Maarit Vartia, Leena Korppoo, Sirkku Fallenius and Maj-Lis Mattila
The aim of this chapter is to discuss the role of occupational health services (OHS) in supporting the individual victims of bullying as well as in preventing, handling and resolving bullying situations in the workplace. Several studies have found that bullying is related to many kinds of stress symptoms and ill health (Einarsen et al., 1996; Kivimäki et al., 2000) among both victims and observers (Vartia, 2001), making the issue important from an OHS perspective. In the early 1990s, only 18 per cent of the targets of bullying in the municipal sector in Finland reported that they had sought help from occupational health professionals. At present, it is our opinion that the targets of bullying increasingly ask for help from OHS and that it is more common for a conflict situation in the workplace to be labelled 'bullying'.
Since three of the writers of this chapter have a great deal of experience in occupational health psychology, with two working at present for the largest nationwide company offering occupational health services in Finland, the perspective of this chapter will be that of occupational health psychology. However, the approaches and methods discussed here should also be useful to other professionals working in OHS. It is necessary for all working in this field to learn to recognise bullying and to analyse such situations together with the client. More profound work, for example therapeutic treatment of bullying victims, should be carried out by a trained psychologist or counsellor. Occupational health units should also have experts with understanding of and professional skills in the area of work and organisational psychology if they plan to offer services to workplaces and organisations in as difficult and complex situations as bullying.
The Finnish Occupational Health Care Act obliges employers to organise and finance OHS for each worker, irrespective of the size of the company,