I’ve been really excited to see HuffPo writer, Janice Harper, bring regular thought provoking articles on the topic of workplace bullying and mobbing into the larger arena. Her latest piece, Top Ten Reasons To Rethink Anti-Bully Hysteria, caught the attention of Gary Namie, founder of the Workplace Bullying Institute.
“…Attacks on the movement are analogous to attacks on the originators and chief spokespersons — that’s us…”
It’s true that Gary Namie, does control and determine who is in or out of his small ‘elite’ legislative campaign to pass the WBI’s legislation. However, I was under the impression that Harper is part of the broader movement that encompasses people involved in this topic. Just as I feel my films and websites are part of that same large movement. To assume the role of “Gatekeeper” for an entire movement — that’s as dangerous and potentially deadly in movements as it is in workplaces.
Here’s one type of example of possible downsides. The body of a recent CNBC article, Wrangling the Workplace Bully, is structured around quotes from Namie as president of The Work Doctor, a company that is paid to develop anti-bullying policies for companies. Next, the article cites the the WBI Zogby poll and the Workplace Bullying Institute. And, with the exception of a few small outside quotes, the article ends with discussion about the Healthy Workplace Bill which has as its core to encourage employers to put bullying policies in place to avoid litigation.
It would seem that the reader is left with the impression they have read an in-depth article with a wide variety of sources. When in reality, I feel, they have heard an important topic that all of us need to be informed about funneled predominantly through one voice.
Of course there’s no law against Namie’s self-promotion in a lucrative and burgeoning field. But, it begs the question – what exactly did Harper write to deserve a personal attack rather than much needed open, frank and civil discussion.
“…We all await the publication of your own book, which your series of articles is no doubt meant to pre-promote. But we expect more than tales from the trenches by a wounded warrior whose perceptions have been distorted by horrific experiences. Too many newcomers to the field are so wounded they cannot separate their own injuries and resentments from them to see clearly what needs to be done.
Methinks that you will be a positivist, pollyanna, equivocator. You could use the moniker “Dr. FeelGood.” HR will love you. But your work will not help those abused at work. And your insistence on some of the principles you have espoused above will get you press coverage because you pose no threat to organizations that actually originate and sustain the conduct to which you were subjected. You will be seen as reasonable and corporate-friendly — the goal of all newcomers. You will be very TV-friendly. But will you be intellectually honest to audiences (and more importantly, to yourself, true to your self-perception)?”
Everyone involved in the workplace bullying movement should read the full critique of Harper’s article [here] and then ask yourself the same question of your movement that Namie demands of Harper.
I’m reminded of an HR advocates response to a similar blast on SHRM for opposing the WBI legislation. She ended a long carefully written letter with:
“So the real question here is – do you want the bill to pass or are you just trying to sell books or promote unions? If it is the former, then I recommend that you rewrite your responses to the SHRM opinion into a fashion where you respond to SHRM’s opinion and not personally attack the HR professional. If it is either of the latter two, then you are the one who is disingenuous and I will not support your Bill.”