Posts Tagged ‘Freedom from workplace bullies week’

Wisconsin county joins Freedom from Workplace Bullies Week

Friday, October 17th, 2014

County Declares No Tolerance for Workplace Bullying
By Lyn Jerde, Portage (WI) Daily Register, Oct. 16, 2014

Andy Ross made it clear at the outset: Nobody is saying that there are bullies working for Columbia County.

But, in urging the County Board Wednesday to approve a resolution proclaiming Freedom from Workplace Bullies Week, Ross said the county’s top governing body should reiterate the importance of a bully-free workplace.

Ross is a member of the County Board’s Human Resources Committee, which offered the resolution, which the County Board approved unanimously.

The Workplace Bullying Institute, based in Bellingham, Washington, started largely because one of the founders, Ruth Namie, once had a “boss from hell,” according to information on the Workplace Bullying Institute’s website. In the 1990s, she wrote, there was little legal recourse for victims of workplace harassment if the harassment wasn’t overtly racist or sexist.

The Institute has declared next week, Oct. 19 to 25, as Freedom from Workplace Bullies Week.

The Institute defines workplace bullying as “a systematic campaign of interpersonal destruction that jeopardizes your health, your career, the job you once loved.” This kind of bullying usually doesn’t entail physical threats, but rather deliberate emotional and psychological abuse.

Ross told the County Board that the resolution puts the county on record that such behavior won’t be tolerated in any Columbia County department.

“This is one of those topics that we wish we didn’t have to address,” he said.

The topic is being addressed, Ross noted, in ongoing management and leadership training that has been provided, first to county department heads and later to lower-level managers in county departments. The training, offered through Madison Area Technical College, will focus this fall on how managers can avoid bullying behavior.

“Depending on how old you are,” Ross said, “it may be something that was acceptable, and pretty common, years ago. But we can’t tolerate it anymore.”


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Bridgeport, WV mayor declares Freedom From Workplace Bullies Week

Wednesday, October 15th, 2014

Robert Greer delivers proclamation to WV Healthy Workplace Advocate Pam Schade at Bridgeport, WV City Council meeting. The event was captured by WBOY-TV, Clarksburg, WV.

West Virginia has been active with Healthy Workplace Bill legislation. New legislation will be introduced for the 2015-16 session.

Celebrate WBI’s Freedom from Workplace Bullies Week October 19-25, 2014


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Get ready for WBI Freedom from Workplace Bullies Week: Oct 19-25

Thursday, September 25th, 2014

Freedom From Workplace Bullies WeekFreedom Week is a chance to break through the shame and silence that shrouds workplace bullying. No one asks to be targeted, to be dominated, to be humiliated. The psychological assaults harm the person’s health and the health and well being of families, too.

Bullying at work is most like the phenomenon of domestic violence. [October is also Domestic Violence Awareness Month.] It is abuse where the abuser is on the payroll. Coworkers and employers notoriously ignore it. Through their indifference, they tacitly support and encourage it. Employers suffer no consequences because workplace bullying is not yet illegal in the U.S.

Freedom Week is a time to be daring and bold. Do something!

Tell WBI what you have planned and we will announce it here at the website.

Visit the Freedom Week site to learn what different groups can do.

Downloadable 2014 WBI Freedom Week Flyers

Freedom Flyer Format #1
Freedom Flyer Format #2
Freedom Flyer Format #3


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To close Freedom from Workplace Bullies Week, mobilize Unions

Saturday, October 26th, 2013

For Freedom Week 2012, we gathered at the National Press Club in Washington DC to hear two union presidents declare their opposition to Workplace Bullying. Here are those statements repeated.

Unions are the most natural advocates for anti-bullying. However, bullying befuddles many union leaders (they are tough guys and gals themselves, they aspire to management and co-opt union goals). Rank-in-file members want and deserve protection against bullying assaults, regardless of the source — management or member. Member-on-member bullying provides the union with opportunities to do better, to serve more, to support abused members, to correct abusive members, to use freedom from bullying as an organizing tool.

Help WBI help your union do more. Visit our Workplace Bullying for Unions website. Attend Workplace Bullying University® to equip the entire union with requisite skills to attack the problem. Tell defiant leadership to stand down and not become bullies themselves.


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See the Cities proclaiming Freedom from Workplace Bullies Week

Friday, October 25th, 2013

The WBI Freedom Week Proclamations Gallery


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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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Fourth of Five Freedoms for Freedom from Workplace Bullies Week

Thursday, October 24th, 2013

#4: Freedom to be Innocent & Not Exploited

Freedom From Bullies Week Workplace Bullying is unjust primarily because the assaults launched against targets have everything to do with the perpetrators’ unmet social needs and their ability to act on opportunities to exploit others that go unseen by most workers. It has nearly nothing to do with work itself. It is even less about the person targeted. The injustice of suffering without provocation or deservedness becomes a focal point for bullied individuals that can last months or years, if left unresolved.

I say unprovoked because targets would not, do not, awake on a workday wishing for some personal humiliation at work, that they would “ask for it.” That provocation is no more likely than battered spouses asking for a physical beating on a given day. Yet, bullies and their apologists (including many business school researchers) deflect responsibility away from perpetrators (especially when they are perpetrators) and onto their victims.

We have written about this blame-the-victim tendency before. It is rife in the workplace because it is nearly the American mantra when horrific events happen to people.

Some consider our declaration of targets’ innocence misguided or defensive. OK, assume that we are defensive on behalf of targets. We proudly admit this often. We are target-centric. We have chosen sides. We defend those who cannot defend themselves, those who are the underdogs and the ones victimized by perpetrators with a more advantageous power perch in organizations.

We have talked to bullied targets on the phone for 16 years — an accumulation of over 10,000 one-hour conversations. Coupling that qualitative database of stories with our 39 quantitative surveys allows us to speak confidently about the character of individuals selected for the psychological terrorization that is workplace abuse. Targets are selected primarily because of the threat their talents and skills pose to the bully who relies more on political acumen than production-related skills.

Targets do not react spontaneously to aggression with counter-aggression. If they could have, they would have and not been attacked. Call it a fault or call it noble, principled conduct that conforms to “turning the other cheek,” as some religions dictate. The other shortcoming targets bring to the workplace is an optimistic, politically naive, set of expectations that the world is benevolent. That is, good outcomes necessarily follow hard work (inputs). Unfortunately, traumatologist Ronnie Janoff-Bulman believes that expectation is a good predictor of suffering trauma when exposed to abuse. Finally, it is clear that many targets are not effective at setting personal emotional boundaries. To gain swift approval from others, they eagerly share too much personal information that is later used against them by perpetrators who collected the information for later nefarious use.

However, targets chosen for bullying at work are not as meek and mild as bad stereotypes suggest. Over time, as the injustice percolates and the employer fails to provide relief the target requested, the likelihood of exploding emotionally and losing control grows.

For some individuals, that explosion will happen at work. It might be the target’s long-postponed confrontation (most wait months to react). In any case, the explosion is emotional and an out-of-character moment. If directed against the perpetrator, the bully can point to the ill advised tactic as “proof” that the target is “contentious, unruly, aggressive and provocative.” In this way, targets become their own worst enemies. The impression of self-control is blown. The act need not be physical. In one case for which I served as expert witness in court, a target-plaintiff’s case was seriously weakened with the discovery of an emotion-laden letter that she should have never sent. It made her appear vindictive and petty. She was at wits end with her judgment strained.

The perp uses the single emotional event as a retroactive justification for the abuse leveled against the target. And in a sick twisted turn of events, the bully gets to play victim. They accuse the target, who sustained months of private and deniable health-harming abuse, of being the aggressor, as observed by others. The organization erroneously characterizes the bully-target relationship as one in which aggression flows in both directions — a false equivalency.

As soon as the organization can hint that the bullied target is to blame, it jumps on the chance to deny the target’s complaint. A pox on both houses nullifies the claim from the only legitimate victim, the bullied target. Worse still, many bullies abuse anti-bullying policies to claim they are the victims deserving protection. Strangely managerial bullies are given protection denied to non-supervisory targets.

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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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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Second of Five Freedoms for Freedom from Workplace Bullies Week

Tuesday, October 22nd, 2013

#2: Freedom to enjoy Dignity at Work

Freedom From Bullies Week In the American workplace, all rights are owned by employers as a matter of both law and tradition. The rare exceptions are when bargaining agreements proscribe how each side must act. The foundation for treating others with dignity (often called their “due dignity”) is respect. Respectful, non-abusive, treatment acknowledges the quality of the other person being worthy and honorable.

The origins of the word Dignity derive from the Old French dignete, and from Latin dignitas, from dignus “worthy.”

According to Wikipedia, philosopher Immanuel Kant related human dignity to “free will,” the ability of humans to choose their own actions. Being human alone is considered by Protestantism, Catholicism and Judaism to imbue that person with dignity in that he or she was created in the image of God. Islam and Buddhism speak of dignity as intertwined with seeking self-perfection.

From the Enlightenment era (also the time of the birth of the USA) comes the notion that personal worth, a proper sense of pride and self-respect are inherent and inalienable human rights. The inherent property directly contradicts some modern notions that dignity must be “earned.”

Inherent dignity at work should not be infringed by employers. but it is routinely done. They should have no right to invade employees’ privacy, their sense of personal integrity or well-being. Canadian and EU laws prohibiting bullying and mobbing often refer to the sanctity of one’s psychological integrity or self-worth or self-esteem.

These declarations would be an unimaginable inclusion in our anti-bullying Healthy Workplace Bill in the U.S. We Americans choose to delude ourselves about our “toughness” while denying the reality of the science of stress-related diseases. Bullying assaults generate distress, which, in turn, causes health-harming stress-related diseases. There is no such thing as a biology unique to American bodies. All humans, as a species, share the human stress response.

Perpetrators who act with contempt toward the targeted individuals they bully refuse to acknowledge the humanity of their prey. This level of disrespect tramples targets’ sense of self-worth. Common to all forms of abuse is this outside interference with victims’ sense of worth. Abuse victims are made to feel worthless. Bullied targets feel worthless and incompetent over time, too. Their dignity is shattered.

Unfettered Dignity at Work should be routine, not the exception. Workers should not have to be grateful when an inherent right is granted. It makes beggars of us all.

So, during Freedom Week especially, stand proud and insist on your right to Dignity.

Pass on the empowerment.

Finally, please never stand idly by when you witness another person’s Dignity being crushed.

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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First of Five Freedoms for Freedom from Workplace Bullies Week

Monday, October 21st, 2013

#1: Freedom to Affiliate with Friends at Work

Freedom From Bullies Week One of the most bothersome bullying tactics is to demand that coworkers isolate their friend. The arbitrary command by the malicious meddler cuts deep into the human psyche. The converse of isolation is affiliation, bonding, sharing, friendship. Social support is the greatest stress-buster.

It’s “icing out,” the silent treatment, false rejection, ostracism. Listen to our archived webinar on the topic.

Ostracism compounds the stress for an already stressed bullied target.

Turns out the need to belong, to be included in a group, if not a work group, then to be a part of the human race, is fundamental to our being. Perhaps the technology of social media gives the illusion of inclusion just as “friends” on Facebook convince some they are not alone. But no technology replaces the connection between humans. We need real face-to-face conversations, eye contact, audiences for our live “performances,” even if the audience is one.

The research on the devastating effects of ostracism and social exclusion is clear. Ostracism causes:

– a disconnection from friends who could have provided social support to reduce the harmful effects of distress (their fear to ignore the isolation command ensures the painful separation)

– with long-term exposure an acceptance of the alienation which leads to a lowered sense of self-worth, thus ostracism itself leads to self-isolation

– depression

– an impaired cognitive ability. When one’s belongingness need is thwarted, attention to social cues typically grows keener. However, social exclusion blunts that ability. Social relationships are disrupted.

– elevated blood pressure in ways similar to other forms of threatening behavior

– higher cortisol (stress hormone) levels. Prolonged elevated cortisol alters blood sugar, osteoporosis, cardiovascular problems, body fat storage, and an overactive stress arousal system.

– neural activation of the dorsal anterior cingulate cortex that is involved with physical pain and self-reported distress

No other human being should have the right to create so much harm for another person simply because it is the workplace and employers responsible for the harm choose to ignore it.

Social affiliation is the cure for emotional distress. Isolation is a greater risk factor for mortality than many lifestyle factors, including smoking and obesity.

Perpetrators, seeking ways to entertain themselves at work for sport, must be prevented from believing they have the right to disrupt the fundamental human needs of others.

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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