullying firsthand with an additional 15% witnessing it. Sixty-two percent of bullies are men and 58% of targets are women. Bullying is four times more prevalent than illegal harassment with 68% of bullying being between same-gender employees. The prevalence of this issue is cause for concern – particularly due to its affect on morale, yet bullying in the U.S. is not specifically addressed by current laws.

Defining Workplace Bullying

What is bullying and what is the difference between bullying and harassment? Bullying is distinct from harassment. Harassment is direct, lacks self-discipline, and is often physical. Harassment is often linked to sexuality, race or disability. Harassment can be a single incident. Harassment is much easier to recognize and because of this, harassment is more easily stopped. Workplace policies and procedures can be put in place to eliminate it.

Bullying is about power and control and is based on competence. It can include all types of interpersonal harassment and psychological violence. Few workplace bullying incidents are blatantly illegal. Many may be near the line of acceptable behavior or barely over it. Bullying is systematic, planned and repeated. It escalates. It is often a collection of behaviors which when taken individually look trivial but when viewed as a collective become more evident as abuse.

Bullying crosses all organizational levels from the top-down as well as the bottom-up. It is characterized by repetition, duration, escalation, power disparity and attributed intent. Bullying may include insults about work, belittling in public, nit-picking, hazing rituals or excessive monitoring of performance. Bullying may even include threats to get fired in its more direct form. Indirect bullying behaviors can include denying or minimizing another person’s accomplishments, blaming a person for errors he or she has not committed, taking credit for tasks completed by another, isolating an individual, or omitting vital information to cause another to make errors, be blamed or harmed.

Impact of Bullying in the Workplace

Bullying has economic as well as inhumane consequences. When unchallenged bullying poisons the workplace, undermines productivity and contributes to risk exposure. Organizations are also beginning to take note of workplace bullying because of the costs in terms of employee health. Bullying is linked to a host of physical, psychological, organizational and social costs. Reactions of those who have been bullied include symptoms of depression, anxiety, aggression and even backlash or suicide.

  • One study found that 1 in 10 targets of bullying experience post traumatic stress disorder.
  • 44% of respondents were affected as much as battered women or child abuse victims.

Even those who witness bullying can experience fear, stress and emotional exhaustion. The work environment may experience a drop in motivation, factions and ‘wars’ within a department, excessive turnover and increases in discipline problems, suspensions, and terminations.

What do Participants Get from Bullying

Believe it or not, each role in bullying (bully, bullied, and bystanders) all get something from bullying, or the process would stop. The bully wants a reaction. The bullied may fear that some deeper truth may come out—if the bullying wasn’t taking place perhaps some fundamental incompetency would be exposed. Bystanders want anonymity or may fear that they, too, will be bullied.

How is Bullying Behavior Changed

Bystanders can take away the “approving audience” by which the bully gains power. They can also challenge the person being bullied about what makes them the target and can encourage them to stand against it. Additionally, bullies understand how the “rules of the game” work, so if clear and consistent boundaries are set, the rules are changed and behaviors will change.

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Solutions Digest: The Impact of Suicide on the Workplace

According to the American Foundation for Suicide prevention, in the U.S. a suicide occurs about every 16 minutes. The Bureau of Labor Statistics reports that w orkplace suicides surged 28 percent in 2008. The uncertain economy, financial stress and job insecurity may be contributing factors. During the Great Depression, the suicide rate increased 21 percent. But regardless of the cause, suicide is a public health issue that impacts the workplace.

Who is at Risk for Suicide?
Suicide occurs across all age, economic, social and ethnic boundaries. All of us have stress, family disruptions, grief, medical concerns or trauma at one time or another which can become contributing factors in a suicide. For some of us those stressors become so unbearable that one starts to think about not being able to survive the pain. Four times as many men kill themselves as women, yet three times as many women attempt suicide as compared to men. Suicide is the third leading cause of death among people between the ages of 15 and 24. It is important to remember that workplaces are not immune to the impact of suicide.

Is Your Workplace Prepared to Respond in the Event of a Suicide?
Many workplaces deny having an effect or contributing role in a suicide. Yet a suicide can touch the lives of many, effecting workplaces as well as relationships for long periods of time. The suicide of a vendor, client or family member of an employee can cause trauma and grieving which impact workplace functioning and productivity. Yet workplaces today are often more prepared to handle a violent episode such as a store robbery, a bomb threat or a fire than to respond to a suicide crisis. Some may not even allow the use of the word “suicide” among employees who face grief and loss after such an event due to its stigma. Others may provide posters or pamphlets about mental health issues and even an employee assistance program, yet do not have a plan in place to address the threat of or the aftermath of a suicide.

Being adequately prepared to respond to a potential employee suicide as well as to cope with the aftermath of such an event can help an organization address any potential problems, help employees and dependents cope with grief, and bring the workplace back to normal functioning more quickly.

Seek immediate help from a mental health provider if you see or hear someone:

  • Acting in a sad, withdrawn, or unusual way
  • Seemingly distracted, not engaged in their usual work performance
  • Making statements such as “you won’t have to worry about me”
  • Giving away personal belongings or things
  • Whose work performance becomes erratic or out of character
  • Missing an unusual number of days at work
  • Threatening to hurt or kill themselves
  • Looking for ways to kill themselves: seeking access to pills, weapons or other means
  • Talking or writing about death, dying or suicide

Also seek help by contacting a mental health professional if you witness, hear or see any of these behaviors:

  • Hopelessness
  • Rage, anger, seeking revenge
  • Acting reckless or engaging in risky activities, seemingly without thinking
  • Feeling trapped – like there is no way out
  • Increasing alcohol or drug use
  • Withdrawing from friends, family or society
  • Anxiety, agitation, unable to sleep, or sleeping all the time
  • Dramatic changes in mood
  • No reason for living; no sense of purpose in life

Some Key Workplace Strategies

Suicide is a complex and frightening issue that sometimes overwhelms people into immobilization. Yet workplaces can be a key venue to prevent suicide among those in the workforce by utilizing a comprehensive public health approach including:

  • Vocal and visible leaders who model mental wellness and emphasize the importance of suicide prevention.
  • Policies and procedures that promote a mentally healthy workforce including compassionate reintegration policies, life-skills promotion and a culture of belonging.
  • Suicide prevention gatekeeper training (including front-line staff) to help identify warning signs and risk factors and confidently approach and refer a high risk person to appropriate resources
  • Screenings for early signs of mental health conditions before they become life threatening
  • Access with few obstacles to quality mental health services including employee assistance program services
  • Means restrictions that place barriers between those of high risk for suicide and the means to accomplish suicide (roof access, chemical and weapon access, etc.)
  • Crisis response protocol and long-term “postvention” to stabilize a grieving workforce while honoring bereavement needs

Contributor for this article is Cindy Houston, LCSW, is a Centerstone licensed clinical social worker trained in applied suicide intervention skills (ASIST). She has provided numerous suicide prevention workshops, training both clinical professionals and lay people throughout south and central Indiana.

For more information about providing gatekeeper training for your workforce, or to address the issue of workplace suicide prevention, contact Mark Uebel, Director of Business Solutions, at

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Solutions Digest: Supporting Employees with PTSD

Click here for a printable PDF of the issue below.

Post-Traumatic Stress Disorder (PTSD) is an anxiety disorder that can develop after exposure to a terrifying event or ordeal in which grave harm occurred or was threatened. Events that may trigger PTSD include experiencing industrial or automobile accidents, crimes like bank robberies, violent personal assaults or abuse, natural or man-made disasters, or military combat. Trauma can arise through involvement in an incident yourself or by witnessing it as it happens to someone else. The trauma is usually associated with actual or threatened death, serious injury or physical threat. It is important to understand that it is normal to have powerful reactions and develop upsetting mental images after traumatic events.

When something traumatic happens in the workplace, many employers offer critical incident stress management (CISM)—inviting professionals in to offer staff the opportunity to talk about what happened and how it affected them. This venting can be a tremendous relief and sometimes prevent individuals from moving into more serious cases of PTSD.

Symptoms of PTSD – While persons with PTSD are unlikely to display dramatic symptoms and rarely exhibit a loss of control, uncharacteristic behavioral changes are often the first things noticed in the workplace. The employee might:

  • Be irritable or argumentative
  • Miss work irregularly
  • Have trouble concentrating or communicating
  • Be anxious or startle easily
  • Experience a decline in productivity
  • Develop moodiness or relationship problems
  • Become depressed or isolated

“These symptoms rarely reflect risk for others. They are a part of a person struggling to deal with an extraordinarily negative event, integrate it, and move on with life.”
—Alan Winslow, MSW, LCSW
Solutions EAP therapist

When PTSD sets in people don’t always have all the symptoms. They might feel depressed and draggy or tired without reason. They might feel irritated with people but not connect this with what happened. Often they feel alone and unable to talk about it, or they rationalize their symptoms away.

Consultation with Solutions EAP for a better understanding of the needs of an employee exhibiting symptoms is always welcome and appropriate.

Assisting the Employee with PTSD
Educating employees about symptoms of PTSD can be very helpful. For someone experiencing trauma, knowing what you’re experiencing can make all the difference in the world. It may even help symptoms disappear more quickly. Suggestions for helping the employee on the job include:

  • Lack of Concentration—reduce distractions; provide private space; plan uninterrupted work time.
  • Disorganization—use electronic organizers; assign a mentor to assist employee.
  • Coping with Stress—allow more frequent work breaks; restructure work to include only essential functions; encourage stress management techniques; allow time off for counseling.
  • Interacting with Co-workers—encourage employees to walk away from frustrating situations and confrontations; provide education and training.
  • Dealing with Emotions—if an employer observes workplace behavioral changes outside the employee’s normal behavior, and a supervisor addresses them with no improvement, counseling may be suggested based on workplace performance.

Therapist Becky Alexander, LCSW, has seen the effects of employer understanding, “The bottom line is CISM and EAP help employees because they feel more supported by their employers and feel they really care. This inspires loyalty and helps people better put aside stress at work and not be so affected by it. When people are mentally healthy, it makes for less distraction and absenteeism and creates a feeling of safety in the workplace.”

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Ten Tips for Building a Strong Relationship

When you hear about couples who maintain a strong relationship through all of life’s challenges, you may wonder how they do it. Many of these couples have faced the same kinds of difficulties that can lead to break-ups for other people, such as financial problems, trouble with in-laws, or differences in interests or personalities. But somehow, these couples have stayed together while others haven’t.

Here are ten tips based on the conclusions experts have drawn from studying successful relationships.

  1. Have a strong commitment to making your relationship work.
  2. Think of yourselves as friends, not just as a couple.
  3. Accept your differences and disappointments.
  4. See yourselves as equal partners.
  5. Pay attention to how you communicate.
  6. Handle disagreements constructively.
  7. Develop a support system.
  8. Make sure each of you has some privacy and independence.
  9. Share rituals and traditions.
  10. Have fun!

Every couple is different, so there’s no one-size-fits-all formula for a good relationship. But people who’ve stayed together for a long time tend to have some of the same things in common.

If you are looking for ways to enhance the relationships in your life, give Solutions, your student assistance program, a call at 800-766-0068. We can provide assistance in a confidential setting at no cost to IUPUC students.

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Welcome to Our New Website!

You may have noticed things look a bit different here. As we looked toward 2011, we decided we needed to spruce our site up a bit.

It’s easier than ever to contact us now, and you’ll find simpler ways to keep up with news here at Solutions EAP on our blog. If that’s not enough, you can also check us out on Facebook or Twitter.

In addition, we’ve shortened some menu titles (EAP Employees became Employees) and made it easier to navigate our site. We’d love to hear your thoughts about the new design. Feel free to email us at

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Finals Survival

Study skills & stress management for college student exam week

Ack, exams are coming! With midterms and final exams, students have two goals. First, you want to ace the exams, or at least get decent grades and do as well as possible. Second, there’s your sanity; you want to get through exams with a minimum of stress and test anxiety.

Fortunately, with the right study skills techniques, you can both manage your stress and do well on the tests. Here are some study skills tips for final exams to help you do well and stay sane.

  • Time management. Plan, plan, plan. Before finals begin, get out your calendar and schedule as much of your finals week as possible. Then stick with the schedule. (Here are some more time management tips for students.)
  • Schedule in study breaks. Don’t plan to study non-stop for the next five days. You’ll go insane, and you’ll be too fried to do well on the exams. When you write your schedule, include short study breaks to help you recharge. You’ll feel so much better and will be able to concentrate so much more. (Here’s some suggestions for great study breaks.)
  • Take advantage of study sheets and study sessions. Just be careful not to use these as crutches. They’re not supposed to replace studying. (Here’s more about study guides and review sessions.)
  • Schedule in sleep. Some people can function well on three hours of sleep a night. Most cannot. You’ll do much better during exams if your mental state is good, and sleep is essential for this.
  • Exercise. There’s no better source for stress relief. Just don’t overdo it to the point that you’re heavily procrastinating. Go for short, stress-relieving activities, like racquetball or a treadmill run. And don’t underestimate the value of a brisk walk.
  • Prioritize. You have limited time to study and will have to choose what to spend the most time with. You could spend hours and hours on that math exam because if you do really well, you might be able to pull off a C. Or you can spend hours and hours on a history exam because if you do well, you’ve got a good shot at an A. It’s up to you.
  • Form effective study groups. Just don’t waste your time with lousy ones. (Here are some tips for effective study groups.)
  • Free your schedule. As much as possible, eliminate other responsibilities. Work fewer hours. Put off social events. Definitely put off shopping.
  • Ask your professor for help. If you’re confused about your notes or the readings, go to the resident expert. This works much better if you don’t put off studying until the last minute. It’s a good idea to read through all of your notes before you start to study, so that you can inquire early about things that confuse you.
  • Take a mental break so you don’t break down. Your campus is creating ways to “let off steam” and have some fun. Take advantage of these opportunities to connect with friends and get some physical activity. You’ll feel better and be ready to hit the books after a complete break from studying.
  • Keep things in perspective. What’s the worst thing that can happen if you don’t do well on this test? Excessive stress will make you crazy and hurt your performance on tests, so as much as you can, relax. And if you’re having serious problems with anxiety during final exams, seek help at your school’s counseling center. This is a common problem that schools are well equipped to help you with

If you are feeling overwhelmed or anxious about finals, help is available through SOLUTIONS, your student assistance program (SAP). These services are sponsored by IUPUC. They are free, strictly confidential and easy to access.

Contact your SOLUTIONS. For an appointment or simply to get more information, just call 1-800-766-0068. Or look for us on Facebook.

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12 Tips for Stress Free Holidays

The holidays bring a range of emotions.  Here are some survival tips from Solutions EAP.  Solutions is a free and confidential service for IUPUC students.

The holiday season is one of the happiest times of the year. Amid the excitement, traditions, parties and shopping are the added stresses of strong feelings of obligation, expectations of dream-like relationships, and remembrances of loved ones not with us this year . Keep your holidays happy and think about including these tips in your planning

If you decide to drink alcohol during the holidays, don’t drink and drive. If you find you cannot control your drinking, seek immediate help. Advertisements for alcoholic beverages increase during this time of year, but the use of alcohol also increases the number of accidents and fatalities. Again, keep safe during the holidays and don’t drink and drive.

Keep yourself to a budget. Homemade gifts like cookies, home baked bread, or a hand-made wreath still say you thought about someone. A gift such as this can mean more than a more expensive item. Keep in mind the true meaning of the season and spend your time, not just your money.

This season can remind you of loved ones who won’t be here. Grieving for those you miss and love is natural. Talk with family and friends about it. Allow yourself to cry, to laugh, and to show your emotions. If grief keeps you from spending time with those still here, or overwhelms you in other ways, seek professional help. A wave of emotion and grief is natural, but lingering feelings of loss may lead to depression.

Traveling in a cramped car can leave children cranky and parents frustrated. Be reasonable about your traveling. Make relatives come to you or try combining events. Visit in-laws every other year. Give yourself permission to stay home. If you do travel plan frequent stops to stretch, have some water, or take a bathroom break. Be reasonable about the length of time you spend on the road. Plan some games to keep children happy.

Added stress can make even good relationships strained. Spend time with those you enjoy and limit time with those in whose presence you feel emotionally strained. Give yourself permission to say “no” to emotionally packed experiences that have proven negative in the past.

Don’t let being away from relatives leave you lonely. Churches, offices, and community groups all have get-togethers during the season. Ask friends over for a simple gathering. Let others know about your plans, or lack of plans, at this time of year. Many families welcome more guests to their table. Enjoy the hospitality of others and remember that you do not have to be alone.

Feeling “the blues” at this time of year is natural. Sometimes the festivities do not live up to your expectations and this can leave you feeling low. If the holidays leave you joyless and these feelings last for months rather than weeks, you may be suffering from depression. Seek professional help if your “blue” feelings keep you from functioning normally.

Crowds, lines and the stress of finding that “perfect” gift can make this time of season less than joyful. Try to spread your shopping throughout the year. Be reasonable about what you buy for those on your list. Remember that it is the thought that counts most. Shopping locally, giving gift certificates, or shopping by mail can be other ways to avoid the last minute shopping crunch.

Don’t expect yourself to do more than humanly possible. Plot a realistic schedule for yourself to complete. Consider delegating tasks to others in your family. Older children can feel more a part of a holiday by being given the job of finding grandma’s gift this year. Let younger children wrap presents, trim the tree, or come up with menu ideas. Relax and let others share the tasks at hand — and the joy of doing.

Don’t feel obligated to attend all the events to which you are invited. Select those best timed for your schedule and which you find most enjoyable. Also, don’t expect to keep every tradition your great-grandmother started. Create the holiday you’ll remember and enjoy and select those traditions that mean the most to you.

Take time for yourself and forget about the holiday rush for awhile. Perhaps a vacation or a short trip will rejuvenate you. Plan some personal time for holiday pleasures like a concert, ballgame, or lunch with an old friend. Taking time for yourself can be a great stress reliever.

If you feel down, remind yourself of the fun things you did over the holidays and the happiness you shared with others. Don’t get caught up in “should have done.” If you find yourself feeling depressed for weeks or months at a time seek professional help.

If you are feeling overwhelmed, depressed, or just sort of “blue”, help is available through SOLUTIONS, your student assistance program (SAP).   These services are sponsored by IUPUC.  They are free, strictly confidential and easy to access.

Contact your SOLUTIONS.  For an appointment or simply to get more information, just call 1-800-766-0068.  Or look for us on the web at or on FaceBook.

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Finding Your Spheres of Influence for Social Media Success

Upcoming AM Series Event

Wednesday, October 20, 2010 | 8:00 – 10:00 a.m.
Location: 720 N. Marr Road, Columbus, Ind.

Social media is redefining the world of marketing and public relations. It is no longer a question of whether or not we engage, but rather how we do so. The way in which companies interact with employees, customers and other businesses via social media networks is more important. In this real-time environment, the challenge is to engage in a way that encourages participation. Join us for an encompassing look at how social media can work in your business environment.

Presenter: Jennifer A. Scherschel, Social Media Strategist, Dependable Advertising Company

Click here to register!

Who should attend?

  • Human Resource Professionals
  • Business Owners
  • Managers/Supervisors
  • Other Professionals
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Solutions EAP Now Serving Rush Memorial Hospital

Solutions EAP is excited to announce that we will now be providing employee assistance plan (EAP) services to Rush Memorial Hospital in Rushville, Ind. With our Rushville Centerstone office and our partnership with Family Health Services, Solutions is able to provide convenient and prompt services to the hospital employees and their dependents.

Rush Memorial is a critical access hospital serving Rush County and the surrounding area. It employs nearly 300 persons and provides a wide range of emergency, oncology and medical/surgery services. One of the exciting aspects of our contract with the hospital is that they are covering all employees – even part-time and PRN staff. They are also taking a very proactive approach to dealing with stress. Centerstone providers will meet with staff members who face especially stressful situations to help them deal with the issues they face.

Solutions EAP serves the employees and their dependents of approximately 75 organizations by providing brief, focused therapy, early interventions in the workplace, critical incident stress debriefing and trainings on a range of skills. For more information about our services, explore our wesbite at

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