Posts Tagged ‘workplace bullying’


SHRM: Bullies as References for Targets

Tuesday, February 13th, 2018

Bully Bosses Can Inflict More Damage with Negative References

By Dinah Wisenberg Brin, SHRM, Feb 12, 2018

Employees trying to escape a bullying boss, and even those who have managed to land a new position, may be surprised to learn that their workplace nemesis is causing further damage by providing negative job references.

HR departments similarly may not realize that supervisors are disregarding company policies against giving references that go beyond confirming job titles and employment dates.

With prospective employers often bypassing human resources and calling supervisors for references, bully bosses can and do impair employees’ future job prospects, experts say.

“In the good old days, the references were HR, and in many cases, in many companies, HR still is the traditional venue. But we’ve seen a marked shift of interest in calling the former supervisors,” said Jeff Shane, president of reference-checking firm Allison & Taylor. “Hiring managers have long since figured out that supervisors tend to be far more talkative.”

Job seekers often wrongly believe that their current or former employers will say nothing negative and do no more than confirm employment, Shane said.

Many supervisors, however, never receive company training on how to respond to employee reference checks, while many others forget or ignore the policy, he added. His Rochester, Mich.-based firm checks references on behalf of job seekers, compiles reports on responses from former employers, and, if necessary, sends cease-and-desist letters to companies violating policies or even laws by supplying negative references that cross the line into misrepresentations or lies and that could be construed as defamation.

“We call a great many supervisors as references for individuals. The vast majority of the time, the supervisor has something to say” beyond titles and employment dates; their reviews, even if sincere, often are less than optimal. “In many instances, they know exactly what they’re doing” and that the employee is unlikely to ever find out if the negative review caused a missed opportunity, Shane said.

Nearly half of all reference checks that Allison & Taylor conducts contain some degree of negativity, he said. Even a supervisor who gives an employee a positive letter of recommendation will sometimes go “180 degrees in another direction” when called for a reference, he said.

Smart firms wanting to avoid litigation coach bosses to give only employment dates, said Gary Namie, Ph.D., co-founder of the Workplace Bullying Institute, which refers bullying targets to Allison & Taylor to learn about feedback from a current or former employer. Often the news confirms a candidate’s fear, and “a great many of our clients are totally shocked and devastated” by what is found. (more…)

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Posted in Employers Gone Wild: Doing Bad Things, Media About Bullying, Print: News, Blogs, Magazines | No Archived Comments | Post A Comment () »



Washington State Hearing for Healthy Workplace Bill – Jan. 24, 2018

Thursday, January 25th, 2018

Jan. 24, 2018

WA State Senate Labor & Commerce Committee Hearing on SB 6435, the Healthy Workplace Bill.

It is the anti-workplace bullying legislation written by David Yamada, Law Professor, Suffolk University, Boston, for the Workplace Bullying Institute. The principal sponsor is Sen. Annette Cleveland with co-sponsoring Senators Karen Keiser, Patty Kuderer and Rebecca Saldana. Five supporters testified, including WBI Director Gary Namie by phone.

You might find the two business lobbyists who opposed the bill for its reference to “vicarious liability.” Had they known existing law since 1998, they would understand vicarious liability places responsibility on employers for misconduct of their agents — employees and managers.

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Posted in Healthy Workplace Bill (U.S. campaign), Workplace Bullying Laws | 1 Archived Comment | Post A Comment () »



Truthout: Workplace Bullying Affects Nearly Half of US Workers. It’s Time We Did Something About It

Monday, January 15th, 2018

Workplace Bullying Affects Nearly Half of US Workers. It’s Time We Did Something About It
By Micahel Arria, Truthout, Jan. 11, 2018

Many are hoping that 2017 represented a turning point in the fight against workplace harassment, as the #MeToo moment put a spotlight on sexual misconduct. Now some labor advocates are hoping that the momentum of #MeToo helps to fuel an additional campaign against a different and overlapping type of harassment: workplace bullying.

While there’s been increased attention paid to the bullying of children in recent years, there hasn’t been the same kind of focus on bullying among adults, but statistics indicate that it’s a major problem. According to one 2008 study, nearly 75 percent of participants have witnessed workplace bullying at their job and 47 percent have been bullied at some point in their career. Another 27 percent said they had been bullied within the last 12 months. In a 2014 survey by the Workplace Bullying Institute (WBI), 72 percent of the respondents said that their employer either condones or encourages the behavior.

There’s no universal definition of it, but the WBI defines it as repeated, health-harming mistreatment of one or more persons (the targets) by one or more perpetrators. It is abusive conduct that is:

– Threatening, humiliating, or intimidating, or

– Work interference — sabotage — which prevents work from getting done, or

– Verbal abuse.

WBI sprang from a campaign that was started by Ruth and Gary Namie, a husband-and-wife team of psychologists. In the late 1990s, Ruth worked in a psychiatric clinic and was bullied by her supervisor. To their surprise, the Namies discovered there was very little Ruth could do about the situation. Employment discrimination laws existed, but they didn’t cover things like your boss screaming at you daily or a co-worker trying to sabotage your imminent promotion. If you hadn’t been targeted for abuse because of your race, sex or national origin, or because you blew the whistle on something related to the company, there wasn’t a legal avenue for you to pursue.

The Namies also discovered that there were no organizations working on the issue in the United States, so they started the Work Doctor at the WBI website, where they wrote about the issue, drawing heavily on existing research from countries where it was taken seriously (such as Sweden, Belgium and France). They also created a toll-free hotline for workers to call, counseled thousands of people on the issue, and hosted the first US conference dedicated to the subject of workplace bullying.

At the end of 2001, the campaign moved from California to the state of Washington. At Western Washington University, Gary Namie taught the first US college course on workplace bullying, and the campaign evolved into WBI after a group of research students volunteered to do more survey research.
(more…)

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Posted in Healthy Workplace Bill (U.S. campaign), Media About Bullying, Print: News, Blogs, Magazines | 1 Archived Comment | Post A Comment () »



A Congressional Bullying Example, Call to Resign

Thursday, December 14th, 2017

On a nearly daily basis, another man is accused of past sexual transgressions against a woman or women (Tavis Smiley and Russell Simmons among the most recent) and they lose their jobs or company.

Rather than commenting piecemeal on each new report we chose to write a short book on the topic. We are applying lessons from the MeToo phenomenon to workplace bullying situations. In this way, bullied targets can fight back capitalizing on MeToo successes. Watch for its Jan. 2018 release.

However one of the stories about politicians caught our attention. And it illustrates bullying, not simply sexual harassment.

The male idiot this time is U.S. Congressman Blake Farenthold (R-TX). He was targeted by Bill Maher in past years for being a stupid lawmaker. This is the same congressman who is the former owner of the domain “BlowMe.org,” and who admitted in 2014 to “having wet dreams” about a staffer.

Now CNN has details of his abusive conduct while in office directed toward both women and men. The source is his former communications director Michael Rekola.

Rekola said that Farenthold routinely exploded with rage and anger, slamming his fists down, swept everything off his desk, leaving staffers to clean it up. He called staffers names — idiot or f**ktard. Rekola described the work environment as so toxic and stressful that he suffered a stomach ailment causing him to vomit daily. This, of course, is very familiar to bullied targets.

According to Rekola, Farenthold routinely made lewd comments about the appearance of women including reporters and lobbyists, remarking on the size of women’s breasts and buttocks. There were references to the “redhead patrol,” something which was also mentioned in the lawsuit Farenthold settled with over $80 million taxpayer dollars. Apparently Blake has a thing for redheads, or so he would like us to think.

To appease the MeToo proponents demanding his head, Farenthold has agreed to not run for re-election. That may well not be sufficient, given the zeitgeist. Farenthold must resign. This behavior is an unnacceptable abuse of power whether directed toward men or women.

What was required of Al Franken must be required of any lawmaker accused of such abusive conduct with an underlying sexual harassment history. Let’s hear from Rep. Jackie Speier, Sen. Kirsten Gillebrand, Rep. Nancy Pelosi, and House Speaker Paul Ryan.

In these times, there is no other socially responsible position than to condemn abusive conduct.

This could strike a blow for justice for bullied, not just harassed, targets.

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WBI’s take on the #MeToo Sexual Harassment Revolution

Wednesday, December 13th, 2017

An incomparable amount of public attention has been fixed on sexual harassment in the latter half of 2017. It’s a tsunami, a virtual revolution.

We are finishing a short book, a primer, a white paper on lessons and opportunities for bullied targets to apply from the new movement and changing employer landscape.

The publication will be available for sale at a nominal price in early January 2018.

Check back to get your copy.

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Posted in Books, Hear Ye! Hear Ye! 2, Media About Bullying, Products & Services, Tutorials About Bullying, WBI Education | No Archived Comments | Post A Comment () »



US News: Battling Bullying

Wednesday, December 13th, 2017

Battling Bullying in the Workplace
By Rebecca Koenig, U.S. News & World Report, Dec. 13, 2017

It’s Monday morning and you’re filled with dread. You have to present research at the office this afternoon, but the gnawing feeling in your stomach isn’t just performance anxiety. Whenever you speak in front of your team, your boss interrupts to mock what you say. He questions your judgment, calls you an “idiot” and even mimics your voice in an unflattering way. Worse, a few of your co-workers have started to follow his lead, criticizing your work behind your back, and, increasingly, to your face.

You know your contributions are excellent – at least, you used to know. Lately, you haven’t been so sure.

Welcome to the world of workplace bullying. That’s right, the same sort of name-calling, intimidation and ostracism some children experience on the playground can take root among adults in their offices. When constructive criticism crosses a line, or a co-worker undermines your efforts, or your boss starts spreading rumors about your personal life, those are all examples of workplace bullying.

The effects of this abusive behavior can be serious: decreased self-esteem, worsened health and career deterioration. Read on to learn more about the phenomenon and how to combat it.

Understanding the Workplace Bullying Definition

Office bullying is defined as “repeated, health-harming mistreatment” that involves verbal abuse, work sabotage and/or humiliation and intimidation, according to the Workplace Bullying Institute, a research and advocacy organization.

It may occur one-on-one (between two co-workers or a supervisor and subordinate) or in a group setting. The latter, in which multiple people gang up on one person, is known as “mobbing.”

Typically, a bully is “an aggressive person who strikes out at a particular person more than once over the course of months,” says Nathan Bowling, a psychology professor at Wright State University.

Workplace Bullying Statistics

One-fifth of American adults have directly experienced abusive conduct at work, according to a 2017 Workplace Bullying Institute survey of more than 1,000 people.

More than two-thirds of office bullies are men, and both men and women bullies target women at higher rates. Hispanics report higher levels of bullying than members of any other race.

It’s not uncommon to have a bully boss: 61 percent of targets reported bullying from people in more senior positions.
(more…)

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Freedom From Workplace Bullies Week

Tuesday, October 17th, 2017

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Foreign employer extortion to create jobs for Americans: Costs vs. benefits

Tuesday, August 1st, 2017

The first glowing positive public headline read “Apple will make products (iPhones and iPads) in the U.S.” Yea! Good news, right? Maybe not so. Reading the details revealed that one of Apple’s major manufacturers in China, the Tawainese company Foxconn, was searching for an American location. Not Apple itself — its contracted manufacturer. Apple not only makes its gizmos offshore; it hoardes millions in profits offshore to avoid a US tax bill.

Foxconn, the astute reader remembers, was rendered infamous years ago when it coerced a spate of employee suicides. Investigations uncovered the fact that young workers were crammed into tiny employer-provided apartments too many for the space allotted. (Think factory towns under total employer control.) Then, at the worksite, the workers were forbidden to speak with one another on the Apple products assembly line. The prohibition extended to any talking, not gossip or non-work-related communications — any interpersonal contact!!!!

Worker have a fundamental human need to belong to groups, to be included. When that need is thwarted in cases of social exclusion or ostracism, individuals suffer social harm. Neuroscience research reveals that the social pain endured is real pain — the kind taking painkillers will reduce. Hence, the suicide by jumping off the roof of Foxconn buildings in China.

Foxconn institutionally abused its workers for some unknown reason. The solution to their suicide “problem” — probably considered nothing more than a public relations crisis — was to install netting to catch the jumpers before hitting the ground below. Great fix, huh? No need to attack the root cause — the Foxconn policy and practice. Better to simply minimize the deaths by suicide with “safety” nets. Stupid (or as Trump would say “Sad!).

Foxconn couldn’t convince Pennsylvania to give them a substantial prize for the locating there. But union-busting Scott Walker delivered Wisconsin. As the following report from the Milwaukee Journal Sentinel states, the state will pony up $3 billion of taxpayer funds to entice the company to locate in either Racine or Kenosha counties. Further, the full-control Foxconn style practiced in China is likely to be replicated, or attempted, in Wisconsin. The newspaper story stated that the “factory project would involve a virtual village, with housing, stores and service businesses spread over at least 1,000 acres.” That is, employer-controlled housing.

Will Americans be willing to cram 10-15 people into spaces designed for two or three? Or will the company simply provide gymnasium-size quarters with cots so workers can sleep up to 6 hours before getting back to the assembly line?

Most important, watch to see how they manage interpersonal relations in the factory. Will Foxconn prohibit workers from talking to one another as they did in China? There’s not a single U.S. labor law to prevent it. [The Wisconsin legislature in the session immediately prior to Walker and the Republican takeover, not only sponsored the WBI Healthy Workplace Bill, it held hearings I attended. The bill did not pass, but at least workers’ rights were on the lawmakers’ agenda. Now, not so much.] And Walker and his Republican thugs have paralyzed once union-proud Wisconsites into fear of union organizing.

Watch for the proactive installation of nets to catch suicide leapers in Wisconsin. Why do we let this happen in America????

Read the Journal Sentinel article that follows.

(more…)

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Posted in Bullying & Health, Employers Gone Wild: Doing Bad Things, WBI Education | 1 Archived Comment | Post A Comment () »



2017 WBI U.S. Survey: What Stops Workplace Bullying?

Friday, July 7th, 2017

2017 WBI U.S. Workplace Bullying Survey
Stopping Workplace Bullying


65% of bullying stops when the target loses the job held when first bullied

The Workplace Bullying Institute commissioned Zogby Analytics to conduct the 2017 national scientific U.S. survey across two days in late April. The stratified random sample of 1,008 individuals represented all adult Americans. [Zogby methodology and sample details here.] It was WBI’s fourth national survey.

We used the definition of workplace bullying that matches perfectly the definition codified in the Healthy Workplace Bill. Bullying is repeated mistreatment but also “abusive conduct.” We asked American survey respondents to consider only the most serious forms of bullying.

At WBI, we have been immersed in the lives of bullied targets for two decades. Ideally, employers would recognize the risks workplace bullying/abusive conduct pose and act rationally to stop it. However, we know from targets, this is not the case.

Bullying in its simplest manifestation is dyadic. There is a target and a perpetrator. This question explores how much each player contributes to stopping the bullying and through which personal consequences. [N = 350 with no experience respondents and “not sure” respondents deleted.]

Wording of the Stopping the Bullying Question: What stopped the abusive mistreatment?

This Survey question provided the response option: “It has not stopped” that was chosen by 25% of respondents. Thus, the sample was reduced to N = 263 when those respondents were eliminated. The subsequent percentages in the above Table are based on the new sample that excluded the 25%. The options were chosen only by those for whom the bullying had stopped, either for targets or witnesses.

The sad reality is that even the general public seems to know that it is the target, the victim of the abuse, who is asked to make additional sacrifices to stop the bullying. In 54% of cases, bullying stops only when the target loses her or his job. Remember that individuals do not invite this severe misery into their work lives. Therefore, once a person is targeted for bullying – a choice made by the perpetrator(s) – that person has a 5 out of 10 chance of losing her or his livelihood. If one adds the 11% of targets who had to transfer to retain employment, 65% of targets had to leave the job they loved for no cause.

Furthermore, the target is driven to quit. Voluntary quitting (23%) is usually based on escalating health problems that families and physicians recognize, then encourage the target to leave the job. But 12% of quitting is based on decisions made after work conditions become untenable, so cruel as to drive a rational person to escape. Constructive discharge is the goal for many perpetrators. Terminations (8%) of the skilled but threatening (to bullies) targets are typically based on fabricated lies. Several WBI surveys of bullied targets substantiate this claim.

Accepting a transfer to retain a job (11%), to bullied targets, is often a source of perceived injustice. Their reasoning is “I did nothing to deserve the abuse, why should I be the one to leave the job I love and am best qualified to perform.” To many, transfers are punitive. On the other hand, it prevents economic devastation and might provide a degree of psychological safety.

The pattern of results from this national sample stands in marked contrast with WBI studies asking the same question of a sample of only bullied targets. To them, the ratio of negative consequences experienced by targets is 7:1 when compared to negatives for perpetrators. The public overestimates the proportion of negative consequences suffered by perpetrators.

In this 2017 version of the national survey, we added the option for respondents to choose –employers stopped the bullying by doing something positive and proactive such as creating a policy or conducting credible investigations. Ten percent of respondents chose this option.

Gary Namie, PhD
WBI Research Director

Download the pdf version of these Stopping the Bullying findings.

View findings related to other questions asked in the 2017 Survey.

Download the complete report of the 2017 WBI U.S. Workplace Bullying Survey.

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Posted in Bullying-Related Research, Social/Mgmt/Epid Sciences, WBI Education, WBI Surveys & Studies | No Archived Comments | Post A Comment () »



2017 WBI U.S. Survey: Reactions to Workplace Bullying of Employers and Witnesses

Friday, July 7th, 2017

2017 WBI U.S. Workplace Bullying Survey
Reactions to Workplace Bullying by Employers and Witnesses


71% of U.S. employers react to reports of abusive conduct in ways that harm targets
60% of coworker/witnesses’ reactions to bullying harmed their targeted colleagues

The Workplace Bullying Institute commissioned Zogby Analytics to conduct the 2017 national scientific U.S. survey across two days in late April. The stratified random sample of 1,008 individuals represented all adult Americans. [Zogby methodology and sample details here.] It was WBI’s fourth national survey.

We used the definition of workplace bullying that matches perfectly the definition codified in the Healthy Workplace Bill. Bullying is repeated mistreatment but also “abusive conduct.” We asked American survey respondents to consider only the most serious forms of bullying.

EMPLOYER REACTIONS

Employers have the power to either sustain or eliminate abusive conduct. Anecdotal evidence suggests that American employers rarely take steps to assist the aggrieved employee (the target). This question asks what the public believes employers actually do. [N = 479; no experience respondents deleted.]

Wording of the Employer Reaction Question: Upon learning of the abusive conduct, what did the employer do?

For many respondents, employer reactions were obscured. Two sub-groups of respondents were eliminated – “employer never learned” and “not sure” – representing 56% of the initial sample. For a host of possible reasons (e.g., the target never reported it), employer actions were unknown to over half of the sample. It is also very difficult for observers to be certain what employers know and what they do because so many actions are shrouded in secrecy beneath the veil of “confidentiality.”

Respondents who were sufficiently certain of what employers did, the remaining 44% of the sample [N = 212], concluded that 71% of employers took steps that did not benefit the targeted worker. The most frequent negative employer reaction is to conduct what targets describe as “sham” investigations characterized by major shortcomings. Investigator biases are often legend. Coworkers, for understandable reasons, fail to corroborate their bullied peer’s account of alleged bullying incidents. Key individuals are not interviewed. Greater weight is given to perpetrators’ versions of incidents. Objective historical documentation is ignored or discounted. “Sham” investigations end with an inconclusive result but with inadequate or inaccurate execution. To be fair to investigators with integrity, the process is fraught with problems in bullying cases different than investigations of routine conflict or illegal forms of discriminatory misconduct. An endpoint of “she said/she said” is common. WBI survey respondents say it happens in 46% of cases.

Because abusive conduct is a form of workplace violence, the complainant has likely suffered long prior to requesting an investigation. Therefore, when no work environment changes to restore psychological safety for complainants follow an investigation, investigators necessarily should understand the perception of incredulity by victims of the psychological violence.

Employer apologists might argue that an employer’s decision to do nothing is an act of neutrality. However, this is wrong. Doing nothing or showing indifference to filed complaints or discovering a procedural technicality to justify not responding to the complaints is an act of complicity with the aggressor. By enabling bullying with impunity, the institution takes the side of perpetrators and provides shelter from the accountability they seek. Doing nothing happens 26% of the time, according to the survey respondents.

Positive employer actions resulted in 29% of cases. Perpetrators endured negative outcomes in only 6% of the cases.

WITNESS REACTIONS

Results from several WBI online surveys of bullied targets reliably show that coworkers rarely help their bullied colleagues. Several social psychological processes operate in the group setting to explain the failure to act prosocially toward colleagues. The question explored a range of positive and negative actions taken by witnesses to the bullying. [N = 362 with no experience respondents and “not sure” respondents deleted.]

Wording of the Question: How did most of the witnesses react to the repeated mistreatment of their targeted coworker?

Doing nothing was the most cited tactic (40%). Of course, doing nothing to help colleagues when they are distressed is not a neutral act. It is negative. However, it is not the same as betraying the target by siding with the perpetrator(s), believed by respondents from the general American public to happen in only 4% of cases.

Positive witness reactions occurred in 40% of cases, according to survey respondents. Negative actions were taken in 60% of cases.

Gary Namie, PhD
WBI Research Director

Download the pdf version of these Employer and Witness Reaction findings.

View findings related to other questions asked in the 2017 Survey.

Download the complete report of the 2017 WBI U.S. Workplace Bullying Survey.

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Posted in Bullying-Related Research, Social/Mgmt/Epid Sciences, WBI Education, WBI Surveys & Studies | No Archived Comments | Post A Comment () »



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