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  • 1.  How to talk about workplace hazing and our work environment?

    Posted 07-15-2021 06:55 PM
    Edited by Tirza Austin 07-16-2021 09:07 AM

    Workplace Hazing and Workplace Bullying

    How many of you know what hazing is? What about workplace hazing? Do you know if it is the same as workplace bullying? 

    I wanted to start a topic discussion on workplace hazing and workplace bullying. Many of us learned about it in college, but you don't expect it in the workplace. If you don't know what it is, it can be pretty difficult to address and if you don't know what to look for, you can't spot it. According to Business.com, "Hazing is any action that has the intent of causing humiliation or harm (emotional or physical) to the person...corporate hazing involves any type of behavior that makes the employee feel threatened, harassed or humiliated. Hazing in the workplace often involves a new employee who seasoned employees feel they can take advantage of. For instance, the new employee may be told to perform tedious or demeaning jobs for the amusement of their colleagues." 

    Here's an example:

    1. New construction worker sent to collect air samples with black trash bag:
      1. https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=XcMu98oBsXo

    Every once in a while, I find things like this on my feed through LinkedIn. There was another one where a construction worker used a bulldozer to shove his fellow worker into a deep hole that was dug and he fell into a hole of muddy water. When he got out he was soaked. The operator recorded the video and shared it with other people online. At the end of the day, people get a few laughs, but for the person that it affects, it is not pleasant. It looks innocent and harmless, but some of these end up leaving a long and permanent effect on the worker. 

    Is workplace hazing the same as workplace bullying?

    No. Although hazing is associated with bullying because of the similarity, there is a difference. The difference between the two is that workplace hazing is meant to make you feel like a part of the family. They inflict a small amount of pain, whether emotional or physical, share a little laugh with each other and that makes you part of the team. It doesn't make any sense to me, but the idea is, "That's how it's supposed to be.". Workplace bullying is different and according to the Workplace Bullying organization, "Workplace bullying is repeated, health-harming mistreatment by one or more employees of any employer: abusive conduct that is either verbal abuse; or behaviors which are threatening, intimidating or humiliating; or work sabotage, in some combination." 

    How does it affect employee performance?

    These activities affect mental health. Mental health reflects employee performances. The Centers of Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) says, "Poor mental health and stress can negatively affect employees: job performance and productivity, engagement with one's work, communication with coworkers, and physical capability and daily functioning." 

    What is significant about these incidents is that, it happens without the employees willingness to participate, so sometimes, if you encourage these activities in the workplace and if you engage in these yourself, without disregard to a person safety and wellbeing, you might even be hazing or bullying a person that has a disability let alone a person that is a new worker.

    How does that affect the company?

        The CDC says, "Depression interferes with a person's ability to complete physical job tasks about 20% of the time and reduces cognitive performance about 35% of the time." Our country is ranked #3 in mental illness with a rate of 30.9%, 44.7 million people. We beat Japan, Spain, Australia, Belgium, Netherlands, China and other competing countries. The only countries that we lost to were France and Switzerland. 

        These are people who come home to their family and the problems that are at work, show up on their faces to their partners and children. By the time an employee leaves a company, the culture, mission, and value statements that are shared on their website does not have the same meaning. Why is that okay?

    So, how do you spot it? And how do you stop it?

    StopHazing is an organization that was started in 1992 by Dr. Elizabeth Allen and others from the University of New Hampshire. It's mission is "...to promote safe and inclusive school, campus, and organizational environments through research, research sharing, and the development of data-driven strategies for hazing prevention and the promotion of positive group climates." In schools, hazing has led to deadly outcomes. It does not stop in the workplace. Recognize it and stop it.

    Here are some of the resources from their website:

    1. Making Space for Leaders to Lead Change: An Abbreviated Facilitator's Guide
    2. Practicing Values-Based Leadership & Decision Making: An Abbreviated Facilitator's Guide

    Business.com also shares three methods to prevent hazing in the workplace:

    1. Create a workplace hazing policy to ensure management and staff recognize incidents.
    2. Reinforce your policy about hazing in the workplace with materials to show unsafe behaviors.
    3. Build trust and help employees form bonds with team-building exercises. 

    Visit their link here in the resources for more detail. 

    The purpose of this article is to raise awareness on workplace hazing and workplace bullying, so that we can recognize these harmful activities that affect us and our coworkers, consider our actions, and stop it when it happens. 

    It is not a one person solution, but it is an individual decision.


    1. https://www.business.com/articles/hazing-in-the-workplace/ 
    2. https://stophazing.org/ 
    3. www.workplacebullying.org
    4. https://www.cdc.gov/workplacehealthpromotion/tools-resources/workplace-health/mental-health/index.html
    5. https://www.insidermonkey.com/blog/16-countries-with-the-highest-mental-illness-rates-in-the-world-649757/?singlepage=1

    Oanh "Wan" Le, A.M.ASCE (She/Her)
    Rochdale, MA

  • 2.  RE: How to talk about workplace hazing and our work environment?

    Posted 07-22-2021 12:57 PM
    If you ever find yourself in an unsafe work environment, find a way out immediately.

    Hazing or bullying implies the behavior is prolonged, but it is important to recognize it immediately.  A workplace environment where this takes place is considered hostile and you may not receive the support needed from human resources or management as it has apparently been allowed to occur under their watch.

    I would reach out to the state Department of Labor & Training to report a hostile work environment and understand what your rights are.  An unsafe work environment may require a call to OSHA.  After learning your rights, it may be wise to consult with an attorney who specializes in workplace disputes.  They may be able to speak to management on your behalf to correct the issue and preserve your employment status.  If you choose to leave the firm, they can help make the separation amicable.  

    Document any hazing or bullying behavior.  Keep the matter private and off social media.  There will be time to share your experience at a later time when it is more appropriate.

    Chad Morrison P.E., M.ASCE
    Professional Engineer
    Greenville RI

  • 3.  RE: How to talk about workplace hazing and our work environment?

    Posted 07-28-2021 05:16 PM
    Edited by Tirza Austin 07-28-2021 05:15 PM
    In exercising legal rights, those contemplating whistleblowing may wish to learn more through the following Google Scholar searches.

    * Google Scholar "Searches:"

    1. Careers of engineering whistleblowers
    2. Careers of bullying whistleblowers
    3. Careers of harassment whistleblowers
    Stay Healthy!



    William M. Hayden Jr., Ph.D., P.E., CMQ/OE, F.ASCE
    Buffalo, N.Y.

    "It is never too late to be what you might have been." -- George Eliot 1819 - 1880

  • 4.  RE: How to talk about workplace hazing and our work environment?

    Posted 07-28-2021 11:10 AM
    Edited by Tirza Austin 07-28-2021 11:12 AM

    Hi Oanh, 

    Thanks for the questions, overall presentation, and selected references.

    Upon reflection of the notes you provided with references, I will reflect and then address your last question, “Q6. And how do you stop it?"


    As you state, "I wanted to start a topic discussion on workplace hazing and workplace bullying." 

    That identifies individual workplaces as the "Territory" under study wherein the aberrant behaviors you note happen.

    Until the organization's major owners/stockholders/executives assert their ownership of the environs that allow such unacceptable human behaviors, nothing of significance will change.

    "Yes," some managers may support funding for seminars, human resource interventions, and the like. Several of your references also offer various types of interventions, i.e., education, training, and  development.

    But at the end of each day if the people do not see . . .not hear or read. . . executive management modeling what is and is not acceptable behavior to remain in their employ, 

    "The wheels on the bus continue to go round and round down the same old road."

    Stay Healthy!



    William M. Hayden Jr., Ph.D., P.E., CMQ/OE, F.ASCE
    Buffalo, N.Y.

    "It is never too late to be what you might have been." -- George Eliot 1819 - 1880