Psychology Today’s new review of WhatKilledKevin.com was posted today! “It is a brilliant use of technology for which Peterson was awarded Best TransMedia Website at the 2013UFVA “Story First Conference,” and has been praised by The Washington Post for showing how complicated human relationships can be when explored in depth.” Check out the review: Documentary Asks Troubling Questions About Bullying Don’t forget to leave a comment on the PT article letting them know what you think…
Last night I caught an episode of Nurse Jackie. Paramedics quickly wheel a pregnant woman into the ER. Dr Cruz, the newest member of the team who also happens to be in charge of everyone, tells a very pregnant Dr. O’Hara to step aside so he can take control. It’s clear to viewers that Dr Cruz has falsely assumed he needs to protect a very pregnant, and therefore very weak, Dr. Ohara from an emotionally trying situation. Continue reading
[This article was published in May 2012. See our recent posts below]
Two weeks ago, the Washington Post published an article, “Documentary faults ‘bully’ label in U-Va. suicide,” about my film, WHAT KILLED KEVIN. Shortly after the reporter amended the actual article to include allegations from Waldo Jaquith, who is featured in the documentary, that I had “cherry picked” my interview with him to fit my “agenda.” [Note: Jaquith has never seen the film and you can see his video clip and my agenda below] In an unusual move the editors of the Washington Post have since removed all of his allegations and restored the article to its original form with a notice at the top apologizing for their editorial “lapse.” Why the controversy? My film dares to take a neutral stance in exploring the incident that put the term “workplace bullying” on the map by allowing the alleged bully to tell their side of the story. Within weeks of Kevin Morrissey’s suicide, Waldo was featured in a report by the Today Show that linked Kevin’s death to actions by his “bully boss,” Ted Genoways. As the WaPo states: “eventually the case was embraced as a textbook example of a manager’s verbal and psychological abuse of an employee. That reading is far too simple, argues Beverly Peterson… The film ultimately portrays Genoways as a victim — of overhyped reporting, and of exploitation by advocates of workplace-bullying legislation, who have used the case as a national exemplar.
This New Years I’m giving thanks to all of you who have supported my work and helped me create a powerful network of websites and videos. Top on the list is my tech guru and videographer, Patrick Perrotto, who has always been there. He freely donated the use of his state of the art broadcast quality equipment and did much of the driving.
Over the years we’ve been to Massachusetts, Texas, New Jersey, New York (numerous times), Virginia (numerous times), Pennsylvania and Canada and I even took a few solos to Wisconsin, Texas & Wales. Pat arranged for Ed Hollema to donate his services as Audio & Asst Camera. Let me put it this way, had we all been paid for our time, services, and equipment it would have easily cost upwards of $200,000+. I am forever indebted to them both. Feel free to help by making a donation of any size.
This year our most popular posts continue to cover a wide range of topics and issues related to workplace bullying. We continue to focus on our mission to critique and offer new voices and alternatives to the current dialogue. Two 2010 posts ( about Mediation & OSHA ) are still extremely popular. Here’s a recap for 2011: Continue reading
Shortly after Steve Jobs’ death hit the news, I caught an early morning round table discussion with Mike Daisey. He is funny! But, as he talked about his latest one-man show, The Agony and the Ecstasy of Steve Jobs, I was really hooked by his delight in shocking those members of his audience from Apple who outsource their product to factories in China.
“[The Agony And The Ecstasy] follows the standard line: Jobs was a combination of awesome visionary and ruthless businessman. He doesn’t tell us anything that we haven’t gleaned from Jobs’s obituaries, but that isn’t the point. The point is to ask us why we are not more troubled by the fact that our indispensable gadgets are assembled in part by children.” [The Financial Times review]
Surprisingly, I couldn’t google up a video of Daisey’s monologue – except one in which 87 members of a Christian advocacy group staged a walk out. But, I did find a Vimeo clip from Dream Work China, a documentary made by three Italian journalists who opened a photo shop across from the Shenzhen Foxconn factory [see video below]. They captured interviews with factory workers that represent the dreams of the millions of young Chinese migrant workers who leave their homes and families and travel long distances to work in factories – like Foxconn just across the street. Probably most disturbing are the scenes of dormitories with packed balconies overlooking the nets hung below as a painful memory of the suicides.
About a year before his death, the Daily Mail quoted Jobs as defending the conditions at Foxconn:
‘You go in this place and it’s a factory but, my gosh, they’ve got restaurants and movie theatres and hospitals and swimming pools. For a factory, it’s pretty nice,’ he said.
Jobs has been extremely outspoken about the need for his employees to be passionate about the products they create. To bad this desire to inspire others and the understanding of the need for a creative and meaningful life didn’t trickle down. Then again, this is the same man who, according to his official biography hitting the bookstores Monday, personally complained to President Obama that regulations on business are too tough to build factories here. And, was frustrated that Obama was so focused on trying to understand why things happen.
“In the suburbs of Shenzhen, in Guangdong province, young workers talk about their lives, existences built on a precarious balance between hope, struggles and wishes for the future. Around them activists and NGOs strive to give sense and meaning to words like rights, dignity and equity.”
Visit the Dream Work China for more information
Here’s an hour long interview with Mike Daisey from CSpan
This week, advocates in a dozen states are taking part in “OurBullyPulpit’s Take Action Screenings” to raise public awareness about workplace bullying. Many are advocates for pending legislation, which in most states is the Healthy Workplace Bill [HWB]. But, the HWB they’re fighting for includes a $25K Cap on our (victims’s) emotional distress portion for those who haven’t lost their jobs, been demoted or suffered any other negative action. You also have to prove malice and health harm. The argument by the drafter of the HWB is that a purposely low Cap and high hurdles will help avoid “frivolous lawsuits.”
But, using Caps to avoid “frivolous lawsuits” is the battle cry for Tort Reform and so far much of the success from this effort has been the ability to place low monetary caps on court settlements. Wisconsin’s controversial Governor just passed a tough reform in his state.
The powerful documentary, Hot Coffee, which premiered on HBO this summer, has fired up the national debate and helps demystify commonly held misconceptions for us laymen. We all want a law to stop bully bosses. But, each of us has the right to ask that a law reflects our desires and concerns. Those that want to can easily ask their legislator to strike the Cap out of the bill. Please read the insightful Atlantic article excerpted below and see the movie:
Everyone has their own spin for so-called “tort reform” laws. Here’s mine: In each instance, state legislators, who are elected largely through corporate donations, have acted to reduce the authority and ability of jurors to render meaningful verdicts against corporations. These lawmakers have interceded to protect corporate interests in advance, via statutes that nullify the facts of individual tort cases, with arbitrary damage caps that are designed more to protect wrongful defendants from liability than protect the victims of their wrongdoing. And the state judiciary, also now being bought and paid for in many states, has followed the lead of the legislative branch in undermining the role of the jury.
No one wants a “frivolous” lawsuit but what exactly is that, anyway? And who is better to decide what is “frivolous” or not? The lawmaker who caps out damage awards based upon the views of the lobbyist who has made a campaign contribution? Or you and your neighbor sitting in judgment on a plaintiff and her case? No want wants an “excessive” jury award but what exactly constitutes “excessive?” Was it excessive for the Gourleys to want the corporate defendants, and their insurance carriers, to pay the $6 million it will take to pay for Colin’s care? Nebraska lawmakers made that decision for the family, in advance, without regard to the facts of their case. Were they better equipped than the Gourleys’ jury to evaluate the definition of the word “excessive”?
The message has been simple: Corporations are being preyed upon by plaintiffs, trial lawyers, and juries, each of whom are involved in some sort of cosmic conspiracy to transfer wealth from the rich to the poor by virtue of a damage-award verdicts. This propaganda implies that this redistribution of corporate wealth in this fashion is unconstitutional or otherwise unfair. The narrative also pits neighbor against neighbor, juror against juror, and thereby undermines both the letter and the spirit of the Seventh Amendment, which codifies a right to civil trial by jury.
In short, the “tort reform” movement has largely succeeded in making jurors out to be anti-American vengeance-mongers, a mob of citizens unhinged by law or logic and set loose upon innocent corporations. This is all wrong. Tort reform isn’t democratic because the people’s wishes are being expressed through state legislation. It’s anti-democratic because the lobbyists have succeeded in taking away the power of individual plaintiffs and jurors to set damage awards at an amount they feel is just. Remember, no damage award has ever been handed out to a plaintiff who lost a tort case against a company.
How has this marketing campaign been so successful for so long when it’s so obviously built on so many misconceptions about the justice system? Easy. For decades, the media machine dutifully has played along. Indeed, one of the most striking parts of Hot Coffee is its consistent use of old news broadcasts to highlight the extent to which journalists, on the whole, have miserably failed to explain the true nature of ”tort reform” to their audience. So many people uninformed about the nature of a jury’s work! So many people underinformed about who benefits and who is burdened by tort reform!
Advocating With Film To Raise Awareness About Workplace Bullying
Many thanks for your surprising support! Advocates and victim/targets all over the country – and even Australia – are taking part in our “use film to create change“ initiative for both individual and community actions.
Some of the actions include:
- Screening Party
- Mailing DVD to local legislators
- Town Hall Meeting
- College courses
- Sharing with fellow employees who are being bullied
- Sharing with family members, friends, and co-workers to show the impact of workplace bullying and validate the experience
- Donating to local library
DVDs have gone out to people across the country in states including:
- New York
- New Jersey
- and even outside the U.S. to Australia
ABOUT THE INIITIATIVE:
Wow! The DVD’s featuring moving personal stories that we offered yesterday for free to use in fighting against workplace bullying have been claimed! However, for a limited time or until they run out, if you are in the U.S. and willing to pay for postage we will send one to each person who emails a request. The only caveat is the same – you have to let us know how you used the DVD to educate others about this issue. Be creative and get the word out! [More Information]
Each DVD contains Tracey’s Law, Marlene’s Law, Jodie’s Law, and the first episode of What Really Killed Kevin Morrissey. Use PayPalto pay for shipping and receive a Free DVD or Send your request to OurBullyPulpit@gmail.com
In 2010 I posted my short documentary “Jodie’s Law” about a young woman who her family alleges committed suicide due to workplace bullying. This is an update from her Aunt:
We have received tremendous response from your documentary both Nationally and around the world.
We/My family always felt if sharing the heartbreak of our family would help save one life, our efforts and Jodie’s death would not have been in vain. Having taken that step forward, has brought many to us who have told us they were prepared to take their life when they saw your documentary or read our stories, and they pulled back from the brink, saving their loved ones the pain they endured. Normally those accounts have also been accompanied with statements of renewed courage to face their situation, their bully, or find a different job.
There have also been e-mails asking to speak with me directly as they were contemplating taking their lives. With my heart in my throat, I felt I could not dial their phone numbers quickly enough. But through the mercy of God, I reached each caller, listening to the pain of their experiences and the dire choices they believed were in front of them. These callers repeatedly expressed their gratitude; but I too felt grateful, as helping is part of healing ones broken heart. Though there are times I still hold my breath when we interact, most have found their footing and belief in themselves. This does not mean there was a rosy job in front, just waiting for them. The struggles have been long and hard; but joyfully many have gone on to find new and fulfilling careers. For those who continue to struggle, I remind them they are the heros, for they are survivors; as well as hold them in my heart and prayers.
Add “Teeth”to Pending Legislation:
Passage of Healthy Workplace Legislation seems to drag on. Perhaps this is the way it goes when trying to pass a law. I admit I am still a novice to the roll of Citizen Lobbyist. The political outlook in Wisconsin has been very dire. Yet, State Representative Kelda Roys, and Senator Jon Erpenbach, sponsors of the Wisconsin bill, assure me that Jodie’s Law (as we like to call it) has not been lost on them; they are simply waiting for a more favorable political climate.
We, as a family find it discouraging that many working on the legislation insist on calling it a Healthy Workplace Bill as opposed to an Anti-Bullying bill. We think there has been so much news in the media about bullying, that it should no longer be considered an aggressive term when working for a law against it in the workplace. There are few people who are not familiar with the term Bullying when it comes to schools and young people, as the numerous pieces of legislation indicate. Also the idea that the law would have to prove malice seems unacceptable. It is not required in other protected status laws, so it does not seem wise to set a precedent now.
Also, we would like to see a tougher stance to adding some financial teeth if employer negligence is found. I/we have not given up on these bills. We write, call, sign petitions, and anything else we can feasibly do to help them along. I try to keep up with all that is posted on Facebook, writing responses, opinions, bringing up Jodie’s story, etc. and always including the link to your documentary. We are in the process of having a brochure of Jodie’s story printed so we may easily hand it out when people ask about our button that we still wear with Jodie’s picture & caption Workplace Bullying Breaks Hearts
I am chagrined there are times it all gets to be too much for me and my spirit sags and I find myself on the verge of days of depression. Jodie’s Mom encourages me to take a break from it all for now, or maybe for always, as she says Jodie would be proud of what I have accomplished and she would not want to see me ruin my health or lose the joy of life. So I have been giving myself permission to do just that.
Expanding Advocacy Efforts:
We sisters have talked some about focusing our work towards the children and teens anti-bullying issues. Perhaps developing a program geared towards talking with children and teens, as well as parents, teachers, administrative leaders, as well as school boards and city/county board members. Jodie was a leading member of DECA in her high school and we feel the DECA program would be a good place to start. This is all in the talking stages for us, put we do feel at times our efforts would be better spent in that direction. Many States have passed Anti Bullying laws for children and schools, so we may have a better foot in the door. Growing our citizens of tomorrow with an understanding of the damage caused bullying and the benefits of tolerance, may in the end bring the best results. Hopefully their parents would be learning right along with the kids, and then start to stand up for their own rights in the workplace as well.
We have been appalled at the number of suicides among young peopled. In Wisconsin a teen attempted set himself on fire, and in Minnesota two middle-school girls made a suicide pact and hung themselves, all due to bullying. Jodie’s daughter is now 10 years old. These stories have scared me to death! Over dinner I spoke with our little girl about what they are taught in school about bullying. It seems it is discussed frequently, as she had a lot to tell me. I also gave her a book about bullying published by the American Doll company. Because she has a very active 6 year old brother, we never got a chance to get back to the book or the subject, but at least it is a start. We have not yet broached the subject of suicide. It seems like such a cruel topic to confront and we have not had the right moment to talk with her Daddy about it and what and when he thinks the subject should come up. It is still all very heartbreaking but everyone is heroically carrying on and doing what each of us can to help the other along.
Jodie’s husband is doing a great job in raising the children, though he seems to steer pretty carefully away from any serious discussions with us about Jodie, and all that has occurred, yet relations between all of us are becoming more comfortable. He brought the kids to Florida for the first time since Jodie’s passing. We all went to Disney World & then spent Thanksgiving at Grandma Jean (Jodie’s Mom).
He has his hands full keeping the kids clothes clean, as well as the house, seeing their home work is done, fixing their meals, getting them to school and to bed, girl-scouts, religion classes, swimming, soccer, T-ball, and even coaching their teams. He loves the children very much. I think I can safely say they are his world, and the kids feel the same. Jodie’s daughter is very protective of her brother and watches over him and her Daddy like she is a little mother – sometimes more than either male of the house appreciates.
Grandma Jean (my sister & Jodie’s Mom) & I had a wonderful but short visit with them in August. We spent two nights at their place, where among other things we played salon and Jodie’s daughter gave us facials and did my hair (!) and her brother painted my fingernails and make-up. I only regret we did not take pictures of the end results! We …spent lots of time with their Auntie Lisa (Jodie’s sister in your video) and a lot of time in the swimming pool. It is always hard to say goodbye.
It is important to note that no single factor leads to suicide and Jodie’s employer did not respond to an offer to participate in the documentary.
Why Tracey’s Story Is So Important:
To me, Tracey’s story shows how complicated the answer is to the first question that victims are always asked: “if you don’t like it there why don’t you just get another job?” Personally, I began making films about workplace bullying because I was smack in the middle of my own office drama. I was attracted to Tracey’s story because she was about to go on a journey that represented my worst fears. I needed to find bully free work but I was terrified what would happen if I didn’t land one of the 2 open jobs I was qualified for in the Metro NYC area — where my husband is employed, our careers are based, and our friends and family live. I knew I was extremely lucky to land one. Part of the short documentary I made about Tracey’s situation included scenes of her daughter, Kali, lobbying for legislation while her mom was traveling around the Carolinas and Georgia looking for a job. It’s been nearly over 3 years since I filmed that deeply moving scene with Kali yet still no legislation has passed.
Tracey: Why do I think there has not been a HWB passed yet is a tough question to a tougher answer. Personally, I do not like the bill to begin with. I believe it is too corporate friendly in that there is no really big reason for corporates to embrace a law that has very small consequences. Having a cap on the claim a target can obtain is ludicrious. My real belief though is that there continues to be a blindfold on this real issue to our senators and congress men and women. While some have been very supportive, others don’t. I find this rather silly when I sit and listen to how the parties behave in the senate and treat each other. They are bullies! I don’t really know why the bill hasn’t passed but I’d sure like to hear other’s opinions on it.
Q: Is there anything you would particularly like to add…
Tracey: I want to thank everybody who have worked tirelessly at getting a HWB passed. I know that many of you have suffered personally due to tragedies that happen in the workplace. My heart is with you. I hope that one day I might feel better to re-join you but in the meanwhile, know that my heart is with you all and I am so grateful for all your work.
Q: It’s actually been several years (close to 4?) since I first came up to meet and film with you. At that time you were moving South to try to find work. People who have seen TRACEY’S LAW have been deeply moved by your story and I was wondering if you could tell us what your situation is now?
Tracey: When I left [upstate NY] 5 years ago for North Carolina to find work, I was very excited about starting a new life in a new area. I had always loved NC and had family living there as well so I had no doubts that everything would work out. I was so wrong. My timing could not have been worse. The economy had just hit its first traces of the recession and jobs in NC were not as plentiful as it had always been. I sent out 100′s of resumes and met with dozens of agencies and was unsuccessful in finding work. I had the skills but there were no jobs.
After six months of seeking employment there, I moved down to the Atlanta, GA area where I had more family. For six months I looked for a job there and it seemed the job market was even worse there than it was in NC. I finally gave up and returned to my own family in [upstate NY], feeling like quite a failure. My family was very welcoming as I had expected and I immediately picked up some temporary positions that I was overly qualified for but grateful to accept.
Once those dried out I interviewed at a retail chain and have been there for nearly 3 years. It has been an eye opener in the different workplaces I have been in to see that workplace bullying is so common and occurs in so many forms; primarily, however, in the form of psychological bullying which is so hard to prove. Documenting psychological harrasment is difficult because it happens behind closed doors most of the time. People are afraid to speak out because they are afraid for their jobs. I have worked with several people who were currently being psychologically abused in the workplace and they were miserable and afraid – which led to them making silly mistakes in their jobs and giving their bully even more ammunition to use against them.
I, too, took over a temp positon that others in the department called “the dart board”. Wow. So others in executive level positions could see what was happening to the person in this role and they too were silent about it. In this position I was cursed at and yelled at and told I was not good enough for the position as a full time permanent. At another time, the same person told me I was over-qualified for it. One thing that did change, however, I didn’t take the abuse sitting down and faced it head on when it happened. I was in charge of how people were going to talk to me and if they didn’t like it, it was just a temp job anyhow. Currently working at [name withheld], I see mostly age discrimination. Being 52 years old, I am supervised by executives more than half my age who know a fourth of what I know about managing people. They call each other and sales floor employees names, but I don’t forget to tell them how unprofessional it is and that seems to be all it takes. At least it doesn’t happen around me. I continue to be depressed and have times when I feel post traumatically stressed. I have migraines that last for days.
In March of 2011 I was awarded social security disability benefits retroactive two years. I am now on disability but continue to work about 20 hours a week. I went from being a successful single mother who owned my own home and had a career that paid me 56K/yr to a person on disability working [retail], and filing a 2010 income tax of just over 9K! I live with my mother and my daughter.
Since the documentary was made, my mother had an addition added on the house and I have a beautiful bedroom with a private sitting area for my own privacy. I have been to my State Capitol to testify and lobby for a workplace bullying law, but have decided it stirs up my emotions too much and I feel helpless in getting a bill passed.
Our Bully Pulpit combines the power of original documentary film and the reach of multiple media platforms to spark a movement that exposes the devastating effects of workplace bullying. Accurate information, reliable sources, new voices and new ideas are all housed within the new interactive home at ourbullypulpit.com.
Catherine Mattice, president of Civility Partners, LLC, a consulting firm focused on eradicating bullying and other negative behaviors, says, “There are a lot of consultants, therapists, professionals and targets with a point of view and lessons learned to share. Our Bully Pulpit provides a means for them to be heard and to learn from each other. Bullying can only be eradicated if we all work together.”
Real People/Reel Stories of Workplace Bullying
No longer a silent epidemic in the U.S., the workplace bullying issue is increasingly being exposed as a devastating mental, emotional and financial burden for both employees and employers. Founded by documentary filmmaker Beverly Peterson, Our Bully Pulpit provides a forum for informed discussion, will tackle misconceptions about workplace harassment, and will provide tools for legislative and institutional change. Opportunities for experts and the general public—including those most directly affected—to join the dialogue, are the cornerstone of Our Bully Pulpit’s mission to encourage trans-media conversation and action. Last year Ms. Peterson presented portions of this project at the prestigious 2010 7th International Conference on Workplace Bullying & Harassment in Cardiff, Wales.
“For over four years I’ve been using my skills as a filmmaker to tell powerful and emotional stories of victims of workplace bullying,” says Ms. Peterson. “I’m deeply moved by the conversations that the films have inspired and am expanding my efforts to illuminate more aspects of this damaging issue while at the same time providing a portal for journalists, legislators, practitioners, researchers and targets of workplace abuse to come together.”
Documentary Footage, Resources and a Cross-Media Digital Platform
Currently, the first of nine web installments of Ms. Peterson’s original documentary, “What Really Killed Kevin Morrissey?” is accessible on ourbullypulpit.com, and the remaining installments will be rolled out on the web over the next several months. The documentary footage examines the controversial story that made headlines one year ago: the suicide of Kevin Morrissey of literary journal Virginia Quarterly Review and allegations that his boss and editor, Ted Genoways, had bullied him. The first installment’s launch was featured in an article in the Chronicle of Higher Education written by, Robin Wilson, the first journalist to report about Kevin’s suicide. “What Really Killed Kevin Morrissey?” illuminates and sparks debate on the complicating factors woven into the fabric of workplace bullying, turning the conventional conversation around bullying and harassment on its head.
“It’s a ‘transmedia’ approach. By utilizing every available platform to us, including film, the Internet and digital tools like Facebook, Twitter, YouTube and Wikipages, we can dig a little deeper and make real progress in a shorter amount of time,” added Ms. Peterson.