(10:45) Tracey was just two years shy of retirement when her new boss was hired. According to Tracey the new management style included isolation and psychological intimidation.
[This is Part I of an excerpt from Janice Harper's new book, Mobbed! A Survival Guide to Adult Bullying and Mobbing. Harper advises against suing -- but if you find yourself in that situation she offers advice that may well help you understand what's happening to you. Part II will continue with how to prepare. These are just excerpts, her book goes into much greater detail on internal & external investigations, coping tactics, new ways to understand what's happening to you and much much more. Let us know if it helped you... ]
Why are some adults more likely to blame themselves rather than the bully boss bearing down on them? A recent study links self-blame (guilt) to depression and shows that this dangerous combo inhibits the ability to express indignation. The first piece of advice most targets of workplace bullying encounter when they seek help is the important mantra that it’s not their fault. This should be coupled at every turn with “seek counseling” to deal with the depression that often accompanies bullying and can lock targets into a feeling of hopelessness rather than seeking proactive solutions or leaving.
Please check out this infographic courtesy of Compliance and Safety:
Dr. Susan has a great article with tips on how to hang onto the most important survival tool you have: hope. She includes this song in her list of favorite resources for keeping strong while facing an office bully. PLAY IT LOUD. PLAY IT OVER AND OVER.
We all know it exists. The co-worker that just makes their boss’ life miserable and meetings are power struggles that hinge on games meant to humiliate the manager and make them look foolish. Or the employee refuses to provide important information or perform a task on time in order to sabotage their Boss and make them look inept to their superiors. Maybe the employee’s ideas weren’t implemented or they don’t like the performance review they received. Maybe they don’t like authority. Groundbreaking research in this area shows that the impact is the same. The study below found that: “Over half of the interviewees (including most of the managers who experienced an experience of upwards bullying) reported an increase in stress, along with anxiety symptoms such as shaking and sleeplessness. Interviewees also reported experiencing anxiety attacks and clinical depression.”
“We are living in the age of arrogance”
Stanley B. Silverman says he was intrigued with the idea of measuring the level of arrogance in the workplace. Silverman, Russell E. Johnson and several Colleagues came up with the 22 item WARS scale to define these behaviors and the result is both fascinating and confirmation of what many of us have always suspected. The higher the level of arrogance the lower the level of performance, self-esteem and humility. At the core of the arrogant boss is the idea that they need to make sure that “their candle burns brighter” than anyone else by making “everyone else’s look smaller.” In a real life replay of the emperor’s new clothes, messengers are destroyed if they don’t tell these bosses what they want to hear – even if it actually destroys the business.
I met Beth through our warm and supportive Facebook Group which encourages targets, past and present, to share information and resources with each other. Beth is publicly sharing her powerful story, printed below, to help raise awareness about the devastating impact of abusive workplaces. She did reach out to the EEOC but says they couldn’t help because her employer was able to make the case that her termination was based on business protocol. The same hurdle is required in the pending legislation she is lobbying for. So, from that perspective, we ask what might have helped her? Some states compensate for the mental duress like Beth experienced and even include back pay/front pay. Currently that depends on what state you live in and many advocates are fighting to have current laws strengthened and expanded on a national level. Our warmest thanks to Beth for sharing her story - for more stories or to share your own go to our sister site NoJobIsWorthThis.com .
This is “My Story” about being bullied by the Practice Manager of a Doctors office. She had been there about three years. I was there over fifteen. Looking back and trying to put the pieces of my life back together. I now know what was the begining of her attempt to control me and the start of the bullying. I was blind
Suzanne V. Benoit, LCSW, SPHR often writes about toxic employees and workplace bullying. She reveals a personal side in her recent post addressing Carol Kilner’s article Responding to Mental Illness in Your Workforce: Leading a Culture Change [PsychCentral]. I tweeted her right away for permission to repost:
HR Response to Mental Health in the Workplace
by Suzanne V. Benoit
I came to the practice of HR from a business background and then Clinical Social Work. My views on mental illness and HR arise from a very different place than my HR peers mostly because of my exposure to severe and chronic mental illness. The sigma Ms. Kivler discusses is very powerful indeed. Because of my experience, I am not afraid of individuals with mental illness. I know that these are fellow human beings with a variety of personal values and styles. I know that only a very small percentage of people with mental illness are violent. It’s just that when a person with mental illness commits a violent crime, the media, especially fringe media, bombard the general public with disturbing images and sensationalized information. I also know that most mental health issues in the workplace are mood disorders such as depression and bipolar disorders which respond well to medical intervention.
Finally, I know that the mentally ill were not all raised in chaotic or abusive homes. I was raised in a lovely family by good parents (not perfect, but good enough) and had a brother who suffered from bipolar mood swings and psychoses from the age of 20 until his death at 48. The voices he heard told him that he, and not others around him, were bad. I know first hand that the essence of who he was as a person, was not the paranoid, odd behavior and religiosity my brother expressed, but it was the sweet, creative and sensitive individual who worked part-time while well on medication. He would never have harmed anyone.
The American workplace is in need of good information like the tips covered in Ms. Kivler’s article, particularly making information on mental health a part of wellness programs. If only employers could take this information and adopt it freely. I think it is possible but HIPAA presents a psychological and legal barrier to some of the actions suggested in the article. The discipline of HR tends to be generally risk averse. It doesnt’ make them mean or uncaring, just cautious. Let me explain this.
HR is naturally cautious
Employers are responsible for removing the appearance or fact of ADA discrimination. In addition, employers are required to protect the privacy of employee personal health information. To do this perfectly, employers would never want to know if someone has a mental illness. Once you know, you are open to accusations of misusing it in order to keep people from promotions or other employment opportunities. For this reason, medical benefits information or other employee-employer correspondence regarding the diagnosis of mental illness are kept in separate “medical files” and not in the personnel file to which supervisor’s have regular access. Employers must also try to prevent this information from being casually released and discussed amongst co-workers. As such, they may ask employees to refrain from discussing their conditions with their peers.
What is the right balance?
I believe that the answer is to emphasize compassion and inclusion a bit and loosen the mentality of “eliminating” risk to more a risk management posture. Ms. Kivler’s article is timely because presenteeism is an emerging HR issue. It’s like absenteeism in that productivity is negatively impacted. However in presenteeism, the employee is at work but distracted by stress and other matters. Mental illness appears to be one of the growing reasons for this distraction. I would conduct training as Ms. Kivler suggests – fold this into the wellness program. I would make sure that the HR department is a safe and informed place for any employee to go if he/she needed support for time off or accessing counseling benefits. This requires that HR staff be held to a high standard of listening, seeing this in the same nonjudmental way that they see say, diabetes, and well versed in the ways in which mental illness can affect employee performance.
I would make sure my performance evaluation system focuses strictly on what and how the employee performs the essential functions of the job and NOT extraneous and irrelevant information like: age, race or disability. I would encourage the company to sensitively approach employees whose performance seems to be impaired by a personal issue in the same way whether it is divorce, an ill relative or their own mental illness. I would ensure that these individuals receive referrals for EAP or mental health counseling. And finally, I would ensure that my HR staff are comfortable responding lawfully and respectfully to requests for accommodations for a bona fide disability whether it represents a physical or mental impairment.
Staff training and stereotypes
Part of the role of sexual harassment statutes is to prevent harassment in the workplace. The practical effect however, is staff training and development. Employers are comfortable conducting training about how employees should behave when they encounter harassment in the workplace. This means no sexual innuendo jokes, slang, etc. Ms. Kivler suggests that use of the word “mental” should be more comfortable (I agree 100%). I would add that we could also support employees to be more sensitive about comments that could be harmful: crazy, loony or even worse “lazy” as applied to those suffering from depression when they can’t get out of bed.
I am grateful to Carol A. Kivler for writing about this topic. It is timely and very important. I also look forward to @psychcentral’s thoughtful tweets each day on topics of individual mental health.
Suzanne V. Benoit, LCSW, SPHR is a human resource consultant and author providing strategies to improve workplace culture and quality business outcomes. Striving for corporate excellence means a no-compromise posture on workplace abuse and intimidation as well as creating supporting structures that reward candor, respect and accountability. Her book: “Toxic Employees: great companies resolve this problem, you can too!” provides details about the source, motives and tactics used by toxic employees and is used by managers struggling to shift negative dynamics in the workplace. Suzanne’s workshops on principled approaches to workplace challenges are “both entertaining and valuable” including tools for attendees’ immediate use. To contact Ms. Benoit can be please visit www.benoitconsulting.com.
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.
For fifteen years my husband Farrell and I lived within 3 blocks of the WTC. On Sept 11th I stood on the corner of Warren and West Broadway as the first plane flew over my head and became lost in a fireball. I ran an excruciating block to find Farrell and the two of us shared what we thought were our last kisses. We continued watching the Twin Towers helplessly while so many lept to their deaths. The crowd around us hushed as the next plane appeared ominously in the sky and the world turned upside down. After months of evacuation the City finally deemed our building safe and we returned to our artist loft — only to be priced out three years later by the “recovery efforts.” Our neighborhood had become the most expensive and desirable real estate in NYC. But, whatever happended and wherever we would end up, we were thankful to be alive and have the gift of rebuilding our lives.
Today the Bureau of Labor Statistics (US DOL) released preliminary results from the “National Census of Fatal Occupational Injuries In 2009.” While the homicide rates include incidents like the shooting in Fort Hood they also include other types of homicides at work.
Anonymous: “I’m still with the same employer, its been an an absolute nightmare. It started with a newly appointed manager; being particularly nasty, abusive voice mails on my personal phone which escalated to not being invited to meetings, disability discrimination both direct and third party. I’m partially deaf and was refused safety equipment that the same manager provided for another member of the workforce, being told I would gain no further promotion owing to my disability, being accused of lying about attending the hospital when our son, who is autistic, was rushed into hospital. So, I took that through the grievance procedure and the manager was moved to a more prestigious job with more responsibility and even perks. His PA developed stress and eventually resigned at his new place of work owing to his behavior and treatment towards her…I’ve been with the company for 15 years, and worked hard to get to where I was.