We’ve all been there. Or at least most of us have.

Things are going relatively well until you suddenly receive an unwanted dose of anguish, thanks to a nasty manager or colleague who has sized you up as an easy mark.

Often the abuse is subtle. It might take the form of a “joke” that leaves you humiliated and fuming. Or it might be that your work has been messed with. Then there are those lovelies who hurl verbal abuse as casually as a chimp flinging dung.

Make no mistake about it: These workplace bullies have mastered the art of making others feel threatened and miserable. And if a recent poll is to be believed, they are in ample supply these days.

In fact, the survey from Monster found that 90% of professionals have been bullied at work. Put another way, only one in 10 have not. That, my friends, is alarming stuff. Or should be.

We don’t know whether the numbers are actually higher or lower in senior living, but even if they are half as bad, they are way too high.

And the damage being inflicted is nothing to laugh about. Repeated bullying has been shown to cause physical and mental problems that include high blood pressure, sleeping difficulties, anxiety and even depression. That’s to say nothing of the employees who decide to take their talents elsewhere.

The Monster poll also revealed some disturbing news about the kinds of workplace people who tend to be bullies. It turns out they can be found at all levels. More than half of the respondents (51%) indicated they had been bullied by a boss or manager. Nearly four in 10 (39%) said they had been bullied by co-workers. And 4% said they had been bullied by someone other than a co-worker, such as a client or customer. My guess is that this last figure probably is much higher in senior living, given the general disposition, mood and / or cognitive functioning seen among many residents.

Part of the problem here is that we are on some squishy ground when it comes to defining bullying and bullies. For example, at what point does a playful prank become sanctioned humiliation? And when does a “little joke” go out of bounds? For that matter, when does a person who frequently offers “helpful criticism” qualify as a, shall we say, flaming jerk?

There really are no one-size-fits-all answers here. Which, by the way, gives the bullies in our midst that much more plausible deniability when their antics are challenged.

So here’s my suggestion: If the person receiving the joke / comment / criticism was your mother, would you find it offensive? If the answer is yes or leans toward yes, then don’t let others get away with such nonsense. Even if the offending party happens to be you.

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