July 24th, 2012

Penn State is the Typical American Workplace


I was only ever on the Penn State campus as a teen playing politics in “Boy’s State.” Though as a native Pennsylvanian, I was immersed in the holier-than-thou aura surrounding football coach Joe Paterno. Other colleges must have hated the super-ethicality myth. That’s what it was — a delusional myth. Another institutional illusion shattered by reality.

Now that the NCAA announced its punishment plan for Penn State spread over the next four years, I’m certain many opponents dance on Paterno’s grave. The school took down his statue. The NCAA stripped Paterno of over 100 game victories. All because of the shame brought to Paterno and PSU by former coach Jerry Sandusky.

The bigger story, if something can be bigger than football at a NCAA Div. I university, is that the entire institution was humbled. When reports about Sandusky’s child molestation surfaced back in 1998, Paterno and the PSU Administration covered it up. Sandusky was not effectively banned from bringing boys on campus. He was beloved by JoePa and that was enough for the university bureaucrats. Several quit in disgrace before most details were revealed in the Freeh report. All will face lawsuits. Even the PSU chief counsel has an attorney.

In other words, to defend the institution, grave misdeeds were ignored by the highest level managers. They ignored allegations of child abuse. Sandusky raped with impunity.

Forget for a moment that child abuse was the deed. Just look at the response of the university managers. They put the institution and their careers above all else.

How is PSU different from the contemporary workplace? Not much. It acted just like the typical mid-size corporation — without ethics.

Corporate “leaders” maximize profits and ignore their moral compass, if they ever had one. They saw Oliver Stone’s “Wall Street” back in 1987 and chose to emulate the greedy Gordon Gekko character. They choose to act ruthlessly because there are no checks on that behavior in America. It is at the heart of the definition of “doing business.”

Though universities, schools, churches, non-profit organizations and hospitals are much different than retail stores or the floor of the stock market, all enterprises copy the dysfunctional for-profit corporate way of conducting business. There are no industries for workers to seek employment that demonstrate purposeful, ethical ways of organizing work serving others. Everywhere it’s all about the “bottom line,” people be damned.

So, Penn State is not rare. It is the typical American workplace where dirty secrets are kept and all the mental energy is spent spinning delusional myths about being a great place to work. It is a dishonest place. Just ask anyone who is bullied at work.

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This entry was posted on Tuesday, July 24th, 2012 at 9:03 am and is filed under Commentary by G. Namie, The New America. You can follow any responses to this entry through the RSS 2.0 feed. You can leave a response, or trackback from your own site.



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  1. kay says:

    It is so good to hear the truth verbalized. It feels like at this very moment in the world due to the fight against workplace bullying, I feel like the facade is being peeled away. Only because of those who will not hush and are fighting to demand healthy and safe workplaces where people can thrive without the pervasive threat of being “taken down” for having ethics, an eagerness to perform and rejecting negative political hierarchy and choosing decent humane conduct and respect instead.

    There indeed are “no checks on that behavior in America”. It is nothing of an overstatement that Penn State is in fact a mirror image of American workplaces. Those that hear of bullying and tend to relate it to unproductive workers whining…they just have absolutely no idea. It gets extremely sadistic where folks are willing to cover up just about anything no matter how heinous and definitely health harming. Any semblance of a professional environment is a facade within toxic bully and harassment laden work environments. A domestic abuse is what it is except, you are unable to call the police or authorities and remain within your home (work) protected, because it is not as of yet illegal.

    Currently, if YOU’RE ABUSED- YOU LOSE. It’s a double whammy because you are picked for the harassment and it is so severe and pervasive and just a lot of times does not end ever…inevitably you suffer mental and emotional decay, no matter how strong you are. You finally lose, your spirit, mental health, physical health and thus economic stability for your family. Your sense of safety and boundaries within the world is also lost.

    If an entire organization cared nothing about the health and safety of children for God’s sake, you should only be able to imagine the level of care for adults and their safety. If lawmakers don’t stand after the piles of evidence and seeing what happens within organizations as they indeed cover…then we are failed.

    • bullyinginstitute says:

       You are so right Kay. The principled ones among are the ones “taken down.” Gotta find the quote from Camus that institutions are essentially demonic. We surrender our identities to them. With the surrender goes our personal integrity and decency. Couple that personal collusion with the corporate mantra that its only goal is to maximize profits for the shareholders.

    • Gary Namie says:

      You are so right Kay. The principled ones among are the ones “taken down.” Gotta find the quote from Camus that institutions are essentially demonic. We surrender our identities to them. With the surrender goes our personal integrity and decency. Couple that personal collusion with the corporate mantra that its only goal is to maximize profits for the shareholders.

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