November 20th, 2013
Bottomley: Workplace bullying is rampant
By Torii Bottomley, Cambridge (MA) Chronicle, Nov. 19, 2013
Workplace bullying has become rampant because it is driven by a buyer’s market in jobs.
In my professional practice of teaching English as a Second Language in a public school, not only was I bullied and removed from my position in front of my hysterical students without reason, but I am increasingly experiencing highly qualified colleagues and students who talk about bullying scenarios. When I ask whether they are referring to sexual harassment, age discrimination or cause-based performance issues, they more frequently refer to being abused by not having access to shared information, harassment, intimidation and threats of poor evaluations and isolation.
I have highly performing colleagues who have lost their jobs or have been forced to quit due to a narcissistic manager who has enjoyed virtually unrestricted rein in threatening job loss or career damage.
Gary Namie, director of the Workplace Bullying Institute in Bellingham, Wash., contrasted the difference between tough, accountable management and bullying by defining it as “… bullying is a level of misery that falls on disproportionately few.” Certainly, none of us have to be sociologists and economists to understand the harm that workplace bullying can cause. Morale issues, organizational sabotage and productivity declines would be a good start for a list of rational reasons to support a call for legislation to curb this serious problem. In the school setting, when students witness teachers being bullied by administration or they are bullied by administration, this makes student anti-bullying legislation virtually unenforceable.
In Massachusetts, the issue of infringement on dignity by employers is coming to a head with legislation written by Suffolk University Law Professor David Yamada. House Bill 2310 and Senate Bill 916 — The Healthy Workplace Bill — was the subject of a State House hearing by members of the Committee on Labor and Workforce Development this past summer.
The basic premise of the bill is to create a legal claim for bullying victims who can establish that they were subjected to premeditated, malicious, health-harming behavior. It also provides defenses for employers who act preventively and responsively with regard to bullying.
Considering that this nation endured hard-fought conditions that ushered in one of the greatest surges in human dignity legislation starting with the Civil Rights Act of 1964, I think it is time for employers and business owners, empowered with the economic leverage of job rationing, to be held accountable for their transgressions.
— Torii Bottomley, Follen Street
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