New Hampshire’s 2013 version of the Healthy Workplace Bill HB 591 has been tabled for this year and a rewrite is in the works. Fingers crossed that legislators have recognized the need to remove “malice” from the text because it creates a virtually impossible hurdle for targets of abuse to overcome in order to actually use this law to protect themselves. We’ve written about this before and below is the SEIU article about New Hampshire. We applaud SEA for getting this legislation started and hope they use this opportunity to bring in new voices as several other states have begun to do in order to craft a target centric approach that’s also fair to businesses (instead of the other way around).
Browsing through the digital libray I found this great NY Times Career Couch column from way back in 2007 and it deserves another read especially if you’re starting to wonder if that boss of yours is a bully:
Q. Your boss regularly berates you in department meetings, and the behavior is starting to become offensive to you. What should you do?
A. Think before you act. John McKee, president of Four Windows No Walls Consulting, a consulting firm in Sedalia, Colo., says that although it is never acceptable for a boss to belittle employees, reacting emotionally can prompt you to do something you will regret.
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.
Four years ago workplace bullying was a phrase that few used or understood. Fast forward to today and a simple google search filtered for a 24 hour period brings up dozens of pages of results. Much of the time the term is inaccurately used and the information is outdated or without any real grounding. Unfortunately, when this information is repeated over and over it carries the weight of “truth.”
This site has always been dedicated to bringing forward alternative scientific and academically reviewed information needed to create the type of dialog that helps educate employees, employers, legislators, practitioners, union reps etc etc etc move toward solid solutions. We’ve joined forces with others to create a petition for national legislation (7500 signatures!), Wikis, videos, an International Facebook coalition and more. Our most popular blog posts are those that question proposed legislation and the way that workplace bullying is framed by advocates in the media. Surprisingly, most of that support comes from people involved in the movement. We also focus heavily on bringing forward the voices of targets in video and print.
Everyone Agrees With Me
Recently a woman, I’ll call her Sue, contacted me to share her story of being physically harassed by an office thug. The public humiliation included a stinging verbal assault of lies that culminated in: “…and it’s not just me. I emailed everyone in the office and they all agree with me!” The power of that sentence was not lost on Sue. She knew that anything she now said about the incident to any of her co-workers would be perceived as coming from that far from equal framing: “defensive.”
A recent survey conducted by the Society for Human Resource Management (SHRM) polled HR personnel about workplace bullying and how they respond to complaints. It’s clear that HR is aware of the problem. In fact, the vast majority of those polled believe it is the responsibility of HR to deal with it (only 1% feel there should be a special workplace bullying/workplace violence committee) and please keep in mind that about 27% of those taking part have been the targets of bullying themselves. Here are the results of the SHRM survey — note: respondents were allowed to choose more than one option:
Are victim/targets really always powerless?
According to leading researchers Pamela Lutgen-Sandvik and Sarah J Tracy “…Prior research typically characterizes targeted workers as powerless, as the term target might suggest. However, Lutgen-Sandvik (2006), Cowan (2009a), and Meares et al. (2004) all suggest that targeted workers resist bullying in many ingenious ways. These studies demonstrate the social processes involved in resistance as well as the forms of resistance most likely to result in providing relief from abuse. Taken together we see that communication scholars reconsider and critique the notion of the “powerless” target that heretofore has dominated workplace bullying research…”
[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.
Shortly after his death, Kevin Morrissey became the “poster child” for advocates of the Workplace Bullying Institute’s Healthy Workplace Bill. So, it’s curious to see how unusually quiet they’ve been about the announcement of Ted Genoways’ resignation from VQR. In less than a week the news of Ted’s resignation generated roughly 20 google pages of articles.
Nearly two years after the managing editor of the Virginia Quarterly Review killed himself following complaints he made about his boss, Ted Genoways, Mr. Genoways has announced that he is stepping down as editor of the award-winning literary journal. - [Chronicle of Higher Education, April 4, 2012 Robin Wilson]
This weekend I finally finished editing the long version of my documentary about the aftermath of Kevin’s suicide. It’s a revealing portrait of today’s workplace bullying movement, the lack of depth in media coverage about the topic, and a cautionary tale about the complexity of our office relationships.
The final film (hat tip consulting editor Pam Arnold) is exactly what I promised everyone who agreed to take part – a chance to tell the story from their individual perspectives. And, for the first time the POV of the alleged bully is included. The result underscores the urgent need to embrace new approaches to this topic. The long awaited web version has taken an exciting turn and will soon enter the web design and coding phase that will make it a truly interactive experience. Now it’s time to turn to the interactive version.
Take the interactive experience now or you can purchase an educational DVD for a presentation
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.”
It Takes A Nation
It’s become common for bullying stories to catch fire and ripple through the national mainstream media – unless it happens in tough neighborhoods. Two days ago I came home from work to news reports about a local school bullying incident that blew up into a riot of 50 to 55 teens demanding that their target come out of the house.