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Workplace Harassment



Building And Reinforcing Teams (14)

Akindotun Merino
Workplace harassment is illegal and destructive to any organization. It is important to treat everyone in the workplace with respect and dignity. Workplace harassment must be identified, discouraged, and prevented in order to keep a hostile work environment from developing. Left unchecked, harassment can escalate into violence. Legally, harassment is any word, gesture, or action that offends people or makes them feel uncomfortable or intimidated. You never know how sensitive people are, so never say or do anything if you are not sure how it will be received.

There are many ways to harass co-workers or employees. The rights of all citizens are legally protected, regardless of sex, age, health, ancestry, religion, sexual orientation, or beliefs. Harassment occurs when someone from one group feels discriminated against by another. Be careful, and remember that you never know what people are feeling or thinking. It is possible to accidentally offend those who work with you.

Physical Harassment: This includes gestures, actions, and contact that can be sexual or threatening. Even well-meant gestures like a hug constitute harassment if they make a person uncomfortable. Do not touch people at work or invade their personal space.

Emotional Harassment: Threats, comments, degrading tones, and jokes are all workplace harassment. Avoid volatile subjects, and consider the ramifications of different jokes.

Harassment costs businesses millions every year. Many laws allow people to sue their companies for workplace harassment. Failing to protect employees can result in a high price to pay. Not only are there litigation fees, but psychological ramifications cost businesses as well. The cost to your business is not always monetary, it can cost reputation. A company losing its reputation can have an effect on many aspects of business. The company may lose customers, valuable employees, and not attract prospective new hires.

READ ALSO: Recognizing Anxiety In The Workplace

Legal fees are a costly factor for businesses that face harassment charges. Companies are responsible for protecting their employees from managers, co-workers, vendors, and clients. Sexual harassment is the responsibility of the company when it is quid pro quo, which means that the sexual favors are exchanged for jobs, promotions, or raises. Businesses are also responsible if they are known to promote a hostile work environment. A hostile work environment occurs when management does nothing to prevent harassment. In a legal battle, employers must prove that they used “reasonable care” to prevent and address harassment issues.

Harassment and bullying take a psychological toll on everyone in the workplace. A survey from the American Psychological Association revealed that 74 percent of Americans believe that work causes most of their stress. The stress from harassment can lead to physical symptoms such as headaches, fatigue, and sleeplessness. Harassment, particularly sexual harassment, is linked to post-traumatic stress disorder. Companies lose money in sick days, poor commitment, low productivity, and turnover when workplace harassment is not prevented and addressed immediately.

Bullying is not limited to the playground, and ignoring bullies will not make them leave you alone. Bullies are a growing problem in the workplace. Those who bully others do so with malicious intent. Unlike other harassment issues, bullies know that they are being cruel. Only 20 percent of bullying is considered illegal harassment because 80 percent of bullies do not harass people in other groups. In fact, 71 percent of bullies are women who target other women.

Bullies often target high-performing employees and attempt to destroy them out of fear or jealousy. They manipulate using fear, and will often turn other employees against their target. Bullying has the same results as other harassment practices. Managers are often guilty of bullying their employees.

READ ALSO: Coping Strategies For Workplace Anxieties

Bullying Behavior:

  • Continually changing job parameters
  • Spreading gossip and rumors
  • Creating impossible standards or deadlines
  • Isolating an individual
  • Threats of job loss
  • Spying on or stalking a target
  • Yelling at a target who is not permitted to yell back
  • Belittling or disregarding opinions and feelings
  • Preventing promotions and transfers
  • Intruding in a person’s workspace or belongings
  • Misinforming the target.

Many bullies have personality disorders such as antisocial personality disorder and narcissism. Having a personality disorder is not an excuse to behave badly. Some bullies with personality disorders are not aware of their actions, but others choose to manipulate the people around them. Serial bullies were often bullies in school, and they usually have fake personas to hide their cruelty from the people they want to manipulate.
Those diagnosed with antisocial personality disorder are over 18 and have shown conduct disorders before they were 15.

  • Not conforming to social customs or laws
  • Consistently being deceitful (may use more than one identity)
  • Impulsive and irresponsible (will usually have credit problems)
  • Irritable and unable to empathize.
  • Disregards personal safety and the safety of others

READ ALSO: Recognizing Anxiety In The Workplace

Many bullies show the characteristics of narcissistic personality disorder. This is more common than other personality disorders. They overcompensate for their lack of confidence with a grandiose, self-important view. Narcissists think highly of themselves, need attention, and lack empathy. There are nine indicators of narcissism. A diagnosis requires five of the nine criteria.

  • Arrogance
  • Fantasies that revolve around power, success, beauty, or love
  • Are sure that only a few elite can understand them
  • Need to be appreciated and admired
  • Feels entitled and demands that people comply with their whims
  • Exploit people around them
  • Cannot empathize with others
  • Are jealous of others and believe others are jealous of them
  • Have a self-important attitude

Workplace harassment training is essential to the welfare of all businesses and their employees. Allowing workplace harassment to continue will cause legal problems while destroying company morale. Many people are uncertain about what constitutes harassment, and they are confused when their actions are pointed out as demeaning. It is imperative for organization leaders to create safe working spaces for employees and customers.

Dr. Akindotun Merino is a Professor of Psychology and a Mental Health Commissioner in California. Share your successes and challenges:

Prof. Akindotun Merino
Jars Education Group
Instagram: @drakinmerino: Twitter: @drakindotun


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Mental Health

Strong Mental Will: A Tool For Fulfilment Of Dreams 



The Futility Of A Marital Chase
Dr Hope Nwawolo

By Hope Nwawolo

As a young girl in a boarding school many years back, l found myself interested in reading articles and novels. One day, l picked a piece of torn paper from the ground and a particular sentence caught my attention.  It read, “…whatever you are as a young girl will determine what you become as an adult’’.  Without giving a thought to the fact that situations and people could change according to circumstances, my young mind went to work immediately, particularly on how l wanted to look as a woman years later. At that time, l was on the fat side. I told myself that l would not want to develop a bulging tummy as a woman. I never even gave thought to the changes women go through as a result of child bearing. However, my young mind knew l needed to do something immediately in order to achieve what l wanted many years after.  I took my house dresses and school uniforms and used my hands to take in the sides so that l had to tuck in my tummy any time l wore them.  Somehow l felt l could control my tummy from getting bigger if l kept it tucked in most of the time. And of a truth l did and needless to say that some students liked my style and did same to their uniforms. Talk about setting the pace!

At the time of taking the decision, l never even knew it was lady-like to tuck in your tummy. All l was seeing was me as a woman in future, without a bulging tummy. It never crossed my mind that child bearing or any abdominal surgery could discourage one from tucking in the tummy at will. And years later, after having four births, of which two where through caesarean sections, I have maintained the habit of tucking in my tummy and this has helped in sustaining a moderate waist line even as l increase in years.  

Another striking instance was when l went in for my masters’ degree. I told myself l would not stop my academic education until l had my doctoral degree. Sadly, before l finished the masters’ programme, l came across several doctoral students who had been on the  programme for upward of six years and were not near completion. I got discouraged and quietly finished my programme and did not look back. My mental will bowed to the discouraging sights of struggling doctoral students. Luckily, years after, the dream came alive again and l began to nurse it. Even after a professional masters’ programme, eight years after my first masters, l was still nursing the idea of a doctoral degree. Finally, fifteen years after my first masters’, I was going through the newspaper in my office when l came across a postgraduate admission advert of a private university. There and then, a strong desire to apply for a doctoral degree came over me and was so strong that l did not tell anybody so as not to get discouraged, particularly because of the high school fees. As a matter of fact, being a civil servant should have been my worry, but l just felt strong in my mind that it would work out itself.

Honestly, from the time of my sending my application to getting admission, I did not have the money for the first year of the four and half years programme and l did not want to further stress my husband who was paying school fees for my sons in private secondary school and private university. All the same, l was strongly determined to start it with complete trust that God would make the way as l went through the journey. With an undaunted mental will, He did beyond my expectations, with awesome colleagues, lecturers that were as interested for us to complete the programme as at when due as we were. 

One may want to ask how l was able to overcome the initial financial hurdle. Like l said, with the burning passion in me and a complete trust in God to provide the necessary fees, my eyes became open to certain opportunities of side hustle with two of my friends, which gave me added income to my salary. I immediately cut down on certain expenses like buying new clothes and frivolous social outings, and prioritised my needs, particularly as the school allowed for instalment payment of fees, over the semesters. 

To become mentally strong, is about shifting your whole perspective, since it is human nature to be afraid of things that we cannot control or to crumble in the face of difficulty. It is the fight or flight response that is embedded in who we are. Unfortunately, once you are in that mind-set you are giving your mental power away to a circumstance and the only power that you have is really the power of perception. And when you shift your perception and just feel like: I can handle this, I can do this,  I can turn this around, I can use this to my good — then you gain that ability. 

Mental strength is about knowing that you are creating your reality, just like l did as a young girl in secondary school. We create our reality by our thoughts, our beliefs, our actions, our habits. And sure, sometimes things happen out of our control, but most of the time, we do not go far away from achieving our dreams.  

 Nwawolo, PhD, writes in via


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Mental Health

How To Identify Fake Friends



Prof. Stella Roy-Omoni

Most people surround themselves with fake friends who are killing them subtly and are smiling with them. You need to identify the genuineness of your so- called friend before he/she destroys you.

Identifying a fake friend can involve noticing certain behavioral patterns:

1. Lack of Support: They might be absent or unsupportive during your challenging times, showing disinterest or avoiding your needs.

2. One-sided Relationships: They tend to benefit more from the friendship without reciprocating care or effort.

3. Gossip and Betrayal: Fake friends might gossip about you behind your back or betray your trust.

4. Inconsistent Behavior: Their actions and words may not align consistently, making it hard to trust them.

5. Conditional Friendship: They’re around only when it suits their interests or when they need something from you.

6. Manipulative or Self-centered:They may manipulate situations for their benefit or constantly talk about themselves without considering your feelings or experiences.

Being mindful of these traits can help distinguish between genuine friends and those who may not have your best interests at heart. Trusting your instincts and observing behaviors over time often reveals the authenticity of a friendship.

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Mental Health

Building And Reinforcing Teams (3) (16)



Building And Reinforcing Teams (14)

By Akindotun Merino
When you find yourself excessively self-oriented, this is a sign that you need to deepen your humility and refocus on serving others. Here are some ways to help you foster a greater sense of humility:

Allow others to be first and foremost. Insisting on being the first in line, the first to raise your hand in a class, the first to get the parking spot, and so on, has a tendency to inflate one’s sense of self-importance. However, when you allow others to have the spotlight or be first, it gives you a better vantage point to appreciate their gifts and what they are able to bring to the table. And when you can do this, you actually find yourself in a better position to lead others because you understand how they can best contribute.

Don’t insist on being right. Nobody likes to be wrong, including other people. When you are wrong it puts you in a vulnerable position, which can be scary. However, vulnerability is often what makes a person beautiful and appreciable. Allowing others the legitimacy of their beliefs without correction from you is a charitable act.

Listen to what other people think more than telling them what you think. Dale Carnegie once said that the sweetest sound to anyone is the sound of their own voice. Really paying attention to what other people have to say without having to correct or undermine them helps you to stay oriented outward rather than being self-absorbed.

READ ALSO: Building And Reinforcing Teams 2 (15)

Try not to judge others. An old saying goes like this, “When you point a finger at someone else, you have three fingers pointing back at you.” While it is tempting to judge another person, to assess what they are doing and how they are doing it, when you do so, you are presuming that you know better. Unfortunately, unless you have lived the experiences of another person, you cannot know what is best for them. Your grasp on another person’s situation will always be incomplete because you don’t have the complete picture.

Finally keep your balance. Throughout the whole process of becoming a more effective leader and a more effective human being, two tools can help smooth the way. The first is developing a greater sense of gratitude. When you wake up in the morning, or while you drink your coffee or eat breakfast, either write down in a notebook or type on your computer a list of five things for which you are grateful. If you keep this gratitude journal every day, it will have a cumulative effect on your keeping a positive outlook.

The second tool’s importance cannot be understated. No matter how much you have on your plate at any given time, it is important that you take the time to play. Whether this is a hobby such as painting or an activity such as playing video games, make a point of scheduling play time for yourself at least two to three times a week. This will help you to balance out all the stress you have in your life.

Dr. Akindotun Merino is a Professor of Psychology, CEO of Jars Group and Mental Health Commissioner in California. Feel free to share your successes and challenges:

Prof. Akindotun Merino
Instagram: @drakinmerino 

Twitter: @drakindotun


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