Adding OSHA to the arsenal against workplace bullying – it’s about time!

English: Logo for the United States Occupation...

English: Logo for the United States Occupational Safety and Health Administration. (Photo credit: Wikipedia)

“OSHA’s existing regulatory scheme should incorporate workplace bullying because OSHA is a singularly appropriate vehicle for such efforts and because prevention of workplace bullying through an existing scheme complements efforts to enact new legislation specifically addressing the problem.” [Susan Harthill]

Several years ago Susan Harthill presented her findings at the 2010 International Conference on Workplace Bullying & Harassment to leading advocates, researchers, and practitioners within the global workplace bullying movement.  Besides Harthill, keynote speakers included Professor David Yamada, author of the Healthy Workplace Bill, and Dr Gary Namie, founder of the Workplace Bullying Institute. Rather than incorporating Harthill’s ideas as a quiver in the U.S. battle against office abuse, advocates for the WBI’s Healthy Workplace Bill chose to advocate only for their legislation.  That is, of course, their prerogative. But, imagine how much further things may have advanced if it were a multi-pronged effort dedicated to protecting workers through a variety of approaches. Several members of the broader effort to stop workplace bullying have embraced a national petition bearing nearly 8,000 heartbreaking signatures asking the Obama Administration to explore options to protect U.S. workers from bullyng. Continue reading

What is the role of the press and advocates when a family links suicide to workplace bullying?

Screen Shot 2012-12-02 at 10.27.20 AMThis week Eyewitness News 4 (NBC) broke a story about a family who claims a Santa Fe suicide is the result of workplace bullying. I’m not writing about whether that claim is true or not –  both sides haven’t been heard yet and none of us know. This is about how the media and advocates often frame these stories. In 2010, I interviewed Ed Wasserman about the way journalists cover suicide for my documentary, What Killed Kevin? which is about the tragic suicide of Kevin Morrissey. Kevin’s death turned out to be the pivotal event that turned workplace bullying into a ‘hot topic.’ Wasserman is the John S. and James L. Knight Foundation professor of journalism ethics at Washington and Lee University and he addressed this case in his bi-weekly column for the Miami Herald.

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The Workplace Bullying Institute’s blog blasted Wasserman accusing him of “trivializing” Morrissey’s suicide and that “Wasserman’s denial of the reality that bullying could drive a person to suicide seems indefensible.”  But, Wasserman says he never denied that a person could be driven to suicide — he was questioning the link in this situation and the rush to coverage by the media.  These interviews show that, far from trivializing workplace bullying, Wasserman takes the topic very seriously and feels the media doesn’t dig into the story deeply enough.  He argues that the way the story is framed by the media hurts the possibility of a real dialog that would help bring about change.  Watch these two clips and decide for yourself.

(Note: the interactive web version of this documentary will soon be available to the public and allow site visitors to hunt through the interviews and clues to decide for themselves, What Killed Kevin? and join the dialog about how best to prevent and address workplace bullying.)

Maryland Drops Healthy Workplace Bill And Seeks New Approach Against Bullying

A growing number of states are following Vermont‘s lead and deleting the original language of the Workplace Bullying Institute’s legislation (the Healthy Workplace Bill) and instead asking for a state-based team to draft their own bill. While it’s true that  HWB advocates have invested a great deal of time and passion in their singular bill, Maryland’s proposed Senate Bill 999 would bring together a dream team that includes; the Secretary of Budget and Management, different union leaders, state employees, supervisors and a practicing attorney. Passing a legislative response for abusive work environments irregardless of protected class status is something all of us have struggled hard for and this solution holds real promise for Maryland’s state workers.   The bill, which shows Senator Muse as the SOLE sponsor, passed unanimously in the Senate’s third reading on April 3, 2012 so it is now in appropriations.  Below is the section that describes the work study group: Continue reading

Newly Released Documentary Takes On Workplace Bullying — with a twist!

sneak peek kevin

Ted Genoways Documentary StillWithin weeks of Kevin Morrissey’s suicide, advocates and journalists quickly pinned the “bully” label on his boss, Ted Genoways.  The story went viral and turned workplace bullying into a hot topic with Kevin the “poster child” for the Workplace Bullying Institute’s legislation. But, was Ted really a bully?  And, who should decide?  This provocative film, What Killed Kevin?, challenges common misconceptions and forces the viewer to decide for themselves. Featured are Ted Genoways, Kevin’s co-worker Waldo Jaquith, Kevin’s sister Maria, journalist Dave McNair and advocates for the Healthy Workplace Bill.  What Killed Kevin? is currently available for purchase by public and university libraries for educational use.  Here’s more information:

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Does HR Respond To Workplace Bullying Complaints?

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 optionContinue reading