Posts Tagged ‘bullied targets’

Fifth of Five Freedoms for Freedom from Workplace Bullies Week

Friday, October 25th, 2013

#5: Freedom from Fear

Freedom From Bullies Week Fear is the dominant emotional identifier in workplaces where bullying has struck. Bullies engineered it that way. When the targeted person is paralyzed by fear, there can be no counter-aggression, no blinding retort that would neutralize the perpetrator. Similarly, fearful coworker-witnesses will not rise up to defend their bullied colleague.

Fear takes many forms:

- Fear to confront swiftly & immediately is mainly felt by witnesses. Of course, deciding to take no action is based on a skewed internal calculus. We irrationally imagine worst case scenarios, magnifying relatively small risks into large ones. Clinicians call it “catastrophizing.” The worry: “if I intervene, I will be slain, figuratively.” That’s an imagined risk and not likely to happen. In fact, everyone suffers more when the bully is allowed to pursue her or his aggression without being stopped by witnesses who have the numerical power to overcome a lone perpetrator. In other words, the failure to stop the bullying poses a real risk to the entire workplace worse than the imagined one. However, the self-generated rationale for coworker inaction is fear of being the next target, of being persecuted for defending the target, of being the only one of the entire team to act, of botching an intervention attempt, or of getting involved in what could be construed as a private battle between two workers.

• For targets, shock from being told they are incompetent overwhelms both coping and decision-making skills. Rational thought becomes almost impossible. The magnitude of the lie is so stunning and incredulous, personal shame and guilt are the most probable initial emotions. After the first assaults, targets fall into a pattern of anxious anticipation of each encounter.

• Long-term harm to witnesses includes clinical depression (yes, just from witnessing bullying) and guilt over not defending a friend.

• No one suffers as much as targets, the direct recipients of abuse. Long-term damage to targets is from anxiety that strengthens when employers block separation from bullies. Anxiety and fear activate the human stress response. Targets are trapped. As exposure to the stressor of workplace bullying extends weeks into months and months into years, health harm worsens. Our biological reaction to stressors is supposed to be brief to minimize harm. Stress-related diseases, from unremitting incidents, affect entire systems — cardiovascular, gastrointestinal, immunological, chronic kidney disease, rheumatological, cortical volume in memory & decision making brain areas, and disruption of DNA replication that accelerates aging. These diseases can kill.

• As bullying continues unabated by inept institutional representatives, targets’ emotional injuries grow more severe. 80% experience debilitating anxiety, 50% suffer panic attacks, 49% are diagnosed with clinical depression, 66% have trauma-like states of agitation and anger, and 83% experience acute apprehension of the next negative act. This is a compromised life, of always walking on eggshells in light of impending danger.

• Stressors responsible for all of the ill effects for those unfortunately targeted include: tactical threats to job security, sabotage of work, verbal threats to personal safety, attempts by perpetrators to redefine one’s self-definition and self-image, intimidating interpersonal behavior, humiliating actions designed to instill a sense of shame or worthlessness. Remarkably, ALL of these actions are preventable! None make a positive contribution to any workplace. Despite the claim that fear is a useful motivator, in the long-run it fosters disloyalty and resentment. Only unskilled managers routinely rely on fear.

In a sense, the desire to establish fear in the hearts of targeted workers underlies the robbery of the other principal workplace Freedoms — Social Affiliation, Dignity, Credibility, and Innocence.

Sadly, perpetrators of targets’ fear are perhaps very fearful themselves. They are mortified of revelations of their personal weaknesses. Some are technically incompetent. Some have only their record of butt-kissing to protect them from termination. Some are socially inept, lacking emotional intelligence. Some are so narcissistic or mean (antisocial), they know their glowing reputation is a farce if the truth ever be found. In some way, all bullies are imposters, with a fictitious public persona masking a darker abhorrent self hiding in the shadows.

It is important we make helping individuals exploited by the imposters our top priority. Let’s drive out fear within our organizations on behalf of the victimized.

Five Freedoms for WBI Freedom from Workplace Bullies Week
To Affiliate with Friends | Dignity at Work | To be Believed | To be Innocent | From Fear


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New WBI Instant Poll: Targets’ Interpersonal Style

Thursday, October 24th, 2013

Which interpersonal style best decribes the person TARGETED for repeated abusive mistreatment in bullying situations you have known?

View Results

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Third of Five Freedoms for Freedom from Workplace Bullies Week

Wednesday, October 23rd, 2013

#3: Freedom to be Believed

Freedom From Bullies Week Adults expect that when they speak, others will accept their version of reality as truth. This is especially true of guileless people who do not scam or scheme others. They speak about what they honestly see, felt or think.

Bullied targets are prone to wait a long time before confronting their bully (and thus being completely ineffective). Then, when the tale is finally told, it is spewed out like verbal salad — confusing, emotional, disjointed, out of sequence and very vivid. The form of the presentation makes it easy to dismiss. Raw hurt emotions scare listeners. They tune out. The facts about extreme incidents of abuse strain credulity.

Of course, unchecked bullying does escalate and becomes more dehumanizing. It is hard to believe that “Bob” is capable of abuse that the target reports. It all seems less credible when the incidents happened behind closed doors. Bob says he never did it (no duh).

The result — bullied targets are not believed. They are branded paranoid, conspiratorial, delusion or mentally ill. This further frustrates targets. They waited a long time to report their misery only to be discounted or laughed at. They thought the employer would be diligent and want to stop the abuse.

Behind the circling of the wagons around Bob is that Bob enjoys protection from his “executive sponsor.” The entire organization now turns against the reporting target. She or he is branded a troublemaker for daring to say negative things about someone or the way things are unfairly done. People who appear non-compliant with the dominant norm are branded “uncivil.” That ability of targets to speak truth to power is eventually worn down. Sadly, after weeks or months of exclusion from the workteam, targets become more compliant. They give in. Sadly, they accept the alienation, isolation and rejection characterizing their world of work.

Disbelief of targets also is fueled by the hierarchy in organizations. The majority (72%) of bullies are bosses. Over half of targets are non-supervisory workers. It’s simple (and incorrect) logic. Bosses are believed without question; workers are doubted. Thus, bullies’ version of reality are accepted as fact. Targets’ tales, which sound eccentric and emotional, are discounted. In other words, regardless of the people involved — a pathological liar bully and moral principled target — bosses are believed while complainants are not.

It doesn’t matter to targets that the process may be impersonal. Being called a liar when they know they are telling the truth is taken very personally. Why doesn’t HR and management believe them? Targets underestimate that the majority of workers stay in their role and follow orders, as a manager expected to support other managers, as a HR staffer expected to support management. It always seems to surprise targets how unsupportive their employers are.

The only hope to change this cycle of not believing people who complain about bullying is to stop relying on internal staff to handle complaint-investigation-correction processes. External professionals trained in the dynamics of workplace bullying need to get involved. The biases and allegiance to role preclude HR or managers from honest fact-finding. Internal groups are invested in the outcomes of an investigation.

To HR and managers, it seems natural that they would handle complaints. The well established record of failing to conduct fair investigations and the collateral damage to veteran workers’ careers caused by the complaining combine to suggest changes.

Principled moral people like bullied targets deserve to be believed when they are telling the truth.

Liars — bullies or targets — do not deserve protection from their organizations.

Five Freedoms for WBI Freedom from Workplace Bullies Week
To Affiliate with Friends | Dignity at Work | To be Believed | To be Innocent | From Fear


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Research: Explaining peer condemnation of targets of workplace bullying

Thursday, September 19th, 2013

WBI review of an academic research study:

Diekmann, K.A., Walker, S.D.S., Galinsky, A.D., & Tenbrunsel, A.E. (2012) Double victimization in the workplace: Why observers condemn passive victims of sexual harassment. Organization Science, 2012, 1-15.

A well practiced tendency of observers of workplace harassment, coworkers of the targeted person, is to declare that they themselves would have taken more action to stop the harassment than the victim did.

The researchers in this study call this prediction “forecasting,” and people claim they would do more than they actually do. They have an optimism bias, especially with respect to moral or socially desirable conduct. No one wants to admit they would not do “the right thing” when opportunities present themselves. And there is an equal underestimation of how likely they would be to yield to social pressure and self-interest.

A common consequence of such observer hubris is the subsequent condemnation of victims for failing to have acted — to resist, to confront, to report, to reverse the harassment. Of course, as WBI research shows, confrontation fails to stop the negative conduct and leads to retaliation of the victim which exacerbates the suffering.

Staying passive is the preferred choice of both sexual harassment victims and bullied targets. From their perspective, it is safer than alternatives. However, observers may interpret passivity as weakness. Thus, harassment victims are harmed twice over.



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Posted in Bullying-Related Research, Social/Mgmt/Epid Sciences, Tutorials About Bullying, WBI Education | 1 Archived Comment | Post A Comment () »

When workplace bullies infiltrate, stall and kill organizational anti-bullying efforts

Tuesday, September 3rd, 2013

“When we neither punish nor reproach evildoers … we are thereby ripping the foundations of justice from beneath new generations.” Aleksandr Solzhenitsyn

Workplace bullying is sustained through indifference, providing tacit support for bullies, or deliberate decisions that kill anti-bullying initiatives. Let’s start at the top of organizations and work our way down the levels exploring how bullies kill anti-bullying efforts.

At the top. When the perpetrator-bully is a privileged resident of the C-suite, as a Chief X Officer — e.g., where X is Executive, Information, Nursing or Financial, he or she can void any well-intentioned initiative devised at lower levels. And everyone is ranked beneath the C-suite dwellers.

CXO’s can overturn findings from complaint-driven investigations that pin responsibility on a bully manager. It does not matter how much the investigation cost. It matters even less that the perception of fairness is undermined by executive reversals. It is the way executives act — protecting their buddies and sycophants.

Typically, anti-bullying efforts begin at the HR level. HR is not recognized as a credible contributor to the C-suite, even if HR has a rep on the executive team. So, even if an enlightened HR devises a strategy to combat workplace bullying, the CXO can kill plans because it either threatens that CXO personally or exposes a sponsored protege of that CXO who is a bully. Principled HR executives are fired for daring to propose terminating costly high-ranked perpetrators.

CXO bullies prevent change efforts. No one who wants to keep working has the courage to confront the CXO about his or her personal conduct. Traditional, but not our, advice compels targets to confront their bullies. It’s hypocritical that this standard is not suggested when the CXO is the bully. It’s obvious to everyone that that confrontation will be unsuccessful. Research shows that confronting is ineffective at stopping the bullying at any level.



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Unemployment insurance for NY targets of workplace bullying

Tuesday, August 13th, 2013

WBI colleague and Suffolk University Law Professor David Yamada reports in his blog that unemployment insurance is possible for workers who voluntarily quit because of workplace bullying. The examples are specific to New York state, but there is hope. He writes:

disrespectful and bullying-type behaviors that exceed the bounds of propriety (that appears to be the key phrase) may constitute good cause to voluntarily leave a job and thus not disqualify someone from receiving unemployment benefits.

Actual case file numbers are provided in his essay for use in other states. Thanks to David for adding another tool to the survival kit for bullied targets.

Read the blog, Minding the Workplace.


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Workplace Bullying Targets to Employers: I Won’t Beg

Monday, June 3rd, 2013

[The unspoken, unwritten message employers need to hear.]

I love my job. I apply my education and experience to the task that keeps me stimulated and for which I can still get excited.

When I took this job I didn’t agree to be abused in exchange for a paycheck. I didn’t ask if you had abusers on the payroll and if you were sending me to work with them. I assumed the goodness in everyone as a starting point. I know now I should not have.

It was you who assigned me to a work group managed by a person you chose. I assumed you had managers trained in the interpersonal art of managing people. Evidently you think that is too expensive and rely instead on on-the-job training. All of us pay for that shortsighted decision.



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New WBI Training DVD: Teach your psychotherapist

Friday, May 24th, 2013

An Introduction to Workplace Bullying: For Mental Health Practitioners

We designed this brand new DVD with two goals in mind: To help Targets of workplace bullying and to train mental health professionals about this challenging topic. It is the perfect introductory training for mental health practitioners.

It gives Targets the power to teach their counselors about workplace bullying. As a bullied target, you can watch this video alongside your therapist and learn about the phenomenon together, during a single session. Don’t blame your therapist for not understanding workplace bullying. There are not many professionals out there that have experience with the phenomenon. In a 2013 WBI Instant Poll only 29.7% of Mental Health Professionals had a complete understanding of workplace bullying.

Teach Your Psychotherapist How to Help You

Bullied targets are a challenging clinical population, in part due to the recurring trauma and marked isolation they endure. And, while a significant body of research links workplace bullying to physical, mental, social, and economic health harm for the bullied target, there is a paucity of mental health professionals specially trained to work with this phenomenon.

What to do: Use one 50 min. session with your psychotherapist to play this DVD while you are in the room. Stop the disc whenever questions arise, or if you want to make a point to your therapist about your experience. Use the DVD to start a dialogue.

In this video, Jessi Eden Brown, MS, LMHC, LPC, NCC an experienced, licensed mental health therapist and the WBI Professional Coach, shows clinicians the pitfalls many therapists fall into when helping Targets of workplace bullying. She offers practical advice about how best to support those hurting. Viewers will learn how to recognize the signs, and address the symptoms, of workplace bullying in their clients. Ms. Brown skillfully imparts the unique treatment considerations associated with counseling bullied targets and offers practitioners an assortment of resources for supporting clients and their families.

Targets and counselors, click here to purchase a DVD for your next session!


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WBI Study: Timing & Results of Targets Confronting Bullies at Work

Friday, March 29th, 2013

WBI 2013-D Instant Poll

Individuals unfamiliar with details of the workplace bullying phenomenon but who declare themselves workplace experts suggest or insist that workers targeted for bullying directly confront their assailants. In a large-sample 2012 survey [WBI-2012-Strategies Effectiveness], 70% of 1,600 individuals said they attempted to confront their bully. The torment ended in only 3.5% of situations. Confrontation was ineffective.

This 2013 Instant Poll survey investigated whether the timing of a confrontation would affect effectiveness. 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.

We asked 554 target-respondents to answer the following question.

For bullied targets only. When did you confront your bully, telling her or him that the abusive conduct was unacceptable to you?



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WBI Study: Barriers to workplace bullied targets leaving their jobs

Wednesday, March 20th, 2013

WBI 2013-C Instant Poll

One of the criticisms leveled against individuals targeted for workplace bullying is that they should “just” quit. That simplistic advice is cruel and short-sighted. Quitting is not a simple decision. Consider for a moment the single parent target. What will replace the lost income?

We at WBI who have talked to thousands of targets over the years by phone and in-person know there are other barriers to leaving a toxic work environment, regardless of how damaging that job and employer are to the target’s health. It is never easy to leave, to escape to safety.

This survey asks target-respondents to evaluate which two barriers listed convinced them to not leave.



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Posted in Tutorials About Bullying, WBI Education, WBI Surveys & Studies | 2 Archived Comments | Post A Comment () »

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