July 10th, 2014

Untrustworthy stupid headlines about workplace bullying

Upon return from a short break, we found a jaw-dropping headline that cannot be believed.

96% of Workers are Bullied at Work!

The non-discerning press copied the press release from a consulting firm named Vital Smarts who have never been players in the workplace bullying arena. [See the US Academy roster to see who is doing credible and important work in America.]

Why do we at WBI say this company’s finding is not believable? Because they do not provide a definition nor describe their research methodology. We at WBI get a 97% bullied rate when we ask those who complete our online surveys. Of course we do. Who comes to this website seeking solutions to their personal problem and may also complete a survey? Bullied targets and witnesses. Our respondents are a “self-selected,” non-random sample. Our research reports clearly state when studies rely on bullied targets’ opinions only.

When we conduct WBI national studies, we do rely on Zogby to provide a national representative sample of respondents so we can draw conclusions about prevalence in America. That’s why our 2014 results — provided with complete transparency of item wording and full results — show that when bullying is defined as abusive conduct the national rate is 27%, not 96%! Who you gonna believe?

How can (formerly) credible press outlets cite the 96% rate without skepticism and follow-up questions digging for details? Just lazy we suppose.

Wait. There’s more. Lazy pairs with stupid in a single jumbled mess of incorrect attribution and mistakes by writer Susmita Baral at the online site — Wall Street Cheat Sheet.

In one amazing paragraph, Baral wrote:

A recently published VitalSmarts report found some surprising and unsettling findings — a whopping 96 percent of respondents surveyed are reporting that they have experienced workplace bullying. Workplace bullying — which has been dubbed the “silent epidemic” by Psychology Today — has become such a prevalent concern that twenty-six states have introduced Happy Workplace bills to combat the trend.

Ignoring for a second, her crediting Psych Today, a magazine, with originating the “silent epidemic” tagline WBI introduced back in 1998 or so, check out her renaming the legislation to combat workplace bullying — Happy (sic) Workplace bills.

Happy instead of Healthy is not just a typo, it’s a glossing over of this serious problem in the workplace. It’s the Healthy Workplace Bill (HWB). Geez!

Baral sets the low threshold by which internet writers can now be judged. It’s mostly happy talk and mindless drivel to drive advertising dollars to web sites. Monetization is ubiquitous. At WBI, we’re old enough to remember the pre-commercialized internet. We still don’t accept advertising at our site or add ads to our YouTube videos. Baral can be forgiven because before her mindless bullying article, she wrote these enticing pieces: “Americans consume 23 sticks of butter a year: Is the habit healthy?” Facial cleansing 101: How to properly clean your face.”

The Problem Stupidity Causes

Calling HWB “Happy” diminishes the seriousness of the impact abusive interpersonal conduct has on abused workers. It conveys the erroneous message that if you are experiencing clinical depression as a result of your work environment and the abusive people responsible for its toxicity, there must be something wrong with you. If you are not “happy,” it’s your fault. Happy workplaces are employers’ goals. Yeah, right.

Healthy, in terms of safety from health-harming intimidation, domination and verbal abuse, is positive enough. We — WBI — named it the Healthy Workplace Bill to deliberately challenge lawmakers who oppose the bill to say they see nothing wrong with abusive conduct. Of course, every opposing lawmaker remarks publicly in committee hearings, “Now I’m not in favor of abuse, but …” then they rally to vote to support abusive employers.

Happy is a frivolous goal. Healthy connotes overcoming stress-induced health problems.

Finally, if we ever were to accept the 96% prevalence rate from the opportunists at Vital Smarts who seem to want nothing more than to jump on the bandwagon late, it would nullify the aberrant and destructive nature of true bullying — abusive conduct. If everyone experiences bullying, while simultaneously work does get done, then bullying cannot be harmful. No harm, no foul. Without harm, there is no need for employers to take action to correct it. It is so commonplace, it is not remarkable and thus deserves to be ignored.

If Vital Smarts were an authentic contributor to the movement to combat workplace bullying, it would have given thought to the problem of unanticipated consequences with disseminating their “survey” results. They have insulted all bullied targets and given the uncritical press permission to mock the seriousness of workplace bullying.

For bullying to be of epidemic proportions, the actual 27% prevalence rate certainly qualifies. When adding the number of workers who witness bullying, the ones vicariously affected by it, the total number of affected workers is 65.4 million Americans. Genuinely epidemic. There’s no need to exaggerate the number to garner headlines.


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This entry was posted on Thursday, July 10th, 2014 at 11:00 am and is filed under Media About Bullying, Print: News, Blogs, Magazines, Tutorials About Bullying, WBI Education, WBI Surveys & Studies. 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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