My ex-boss was a rainmaker and it wasn’t long before I understood why I was one of a quickly growing list of people to have had that job. I soon found myself undergoing a heart cath procedure because I’d failed multiple tests. It turned out I was actually suffering the side effects of stress and the diagnosis was that I needed to quit my job. I decided to try reasoning with upper management one more time. All I wanted was a transfer back to my old position. I will never forget that day. He readily admitted that I was being horribly abused but then he brought down the hammer. If I thought I had some kind of grounds – I should sue because if I didn’t continue on in that position I was fired. I walked away from that experience keenly aware that fear of litigation on their part may well have protected me.
I’m a filmmaker so I started making short documentaries about victim/targets of workplace bullying. Each video highlighted the impact not just on the target but often for the family. My films allowed me to speak with experts, researchers, legislators, advocates, victims/targets, alleged bullies, business & HR reps, journalists and many others both here in the U.S. and abroad. At the time few people even knew what the term workplace bullying meant. It wasn’t until I made What Killed Kevin (reviewed in the Huffington Post), for which I interviewed the alleged bully boss, that I was able to recognize how subjective and tragic many of these situations can be for everyone involved.
Awareness of this issue is now at an all time high and thanks to the recent NFL scandal the message is finally loud and clear; the focus needs to be on cleaning up the work culture itself. More employers need to follow this example and step into their pivotal role to create and foster respectful work environments whether there is legislation or not. But, how do we make that happen?
Recently I joined several others well-versed in this topic to found the National Workplace Bullying Coalition (NWBC): “Through education and mobilization we envision a future where workers are assured their right to dignity at work, where workplace bullying is an unlawful act and where employers have taken effective steps to prevent, detect and remedy acts of workplace bullying.”
In a few weeks we’re taking what we believe is a huge step forward. April 4, NJ State Senator Linda Greenstein will headline “WORKPLACE BULLYING: SEEKING SOLUTIONS,” a half-day convention at Rutgers School of Law-Newark. The event brings together legal experts for both business interests and employees, labor leaders, business consultants and others deeply committed to preventing this type of abuse in order to talk frankly and share best practices. New Jersey is just the beginning.