Archive for the ‘Tutorials About Bullying’ Category


WBI Survey: Politicians as Bullies?

Thursday, October 30th, 2014

POLITICIANS AS BULLIES?
WBI Research/Instant Poll: 2014 – E

It is common knowledge that politics in 2014 America are quite polarized. No longer do politicians pretend to want to solve social problems with social policy. Interactions between politicians are characterized by ad hominem attacks. Politicians seem to be mimicking the personalized nature of bullying. The parallels between the political and workplace domains seemed obvious to us at WBI.

However, critics quickly pounce on our blog musings about the similarities. Commentators say “stick to workplace bullying and stay out of politics.” They believe politics is a field of employment different than any other. The same failure to see equivalence occurred when NFL player Jonathan Martin walked away from his professional football team claiming he endured an “abusive work environment.” The majority of society granted the NFL exemption from treatment as a workplace where employers bear responsibility for harm their employees suffer. It was said that the locker room is so unique it cannot be changed from its barbaric state.

Ironically, the NFL itself defined its locker room as a workplace. Discrimination laws apply. And the Martin case taught the NFL lessons about human responses to abusive conduct even when targets weigh 300 or more pounds.

In this survey, we asked 307 respondents (bullied targets and witnesses) to give their opinion about whether politics involves bullying or not. Question:

Is bullying by politicians of politicians or citizens as harmful as workplace bullying?

The percentages for each response option were:

.873 Yes, always

.094 Sometimes, only when the less powerful person suffers serious harm

.023 No, political harm is not the same as harm to non-politicians

.001 Never, bullying tactics define politics

The results show that the community of bullied targets does not grant exemptions easily. They conclude that bullying and abuse are the same regardless of venue. Apologists for politicians’ outrageous anti-social behavior towards one another like to say that politics is a special type of workplace, immune from social codes and restrictions that apply to everyone else.

But bullied targets do not see the separation into distinct domains. Anti-abuse rules for everyone should apply everywhere — in families, in schools, in churches, in workplaces and among occupants of our legislative chambers.

Download as PDF file.

© 2014 Workplace Bullying Institute. Do not use without proper citation of WBI as the source.


See the complete set of WBI Studies

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Oettingen: Positive thinking not always effective

Tuesday, October 28th, 2014

I’ve always had a negative reaction to positive psychology despite a sometimes unjustifiable optimism. The contrarian in me seeks the alternative path when the mainstream suggests we all get in line like sheep, think alike and go down the same road. As a psychologist, I saw positivism as my field’s attempt to reinvent a history of its dark obsession with abnormality forged by European pioneers.

Related to my life immersed in bullying and injured bullied targets, I see newcomers and nitwits give targets bad advice. Some invoke positive thinking. Feel good affirmations cannot pierce the shroud under which bullied, anxious, and depressed targets find themselves. Can they? Of course, being told to “get real,” and “just grow a thicker skin” are equally inane and ineffective admonitions. Where’s the middle ground?

I found the realistic alternative to positivism in the work of German psychologist and researcher Gabriele Oettingen who teaches at New York University. Here are citations from an essay she recently wrote for the New York Times and the lengthier statements from her university webpage. Her approach seems best suited to targets seeking ways to overcome their adversity foisted upon them involuntarily.

Mental Contrasting

“Mental contrasting” has produced powerful results in laboratory experiments. When participants have performed mental contrasting with reasonable, potentially attainable wishes, they have come away more energized and achieved better results compared with participants who either positively fantasized or dwelt on the obstacles.

When participants have performed mental contrasting with wishes that are not reasonable or attainable, they have disengaged more from these wishes. Mental contrasting spurs us on when it makes sense to pursue a wish, and lets us abandon wishes more readily when it doesn’t, so that we can go after other, more reasonable ambitions.

WBI: This approach seems to give permission to the person to let go of unattainable goals — e.g., convincing your employer to fire the bully — freeing the person to pursue wholeheartedly realistic goals — e.g., finding the next job, taking time off from work to heal or spending time with family and loved ones to repair strained relationships that matter more than work.

(more…)

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Posted in Bullying-Related Research, Social/Mgmt/Epid Sciences, Tutorials About Bullying, WBI Education | 2 Archived Comments | Post A Comment () »



Workplace Bullying: Dare we call it terror?

Tuesday, October 28th, 2014

Posing this question on the internet is risky, certain to draw unsolicited government surveillance attention in paranoid America. You see, terror existed before America’s Sept. 11, 2001. Just ask Britain. We should be able to use the word when it applies to a variety of situations. But after 9-11, the semantic gods yielded control of the term to western governments.

Here is Merriam-Webster’s definition:


ter·ror
noun \ˈter-ər, ˈte-rər\

1:  a state of intense fear
2 a :  one that inspires fear :  scourge b :  a frightening aspect c :  a cause of anxiety :  worry d :  an appalling person or thing; especially :  brat
3:  reign of terror
4:  violent or destructive acts (as bombing) committed by groups in order to intimidate a population or government into granting their demands

Origin of TERROR
Middle English, from Anglo-French terrour, from Latin terror, from terrēre to frighten; akin to Greek trein to be afraid, flee, tremein to tremble First Known Use: 14th century

Thus, a practitioner of terror, the terrorist, is a person who deliberately instills fear and anxiety in others in an intimidating fashion. Isn’t that what a workplace bully does when she or he abuses others? From fear comes paralysis. Shocked and paralyzed targets and witnesses do not respond to aggression with aggression.

Look at the fourth term in the above definition. The goal of intimidation is have “a population or government,” proxies for organizations, grant the bully’s demands. Bullies get their way with their employers. Perpetrators are rarely punished. They abuse others with impunity, rarely facing consequences. American employers do next to nothing to stop bullies while innocent guileless targets lose their jobs, livelihoods and sanity at alarming rates.

Logically, workplace bullies are terrorists within organizations. They are organizational terrorists. Their actions fit the definition. We simply are applying a label appropriately.

Bullying is not simply eye rolling as bully apologists like to characterize it. It is workplace violence, albeit a non-physical form. It is a mistake to underestimate the effects verbal abuse, threats, intimidation, humiliation and domination have on human beings.

History is on our side. The founder of the international movement in Sweden, Heinz Leymann, titled one of his early English-language journal articles — “Mobbing and Psychological Terror at Workplaces.” Of course, he chose the term mobbing to connote the interpersonal destruction of workplace victims by multiple perpetrators. To assess the extent to which a target was harmed, he developed his own instrument, the LIPT, the Leymann Interpersonal Psychological Terrorization scale. Leymann minced no words. He died in 1999 before other nations followed America’s descent into paranoia about terrorism. I wonder how close he was to naming the phenomenon we know today as bullying, terrorization.

When Dr. Ruth and I made the commitment to begin the work which evolved into the Workplace Bullying Institute back in 1996-97, we had a choice of two reasonable terms. Mobbing was the Scandinavian and European term. Workplace Bullying was the British term. We deliberately chose to import “workplace bullying” for a variety of reasons. We originally did discuss “terrorization,” but felt it would be considered too radical to be accepted by American media. A short four years later, Sept 11 happened. The movement would have been stopped in its tracks for adopting anything related to “terror.”

Looking back after more than 17 years, in the spirit of realistically naming the destructive force that workplace bullying is, I now see “terrorization” as an entirely appropriate synonym to add to the list of acceptable terms. Invoking Leymann’s courage to call it what it is, bullying is terrorism.

Which employers will launch a “war” against it within their walls? Call us. We’ll help you do it right.

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Fast Company: Why Bullies Get Promoted

Thursday, October 23rd, 2014

Why The Office Bully Is Getting Promoted
Your company culture may encourage bullies and you may not even know it.
By Lisa Evans, Fast Company, October 23, 2014

You may have thought you’d escaped bullying when you traded the school yard for the office, but according to the Workplace Bullying Institute, 27% of Americans are still experiencing bullying in the workplace.

Instead of being shoved in a locker or having your head dunked in the toilet, workplace bullying is non-physical, yet still as emotionally harmful. The Workplace Bullying Institute defines workplace bullying as any form of verbal abuse, job sabotage, intimidation, or humiliation.

(more…)

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Tuscaloosa Alabama city council approves Workplace Bullying policy

Sunday, October 19th, 2014

Just in time for WBI’s Freedom from Workplace Bullies Week, James Woodson, Tuscaloosa Senior Assistant City Attorney introduced and the city council passed its first-ever workplace bullying policy (Ordinance No. 8144, Oct. 14, 2014). As documented elsewhere at the WBI site, a policy is necessary but not sufficient to comprehensively prevent and correct bullying. But it is a good preliminary step by any employer. Tuscaloosa will follow with training for staff and managers. We commend Mr. Woodson and the council. Woodson told his local TV station

“It wasn’t that many years ago that employers were adopting for the first time sexual harassment policies, then that became anti-harassment policies, and I think this is a natural extension to bullying, to essentially catch all of the inappropriate workplace behavior.”

[Earlier in 2014, Tennessee became the first state to encourage government agencies as employers to adopt policies to address abusive conduct.]

Here are the policy’s strengths and shortcomings.

(more…)

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About the bully’s intent to harm

Friday, October 17th, 2014

I hate talking points (propaganda) for American-style capitalism. For example, some of the most loathsome soundbites are: All hail entrepreneurship (Shark Tank); Everyone can live the American Dream if they only try hard enough; Ignore gross inequality – having a tiny elite group of individuals owning a disproportionate share of all wealth is good for the country; and Support for our neediest (compassion) is a sign of weakness.

By extension, this mindset also espouses these lies about workplace bullying … People who claim to to be “abused” at work must have provoked their mistreatment … they (targets) undermine virtuous employers … and if, and only if, someone gets hurt at work, perpetrators never intended to harm, it was all a misunderstanding or misperception by the recipient.

The WBI 2014 IP-B study countered the myth about intentionality of bullies completely. We asked bullied targets — not the public, not managers, not bullies, not HR, not owners, not executives, not corporate defenders — and they overwhelmingly stated that their bullies acted with deliberateness (82%) and knew they were harming their victims. When we add in the perpetrators acting on behalf of others, an astonishing 91% were deliberate and malicious. Only 2% of bullies were “accidental” perpetrators.

To conclude that if targets are hurt by bullying, their hypersensitivity was to blame, is a damnable distortion of reality.

What matters most is that bullied targets are hurt by decisions made by perpetrators to behave negatively. Lies about bullies’ stated intent matter not one whit. Effects and consequences trump intent. [Using the same logic, we at WBI also state that bullying is not simply based on whether or not negative behaviors occurred but if those acts happened AND they caused the targeted person adverse consequences. We allow for behaviors to have different effects on different recipients allowing for individual differences in the ability to cope and respond to negative actions. If there is genuinely no harm (immediate or latent) to the target, then bullying did not occur.]

Another arena in which the same blame-the-recipient scenario pops up is the modern political apology. Rather than say “I’m sorry,” thus accepting personal responsibility, politicos say “I’m sorry if you felt hurt by anything I did,” displacing blame on the victim of wrongdoing. And we blithely, through our inept media reporters, accept this sleight of hand by not challenging it.

Lawyer-cartoonist Ruben Bolling perfectly captured the shifting of responsibility for intentionality in the strip below — The “R” Word — with NFL overtones.
(more…)

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HBR: How to Deal with a Mean Colleague

Friday, October 17th, 2014

By Amy Gallo, Harvard Business Review, October 16, 2014

When a colleague is mean to you, it can be hard to know how to respond. Some people are tempted to let aggressive behavior slide in the hopes that the person will stop. Others find themselves fighting back. When you’re being treated poorly by a coworker how can you change the dynamic? And if the behavior persists or worsens, how do you know when you’re dealing with a true bully?

What the Experts Say


“When it comes to bad behavior at work, there’s a broad spectrum,” with outright bullies on one end and people who are simply rude on the other, says Michele Woodward, an executive coach and host of HBR’s recent webinar: “Bullies, Jerks, and Other Annoyances” You may not know which end of the spectrum you’re dealing with until you actually address the behavior. If it’s a bully, it can be difficult ­— if not impossible — to get the person to change, says Gary Namie, the founder of the Workplace Bullying Institute and author of The Bully at Work. But in most cases, you can ­— and should ­— take action. “Know that you have a solution, you’re not powerless,” says Woodward. Here are some tactics to consider when dealing with an aggressive colleague.
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WBI Survey: Reversing Emotional Abuse

Thursday, October 16th, 2014

REVERSING EMOTIONAL ABUSE
WBI Research/Instant Poll: 2014 – D

WBI credits friend and researcher Loraleigh Keashly for coining the term Emotional Abuse at Work as synonym for workplace bullying. Her 1998 review of the then-current scientific literature was aptly titled. Bullying always impacts the targeted person’s emotional state. The effect is always negative, not positive. In most cases, individuals are either happy or emotionally neutral at work, content to do their jobs. Bullying comes unannounced and uninvited. It compels immediate attention. All of one’s cognitive resources are deployed to cope with the psychological assault.

In worst cases, there is trauma that must be dealt with. In all cases, the target is stigmatized and social relations with coworkers strained. At the very least, the onset of bullying is a sad event. The once neutral or happy person is forced into negativity. At the outset, attempts to think “happy, positive thoughts” are overwhelmed by the negative reality imposed by the abuser.

Bullying triggers distress, the human stress response in reaction to the bully’s tactics, the stressors. If left unabated, prolonged distress leads to stress-related diseases, all sorts of health complications.

The most effective stress mitigation factor is social support. Validating human support can reverse the deleterious effects of emotional abuse. Isolation exacerbates the distress. Sometimes learning about the first-time experience can alleviate distress. After all, bullying is rather ambiguous when first experienced.

WBI research (WBI IP 2013-H) found that for 33% of bullied targets, their bullying at work was the first abuse ever experienced in their lives. Those people will take the longest to recognize Only 19% were bullied in school; they may or may not recognize the bullying happening to them at work because they might have expected bullying to have ended with school ending. Sadly, 44% of targets have a prior history with abuse from family experiences. Prior history alone does not guarantee instant recognition and labeling of the emotional abuse happening to them, but their visceral reactions become cues to recognition. They have “been there before” with respect to the emotional negativity; they have known fear, apprehension and anxiety.

WBI Instant Polls are online single-question surveys that rely upon self-selected samples of individuals bullied at work (typically 98% of any sample). No demographic data are collected. Our non-scientific Instant Polls accurately depict the perceptions of workers targeted for bullying at work as contrasted with the views of all adult Americans in our scientific national surveys.

For this survey, we asked 820 respondents (bullied targets and witnesses) to describe sources of positivity for bullied targets shrouded in negative emotions.

Question: As a bullied target, who made you feel better, changed your negative emotions to positive or at least less negative?
(more…)

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WBI Survey: The Many Ways Workplace Bullying Offends Its Targets

Thursday, October 9th, 2014

THE MANY WAYS WORKPLACE BULLYING OFFENDS ITS TARGETS
WBI Research/Instant Poll: 2014 – C

At WBI we teach extensively about the health risks of bullying for its victims, the bullied targets. Health risks are documented in the extant research literature and in the collection of prior WBI studies. We have also explored perceived injustices associated with bullying.

Harassment is considered “offensive” mistreatment. Offensiveness is subjective. What offends one person might not adversely affect others. However, when people are hurt, upset or angry over the behaviors by another person specifically directed at them, they have the right to claim to be offended.

At the very least, bullying is offensive. It is also demeaning, ostracizing, disempowering, cruel, threatening, humiliating, untruthful, and unrelated to work itself.

WBI Instant Polls are online single-question surveys that rely upon self-selected samples of individuals bullied at work (typically 98% of any sample). No demographic data are collected. Our non-scientific Instant Polls accurately depict the perceptions of workers targeted for bullying at work as contrasted with the views of all adult Americans in our scientific national surveys.

For this survey, we asked 1,031 respondents (bullied targets and witnesses) to describe the five most offensive aspects of the bullying experience.

Question: As a bullied target, what aspect of the bullying offended you the most? Check the top 5.

There were a total of 4,588 choices made by the 1,031 respondents. The top 6 from the list of 17 choices appears in the graph. We plotted the actual number of respondents who chose each item. The proportions based on the 1,031 respondents are shown in parentheses. Though respondents were allowed up to five choices, numbers 5 and 6 were virtually tied in rank, so both are shown.

Being accused of incompetence when I possessed more technical skills than my accuser 580 (.568)
Being humiliated in front of coworkers 493 (.483)
Feeling ashamed though I did nothing wrong 432 (.423)
Management ignoring my complaint 426 (.417)
Having coworkers ostracize, exclude & reject me 370 (.362)
Retaliation that followed my complaint 368 (.360)

(more…)

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Advice for bullied targets from a veteran of being bullied

Friday, October 3rd, 2014

I’ve endured a nasty work environment for a very long time. It’s been hard and opened my eyes to the reality that way too many people are walking around with sore egos underneath fake smiles. The self talk going on has got to be self-pitying to an extreme in order for these sick minds to rationalize away their behavior. Be sure there’s a lot of deeply angry insecure people wearing “look normal” masks out there. And when these miserable characters find each other, their conduct turns manic. Like a perfect storm of lunacy. They lose perspective even more, become further delusional, and wage career wars against do-gooder law-abiding ethical people. Nevermind that there are pedophiles, terrorists, and murderers walking the planet. Nope. Not important. Their priority is taking out those who probably deserve a thank you.

At the end of the day, if you’re going to make it through something like this with self-esteem intact (job or no job afterward), you HAVE TO remember the truths about yourself that the sore egos would like you and anyone else to forget. You have to remind yourself everyday who you in fact are and the principles that you stand for. Your self-talk needs to be more profound and more frequent than the magnitude of the vileness and obstacles they’ll keep trying to put in your way.

Resist the urge to concern yourself about what others will perceive regarding you or your reputation. You can’t control people. I have found that folks think what they want to think and I’m certain this goes beyond my experiences and is probably just a universal truth. If someone wants to think less of you because it makes them feel better, they will. And they are going to. ANY old excuse, true or false, will do. Proof is absolutely not required. And if someone is self-content, he or she is not going to waste time or thought to joining the smear campaign. Yes there can definitely be negative consequences that result from damage to your reputation, but at the end of the day, oddly, your reputation really has little to do with you and much much more to do with others’ subjective and often fallible interpretation.

There is no easy way through something like this. You already know how sympathetic employers aren’t to this and so you’ll likely be the only one in your corner AND be outnumbered. So remembering who you are in the midst of evil people, knowing what is right, and acknowledging what are truths are all the “support” you’re going to receive. And you’re going to need all you can get. And know through and through that you’re not the only person out there this is happening to. There are many people enduring this at the very same moment you are.

– Jen

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