Workplace Bullying And The Things We May Control
When I was still being bullied at work I did speak up to management and the response was so frustrating that it wasn’t hard to conjure up fantasies of purposely making mistakes or other similar actions. My older sister, who became my best mentor, counseled me repeatedly not to give in to these desires. Instead she argued for what she calls the “Girl Scout Approach” [GSA]. Always there ready to slog through any job issue no matter how repetitive, unnecessary, demeaning or delusional. Personally I draw the line at giving anyone a cookie when they are systematically trying to destroy me. While this tactic did not prevent the devastating impact on my health or finances, I did survive with my resume intact and actually won in the end. In no small part because I was able to remain a positive team player able to attract and build a support system of co-workers. Wayne Hochwarter, a Professor at Florida State University, conducted research that found that employees who remain silent about abuse were “three times more likely to proactively fix problems, including perceived abuse, than those who reported mistreatment.” That’s a startling finding:
- Thirty percent of those who reported abuse slowed down or purposely made errors, compared with 6 percent of those not reporting abuse.
- Twenty-seven percent of those who reported abuse purposely hid from the boss, compared with 4 percent of those not reporting abuse.
- Thirty-three percent of those who reported abuse confessed to not putting in maximum effort, compared with 9 percent of those not reporting abuse.
- Twenty-nine percent of those who reported abuse took sick time off even when not ill, compared with 5 percent of those not reporting abuse.
- Twenty-five percent of those who reported abuse took more or longer breaks, compared with 7 percent of those not reporting abuse.
Changing Our Work Environments
So, if you’ve reported to HR or your superiors that your boss is a bully and the investigation is going nowhere – if it’s happening at all – and you find yourself in your work cubicle plotting passive/aggressive revenge you definitely aren’t alone. But, it’s just as easy to imagine that acting out these fantasies can wreak havoc on careers and resumes. This month Channel 10 in Tampa reported that while findings indicate that our workplaces have become more toxic “Professor Hochwarter does see hope for the employee-boss relationship.”
An improving economy could shift expectations for employees from daily benchmarks to yearly output, and that, he says, could help make horrible bosses a little more human.”
Hochwarter is hopeful that creating a work environment that fosters “civility” and “a commitment to active communication, may cure many of these problems.” It would be interesting to see how the types of behavior above are reflected in the responses and actions of HR, Arbitration, Mediation, and Ombudsman services in their attempts to resolve these types of issues.
Australia is seeing a huge spike in workplace bullying claims but the majority fall short of qualifying.
Ian Forsyth of WorkSafe says this is due to “greater awareness about bullying and, in particular, to the case of 19-year-old waitress Brodie Panlock, who committed suicide in 2006 after being relentlessly bullied by four colleagues at a Hawthorn cafe.” The positive outcome is that legislation was enacted as a result of media pressure. The downside is that despite all of the news coverage important information about workplace bullying was not absorbed by the public.
”I think what we are seeing is that the term bullying is being used quite loosely in the community now in many instances to describe something that has ‘gone against me’ or ‘that I haven’t liked’ or something that ‘I haven’t wanted to do’,” says Mr Forsyth.
”As a result, we are seeing a mismatch between what is being labelled bullying and what would really constitute bullying under the Occupational Health and Safety Act.
”We’re certainly not saying that these people aren’t suffering from some form of ill treatment or some form of injustice or that they’re not genuinely feeling that they’ve been disadvantaged or put under pressure. But in the vast majority of incidents these types of behaviours which they might describe as bullying are not going to meet the criteria for us to investigate or prosecute.” [Sydney Morning Herald read more..]
The article goes on to say that many of the claims already fall under discrimination and other legislation currently in place. Sadly the high pressure media attention here in the U.S. may create a similar situation. Countless articles about workplace bullying here in the U.S. all too often relate unscientific survey numbers and tell victims’ horrific stories without the acknowledgment that many can already addressed under discrimination or physical harassment legislation already in place. Or, that it may be possible to file a lawsuit as an IIED claim. This is great for lobbyists wishing to pass a bill but questionable when it comes to what is ethically best for everyone who will be impacted. And, that would all of us, including advocates like myself, who work or own businesses.
It’s time for each of us to speak up and add our own concerns to the dialog. Journalists reporting on pending legislation in the U.S. all too often rely on a single solution with little or no critique. The problem with that type of approach is that it subverts the democratic process and serves narrowly focused interests as opposed to addressing all of our concerns. Crafting strong laws is something that legislators are charged to do and remains each of our right as citizens. Why hand over concessions in the very first draft of a bill?
Personally, I am interested in collaborating with current advocates across America (many of whom I know and have developed relationships with) so as to strengthen pending legislation [see text of sample bill ] not ditch it — since that is the only way I personally feel comfortable supporting it. Time will tell if that is something they are open to or not but in the meantime please share your thoughts, arguments and ideas here or email them to OurBullyPulpit@gmail.com
Excluded Voices Are Lost Opportunities To Prevent Workplace Bullying
In my last post I raised the argument that, at least in the US, workplace bullying isn’t a silent epidemic anymore and has in fact become a “hot topic.” That’s something to raise our hopes but it certainly doesn’t mean that toxic work environments are a thing of the past or that the public dialog is particularly deep and representative of the issues we need to tackle. With growing recognition has come a vital opportunity for all of us to join together and make a difference. Using simplistic “schema” strategies may sell books and newspapers but it doesn’t help the battle to make significant change that can have a true impact. One need only look at the public schools here in the US to recognize that bullying laws have been in effect in many schools for years and years but the true impact has yet to be felt. And, most of those laws are now being re-invented and recreated to meet today’s needs. A lesson we can take from the school bullying campaign is that it’s not enough to grab headlines. Today’s successful advocacy campaigns need many, many participants with a wide variety of opinions at the helm working together with changing and evolving leadership roles that encourage and foster new ideas and growth. That means an end to “evil HR,” turf battles, and corporate conspiracy theories in order to let everyone who is dedicated and committed to changing corporate culture have a seat at the table. The quote below pretty well outlines where I think we currently are.
“The advent of the Internet and other new technologies raises important questions about their effects on civic discourse. Will these new technologies improve the quality of discussion by enabling different positions to be heard and opening up political processes to previously excluded voices? Will characteristics of the Internet such as hypertext, and the difficulty of controlling message flow, democratize discussion? Or will the ability to locate others of like mind, that enables the Internet and Web, be used to promote narrow interest groups and hate groups, and fragment the public, resulting in a narrowing of viewpoints and less understanding all around?” [Communication: Ubiquitous, Complex, Consequential, Chap 1]
[www.natcom.com "Communication: Ubiquitous, Complex, Consequential is a collaborative publication that summarizes the relevance of communication research to four grand challenges in U.S. society: revitalizing our political system, promoting physical and mental health, fostering emerging global organizations, and understanding basic human relationships. To download a PDF of Communication, click on the download icon. ]“
Which corner of the world googles the phrase “workplace bullying” the most? Well Australia and Ireland seem pretty matched in the number 1 & 2 spots — which given the disparity of size of the two countries says something for the plight of the Irish worker. New Zealand isn’t far behind. And, the UK, Canada and the US follow showing the least interest.
The top trending news stories about workplace bullying are related to health issues and legislation: