June 21st, 2014
Let’s Talk with Kalola: Did bullying occur? Did reverse racial/color discrimination occur?
I am a production coordinator and I have worked in this position for two years. My bullying began in January when I got a new manager. Her reputation proceeded her but was never described as bullying. I gave her behavior a name after doing research based on my own experiences with her. My new manager is black and most of my co-workers are too. After doing this job for two years, I can't seem to do anything right or to please my manager, yet my teammates are praised endlessly for simply doing small jobs. My co-workers either go along with the program and suck up or say nothing, fearing they will be next. I filed an ethics complaint. Ethics said I had no hard proof of discrimination. HR has said they have had problems with my manager in the past and have worked with her successfully to correct her behavior. I was told I couldn't be moved because we all have to work together. I asked what my options were. I was told they hoped somewhere in the future, I would be willing to sit down at the table with my manager and meet her half way and agree to move forward. I asked for another option and was told, "I guess you could continue coming in to work and see if she gets any better." I did tell my manager's boss I thought she was a bully and if that was her personally, they were not going to change it. I continue to look for other opportunities within the company to move out of my current position. I don't feel HR has done anything to help me and is only keeping me in my position to have someone to report back to them my manager's improvement or lack of.I feel like am collateral damage.
South Carolina Worker
Dear South Carolina Worker,
Thank you for writing in to "Let's Talk" and sharing your workplace story. My response is based on what you have written. To be fair to you, I would encourage you to write in again and give more details and examples as to what occurred in the workplace between you and your manager.
You have worked in your position for two years. A new manager was hired earlier this year. My concern is the here and now, and how the manager is treating you. Whether or not the manager's past behavior has any validity or not is not for me to say or judge. Anyone can gain a "reputation" via the rumor mill.
When you say "... I can't seem to do anything right or to please my manager ..." what do you mean? Has your manager been critical of your work performance? What is the manager doing or saying that you feel constitutes bullying?
You have met with your manager's supervisor to discuss your concerns but have you met with your manager and talked about these concerns? The usual protocol would be a discussion with the manager and/or direct supervisor, and then if you were not satisfied, to go up the ladder to complain. Complaint protocols are often listed in employer/employee handbooks and union contracts.
Workplace bullying is not against the law in your state, South Carolina. The only state that has passed an anti-bullying "Healthy Workplace Act" is the State of Tennessee and that law becomes effective July 1, 2014. The Tennessee law affects state and local government workers, and does not apply to workers in the private sector.
The U.S. Equal Employment Opportunity Commission (EEOC) says the following about race/color discrimination and work situations:
"The law forbids discrimination when it comes to any aspect of employment, including hiring, firing, pay, job assignments, promotions, layoff, training, fringe benefits, and any other term or condition of employment.”
"It is unlawful to harass a person because of that person's race or color.”
"Harassment can include, for example, racial slurs, offensive or derogatory remarks about a person's race or color, or the display of racially-offensive symbols. Although the law doesn't prohibit simple teasing, offhand comments, or isolated incidents that are not very serious, harassment is illegal when it is so frequent or severe that it creates a hostile or offensive work environment or when it results in an adverse employment decision (such as the victim being fired or demoted).”
You filed an ethics complaint with the HR dept. where you work. What law or policy did you feel the manager had broken? Did you explain in detail and provide documentation to support your allegation(s)?
If you have questions concerning an ethics violation, you can contact the South Carolina State Ethics Commission at (803) 253-4192.
In your letter you state, "I gave her behavior a name after doing research based on my own experiences with her." What were those experiences? Without more information that details what happened to you, I am unable to say whether you were bullied or not or if there may have been reverse racial/color discrimination. Though my response to you is a neutral response, I have provided avenues for you to explore.
Racial/color discrimination including reverse racial/color discrimination should not be tolerated in the workplace. As the late Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr. stated, "I have a dream that my four little children will one day live in a nation where they will not be judged by the color of their skin, but by the content of their character.”
”Be more concerned with your character than your reputation, because your character is what you really are, while your reputation is merely what others think you are.” ... John Wooden, American basketball player and coach
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