March 8, 1998 the Washington Post published an Op-Ed in response to a Supreme Court decision, Oncale v. Sundowner. Sadly, the essence of this Op-Ed still resonates today: “Predicating harassment suits on discrimination is also something of a mismatch; what bothers people about abusive workplace conduct, after all, is not the fact that it may be discriminatory but that it is abusive in the first place… Congress should decouple Continue reading
Defense Secretary Chuck Hagel has acknowledged the immediate need to combat sexual abuse and harassment in all branches of the military. This will require major overhauls in how the military approaches sexual misconduct amid allegations that one of the people running a prevention program was guilty of the same abuse. “We have a problem with respect for women that leads to many of the situations that result in sexual assault in our Air Force,” Gen. Mark Welsh told reporters in a lengthy interview in his Pentagon offices [Time Magazine ] The Invisible War, the 2012 chilling Academy Award nominated documentary features haunting testimony from rape victims in the military.
Last week Pima County, Arizona implemented policy D.23.1 Preventing, Identifying and Addressing Workplace Bullying for their County employees. [D23-1 ] New rule: witnesses along with anyone who was made aware of behavior that may satisfy the definition of workplace bullying must now report the incident/s.
Many of us who have suffered the damage of working for an abusive boss have dreamed of the day that our co-workers would step in to help. However, this policy is missing the necessary contextual discussion that helps employees understand the important distinction between conflict and bullying. Only two of the 27 examples of bullying included in the policy reference the fact that bullying must be repeated and none recognize that bullying takes place over time. These actions need to be part of a pattern of abuse. Continue reading
Utah’s HB 196, Abusive Workplace Policies Act, was defeated last spring but it had some unique and refreshing aspects. Despite placing the ill-conceived hurdle of “malice” in the path of victim/targets — something even Healthy Workplace Bill (HWB) advocates are finally acknowledging needs to be retired — HB 196 would have required Utah’s state agencies to create policies and conduct management trainings to protect their public employees. Most experts agree that the key to stopping and preventing workplace bullying rests in the hands of the employer. And, in this case state agencies could have simply expanded harassment, discrimination, or workplace violence training already in place — similar to municipalities like Ventura County, California have done recently. [see our article on Ventura]. This bill was supported by the Utah Public Employees Association. UPEA also supported HB 251: Utah Personnel Management Act Amendments saying, “as a result of a 2010 legislative audit noting that only 8% of state managers have any management training, UPEA asked Rep. Brad Daw to sponsor this bill, which requires DHRM to develop a manager and supervisor training.” Looks like those legislative audits come in handy after all.
Too many victims of bullying and harassment have seen their reputations torn to shreds as they struggle to heal and find new employment. In 2010 Dr. Katherine Murphy lost sexual harassment and retaliation claims against the Aventura City charter school she helped found and Aventura City Manager Eric Soroka. Later an Appeals Court upheld the verdict stating she was unable to prove a hostile work environment and, based on the testimony of co-workers, Soroka did not “single out females as targets for the profanity”:
Murphy testified that she asked Soroka to stop bullying her and that she complained to a former supervisor, Soroka’s assistant, and a city commissioner that Soroka had used “vulgar, inappropriate language,” and engaged in “bullying, yelling, [and] screaming.” Murphy failed to report Soroka’s conduct, formally or informally, to her employer, and Murphy acknowledged that she did not complain to Soroka’s assistant or the city commissioner that Soroka’s conduct was sexually hostile or sexually harassing. The district court correctly entered summary judgment against Murphy’s complaint of retaliation.
Fast forward two years to November 2012. Murphy wins a whopping $155 million for defamation, conspiracy, and intentional infliction of emotional distress. The Miami Herald reports that: Continue reading
Years ago when I made my first documentary on the topic of workplace bullying & harassment I found the old training film for secretarial schools posted below. In it a young-ish woman is about to take her first clerical position. No one bothered to mention to her that she’d probably be called “girl” “sweetie” “honey” or that her bosses would make rude insinuations she’d have to ignore in order to keep her job. That enlightenment was still decades away. Here’s a link to a great resource with thorough information on sexual harassment laws today. I send a big warm hug to all of the women who worked so hard over the decades to fight for our rights. Continue reading
When Policies Don’t Work
I would give anything to have the U.S. replicate the broad national investigation of abuse in our work cultures that Australia is currently undergoing. [sign our petition] At least we can watch from halfway around the world and learn from information being presented. Because, one of the issues being discussed is that policies in the workplace need certain components if they are going to be effective. Unfortunately, here in America the most popular template for legislation, the Healthy Workplace Bill, doesn’t even require employers to put policies in place much less dictate that the point person for employees to complain to should be separate from HR. Hopefully that will change and the bill will be amended by some smart legislator before it passes. Continue reading
Find your representative and send them a copy of the Care2 petition bearing over 7600 signatures. Ask them to join the fight to stop workplace bullying. If you’ve experienced this abuse first hand or have expertise in this area you can add your own information as well. Continue reading
This week the Pew Research Center released a survey showing that 4 in 10 Americans feel the sexual harassment claims against Herman Cain are true and that, on balance, media coverage has been fair. It’s hard to imagine any issue in today’s hotly political climate that doesn’t change when looked at in terms of party. So, not surprisingly Pew found that Democrats are far more likely to believe the allegations. Here’s where it gets weird. Cain remains in the news for condescendingly swiping at Speaker Pelosi with the label “Princess” and reportedly making jokes about whether Anita Hill would support him. Even the NY Daily News pointedly reported: Herman Cain, GOP presidential hopeful accused of sexual harassment, frequent defense: It was a ‘joke.’ At first glance it would appear that Cain is insensitive to the feelings of those Republican women who choose to follow him. However, he may actually be playing to his crowd. The really interesting numbers in the Pew Survey pop out when it’s broken down by both partisanship & gender. Check out the table below.
…But among Republican and Republican-leaners, women are more likely than men to say they think the allegations are false…
I was fascinated by a recent series of articles in the Huffington Post written by Dr. Janice Harper and decided to learn more about her work. [Harper is the author of MOBBED! A SURVIVAL GUIDE TO ADULT BULLYING AND MOBBING ] Her 2010 paper, Just Us Justice, is the culmination of lessons learned from a chilling personal experience with mobbing in the workplace. Anyone uncomfortable that she links this phenomena to lessons learned from the Holocaust should read the in-depth article, Trial by FBI Investigation. The author details Harper’s horrific descent into what has been called an academic witch hunt.
I decided to give her a call and quickly found myself deep in conversation with a fascinating woman. She gave me permission to re-print excerpts of Just Us Justice which include Harper’s own perspective on how to survive mobbing. As important, she raises questions about the efficacy of laws, “zero tolerance,” and the “bully label.”
Just Us Justice
…If you are being mobbed, take an honest look at yourself and your own behaviors in fueling the aggression. Doing so does not in any way justify the violence that is being directed toward you, but just as you learn not to look a grizzly bear in the eyes if you should come across one, figure out what you are doing that is provoking your attackers. Don’t confront your attackers. Retreat, quietly document everything, but get your resume together and start applying for jobs – even if you don’t want to leave. Protect your reputation, safeguard your security and increase your options for escape. Do not accept any claims that you deserve this treatment, but do not accept the victim label, either. You have been mobbed because you have done something – however well meaning, however benign, however unintended to hurt anyone, however legal – but you have done something to trigger a violent reaction in others. The sooner you are able to identify what you have done to trigger these emotions, the sooner you can change your own behaviors and more favorably influence perceptions of you until the mob either diffuses, or you get out of their reach and into a new future…
How Survival Operates
Fighting the mob is like fighting a grizzly bear. When the bear goes after you, friends are going to run as fast as they can – away from the bear. And if you run in their direction with a grizzly hot on your trail, they will be outraged – not at the bear, but at you for putting them at risk. So what do you do once the bear gets a hold of you? Have a fair fight? Give that bear everything you’ve got? Good luck.
The more you fight a grizzly bear, and the longer you are visible and moving, the meaner that bear is going to get. What that means in an organizational setting is that you are no longer engaged in the warfare of work, but are instead facing a genocidal process. Leadership has given the signal that you are to be eliminated and it is okay to attack you, the mob has formed and the bear is coming your way. The more you fight the mob, the more force will be used to compel your elimination – regardless of how accurate, fair or even legal the claims are that are used to justify your elimination. Your anger will be treated as evidence of threatening behavior, your fear will be evidence of paranoid thinking, your confusion will be evidence of your erratic state and mental impairment, and your impaired productivity – from having your responsibilities taken away, your contributions ignored, your time invested in specious “investigations” and fighting for your job, and your emotions exhausted by the sheer weight of the battle – will become evidence that you can’t do the job. Importantly, reason – and public scrutiny – will not stop the aggression, but intensify it. The more you demonstrate that the attacks against you are wrong, illegal and just plain cruel, the more wrong, illegal and cruel they will become.
In order to survive, it may be helpful to take a lesson from those who survived the Holocaust. When the Holocaust got underway, those who fled early suffered the least and recovered the fastest. The longer a potential target remained in the shadow of the genocide, the more they suffered. Thus, the moment you discern the first scent of mobbing heading your way, lay low; if the mobbing has progressed, play dead. It may be necessary to file internal complaints to preserve potential legal claims, but the more you do, the more the aggression will intensify, so ask yourself if you really want to go that route. You may well lose your job unfairly, even illegally, and suffer grave losses as a result. But battling the grizzly bear can cost you your life.
To save it, consider these tactics:
- The more evidence you produce to defeat your attackers’ claims and actions, the more determined they will be to get rid of you – which means finding fault any way they can. Mobbing is not a conflict over facts and reasons, but a conflict over power and emotion. Reserve the evidence for future legal claims if you must, but whatever evidence you provide, keep it to a minimum, fact based, and stripped of emotion or counter-attacks. It may be helpful to have an attorney or pragmatic friend – unassociated with the workplace – draft your complaints or responses for you to be submitted in your name, to minimize the emotion.
- Communicate to your closest friends and colleagues at work (or wherever it is that you are being mobbed) that you want to keep them out of this and will be keeping your distance until this is over. They will be relieved, grateful to you, and have less reason to turn on you. Get your emotional support elsewhere.
- Do not assume that if your conflict involves your status as a member of a group of people (by gender, race, ideology, whatever) that other members of the group will support you, no matter how blatant the discrimination. They will be courted by management, provided rewards, and they will be afraid. They will almost always turn against you. The exception to this rule is when the group has been established within the organization for some time and they are secure with their positions – in other words, they have critical mass. The less diversity within the organization and the more recent the diversification of the workplace, the more likely the other members of the group will declare that there is no discrimination and you are the problem.
- Similarly, do not expect that if you file a sexual harassment action, that feminists will support you, and do not expect that if you are accused of sexual harassment, that men will support you – no matter how vocal they have been about their views on the topic. For the same reasons that those closest to you and a member of your same group are likely to turn on you, you will be alone if you file, or are subjected to, any internal investigation.
- Do not expect that a person’s political ideology, stated values, or religion will have any bearing on how they respond to your attack. The more they are committed to a moral framework, the more strongly they will likely condemn you so that they can persuade themselves that they are acting within their moral code.
- Beware the bully label. If you are angry, complain, or express anything negative, you can expect to be labeled a bully at some point in the mobbing process. Zero tolerance policies for bullying, sexual harassment, racism, discrimination, and workplace violence might sound like progress, but they enable an organization to justify eliminating anyone once they are accused of any of these offenses. Lay low so that you are not accused.
- Bear in mind that the most effective accusations are those which are outlandish, and/or contrary to everything you openly believe in, a principle which Joseph Goebbels well understood when he advised Hitler that if you tell a lie big enough and often enough, people will believe it. If you openly oppose sexual abuse, you may well be accused of sexual misconduct. If you openly oppose racism, you may well be accused of making racist remarks.
- This is because people tend to believe an accusation of such nature could not possibly be made unless there was some evidence to support it.
- Moreover, as people are conditioned to view you adversely and be prompted by “concern” for you and to “watch for” certain signs, they will see what they are told to look for.
- Do not expect threats of lawsuits, appearances by attorneys, internal investigations, transparency, or reporters to calm the storm. It will worsen it. If you consult an attorney, do not let your employers know. An attorney eager for a lawsuit will probably not have your best interest in mind.
- Get out. No matter what the cost, mobbing is not something most survive. Take pro-active steps to protect your health, career and finances by finding new employment, before your reputation and your spirit are destroyed. Whatever the costs of leaving, consider your assets and preserve then. Leave before your reputation is destroyed, your finances wiped out by attorney fees, your spirit savagely attacked. When you are at war, you can win. But mobbing is not a form of warfare, it is a form of genocide, and the only way to survive genocide is to flee.
- Bullied or Mobbed at Work? Read The New Survival Guide (bullyinworkplace.com)
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 the struggle to combat workplace bullying it’s important to admit that we worker bees aren’t always perfect. Weak managers can quickly lose the respect of their team only to watch them spiral hopelessly out of control and even mob up on their leader. In the interesting Businessweek article below, Jeff Schmitt tells bosses how to “kick ass” without being psychologically abusive:
A guide to reading your employees the riot act: Time to lay down the law? Some points to consider before you do
“If I go down, you’re all going down with me.”
Our manager had finally crossed the line with this comment. She had delivered fire-and-brimstone speeches before. But this was different. Suddenly, she wasn’t Vince Lombardi Light, looking to get back to basics. Instead she had degenerated into a narcissistic despot who’d stoop to using us as human shields. She was passing the buck and covering herself. She may have considered it motivation. We saw it as a meltdown.
At some point, every manager must unload a kick-in-the-ass speech. Even the best teams get cocky and careless; they forget what’s important and what got them there. But here’s a reality check: If you have to deliver “The Speech,” you’re probably failing as a manager. Before you let loose with the grand oration, maybe you need a wake-up call. Sure, there’s truth in the adage about tearing people down to build them back up. But getting your team back on track requires more than threats and cursing. Want to really get their attention? Read the following recommendations.
1. Consider if The Speech is merited
Sure, you’re disappointed with performance. Before you go Knute Rockne, consider if the situation warrants an explosion … or coaching. Are you nearing a tipping point where financials or expectations dictate an intervention? Is there a broader motif, such as slow service, that could spill into critical areas such ascustomer retention? Should this diatribe be public and include everyone or could it be handled privately with certain members? Most important, what do you want to achieve? Bottom line: Weigh the offense against your options and the desired response.
2. Come with a plan
You’re probably tempted to graphically challenge their commitment and competence. But you’ll only look clumsy if you ad-lib The Speech. You want your team squirming, stomachs sinking, minds racing. That requires strategy: a bolo-punch opening, unassailable arguments, and a call to action that echoes for weeks. Even more, it demands rehearsing to get tone, pace, posture, and gestures just right. Fact is, you only get one or two speeches before your team tunes you out. Make this one count.
3. Don’t fly off the handle
A loose cannon. That’s how you’ll be labeled if you can’t control your emotions. They’ll snicker and lampoon you to everyone within earshot. Your anger, however genuine, must be calibrated for effect. Before you venture into the lion’s den, step back, breathe, and relax. Remember, an icy resolve often commands more attention than a rant. A pause can be as lethal as a pejorative.
4. Prep them
Surprise! Surprise! No, your speech shouldn’t come as a shock. In fact, it should hark back to previous fireside chats, where you focused on listening and understanding. Back then, you expected that your coaching would establish how important the task at hand was. But the time for such niceties has passed. A hands-on approach is needed. They can’t say they didn’t see it coming.
5. Cite specific examples
The Speech is no time for generalizations. Be specific: What actions and underlying sentiments are creating tensions and why are they unproductive and inappropriate? How has it affected customers and other departments? Of course, outline how these shenanigans have hit the radar of those above you — and what consequences will follow if they continue.
6. Keep it short
Your job is to shake them up and leave a lasting impression. The less said, the better. Let their imaginations run wild; it’ll keep your message on top. Don’t go off on tangents or pile on, either. It will only dilute your message. Cut quickly and deeply, then move on.
7. Set expectations
You’ve identified the problem. Now what? Start by leaving no ambiguity with the takeaways. Specify exactly what you expect, along with when and how. Don’t forget to spell out the repercussions for failing to meet these expectations. Hammer home that the time for second chances has long passed.
8. Monitor your own behavior
Their eyes will probably glaze over during your speech. Why? They’ve been mirroring your behavior. Is it any wonder you haven’t been getting through? Address it in your speech. Accept some blame and summarize how you’ll change. Then hold yourself as accountable as you hold your team for the result.
9. Rebuild bridges
You go to battle with the people you have, not necessarily the ones you want. Afterward, your team will make excuses and entertain mutiny. That’s why you need to quickly reel them back. Reach out, one by one, to tutor, praise, and motivate. You’ve shared what needed to be said. Now convey through action that there are no hard feelings. Don’t let them confuse you with the message.
10. Follow up
You’ve thrown down the gauntlet. But the weeks following The Speech will ultimately determine its success. That’s why you need to stay on the issue. Address it in interactions and meetings and constantly collect results. And when the time is right, celebrate. You may have devised the plan, but your team will ultimately win the battle.
Managmement Today [UK] gives advice on how to deal with BIG EGOS:
If you are their boss
This is your key responsibility – so don’t shirk it, even if they are your star performer. It is rare in business today that one person can do everything; you need the whole team to succeed. Tackle them directly, and in private. The key message is ‘You are great, and you could be even better’. Focus on the fact that this type of behaviour is hindering their promotion prospects.
If you are their colleague
Remember to have the right mindset – you are not trying to put them down, you are trying to help them to be more effective. Tackle them in private, and if you can get another colleague to come along too then that helps. You need to show them that it’s not just ‘you versus them’ but that there is a wider consensus within the team that things need to change. Focus on giving them alternative behaviour strategies.
If you are an underling
This isn’t your responsibility – but you can transform the working environment and your own reputation positively if you choose to tackle the big egos – remember David and Goliath. Strange as it may seem, it’s best to tackle them in a very public forum: our culture does not allow egotists to crush the little people, so you will get back up from others. Focus on how their behaviour is demoralising you and others – so the emphasis is not on them, but the effect it has on you. Try and have a word with one of their work colleagues beforehand so you know you have an instant ally.
We all want great strikers on our team who can get the ball in the back of the net at the critical time. We all accept that with some of these skills is bound to come a good dollop of personal ego, and we can cope with it most of the time. We also all have a duty to stand up to these egos when they get too big for their boots
“She had her agenda – to get rid of me”
Q: Can you describe what form the bullying took where you worked?
Tracey: My bullying experience was psychological. if you have seen the video, “Tracey’s Law,” you will see that I was an emotional wreck when I finally left my job of nearly 20 years after being bullied for only 6 mnoths. I was a high-level employee, an office manager, and my bully was new to the institution. She had her agenda – to get rid of me but to have me quit instead of firing me (even though I was employed at will). She isolated me from co-workers by putting space between us and telling me I was not allowed to talk to any of them. She gave me time-relevant assignments to do without the necessary resources to complete the task efficiently. She lied about me, talked about my performance (or lack thereof) behind my back, and alienated me from coworkers I had been with for nearly 20 years. My bullying was thoroughly and successfully psychological.
Tracey: Since my bully was a new hire, and my supervisor, I sought out different ways of working with her that I thought may be more successful and, in turn, she would see me as somebody who could really help her in her new role as Chair of a large department. Having been there for so long, I knew everybody and what their roles were, how they worked, etc. I went to some employee development, had one-on-one consultations with the university employee development department, and finally spoke with Human Resources – my biggest mistake. They would not listen to me and continued saying that I was having troubles simply because I was not used to her style of management. However, I had three supervisors before her who had different management styles and I adapted well to each of them. When I was confident they were not going to help me in any way, I had to use my last resort and reported that my bully was falsifying her timesheets. So much for the whistleblower law! After that, it was clear she had been spoken to about that because the harrasment got worse and worse. I was becoming more and more distressed and depressed.
Q: How did you cope during that time? Where did you draw your support from?
Tracey: I didn’t cope very well during that time. I had nobody to talk to in the department since they were all told not to talk to me. I drew my support from my family and from searching the internet for “workplace bullying” and found some resources there. Much of the information and steps the Institute for Workplace Bullying had laid out did not or would not help me. I had already tried what I could try and I was documenting information about my bullying experiences, but Human Resources was not going to be of any help to me at all. I met with my family practitioner and she suggested I take some time off to get myself together (I was an emotional wreck at that point and very depressed). I finally agreed and ended up taking a leave of absence that lasted 6 mos. When my six months had expired, I was told I needed to return to my job or resign. I was still traumatized and did not believe that anything would change upon my return, so I resigned.