January 30th, 2011

Unions and workplace bullying

Results of the Jan 2011 WBI Instant Poll on unions’ role in workplace bullying.

Employers have unchecked power over non-unionized employees. Whatever dribbles of democracy and employee participation that happen are determined unilaterally by the employer (the owner or highest-level executive). If sharing does not suit him or her, employees are told to hold on, shut up and be glad you have work at all.

Driving employer rights is the doctrine of “employment at will” adhered to in the U.S. as if the courts had ruled on it (they did not, read this to learn the deliberately distorted history). Business sold this notion as if it were bidirectional. Employers can put you on the street for no cause. Employees can dump their employers and put themselves on the street. See, both have “free will.” Nonsense!

If you are prone to magical thinking, you might believe that all it takes to combat bullying (mistreatment by the employer or its agent, managers) is the collective effort by concerned co-workers who witness the events. Yes, in your dreams you see the heroic target in the boss’s threshold backed by throngs of agitated and supportive peers. In reality, chances are better that only a breeze will be behind our hero at the door when left to fight alone.

The abandonment of bullied targets is not fantasy. It is reality. We have surveyed targets and looked closely at the issue. In less than 1% of cases do co-workers provide support as solid and comprehensive in the above fantasy. There are many reasons to account for this lack of courage. Most explanations come from the field of social psychology. Just this month, there was an article describing the bystander non-intervention effect. And I could lecture on several others. Suffice it to say, the “F” word drives it all. Fear of being the lone supporter, fear of botching the help, fear of being pushed away by the target whose shame makes him want to be left alone, fear of incurring the bully’s wrath and being next.

So, how do workers in the 21st century achieve some sort of power balance with employers? Will Facebook and Twitter accomplish parity with corporations? Some may think so, but why have we given up on Unions? More in a moment about that. But first let’s see what 313 bullied targets who completed the first 2011 WBI Instant Poll thought about the role for unions.

The question:  “Given the current assaults on workers by employers, what role, if any, do you see for unions to address workplace bullying?”

The responses and percentages:

– Unions are more necessary than ever to protect worker health and safety. Employers’ power must be checked.  .4728
– Everyone should have the option to join a union if he or she wishes.   .2396
– Unions are unnecessary. They are no more trustworthy than are employers.  .2396
– The contemporary worker and workplace are rarely suited for unions.  .04792

Results of WBI Jan 2011 Instant Poll

About three-quarters of targets still believe that unions have a positive role to play and want to have the option to join or not. With a new Congress that took power in 2011, it is unlikely that Federal legislation to make joining unions easier will ever pass into law.

However, the most important finding from this small sample survey is that 24% do not trust their unions any more than their employers. This is the reality we hear from callers and what we see when we go on-site. I distinguish this distrust from a negative public stereotype about unions fostered by corporations and media (only 5% adopted that view). The distrust captured here is from people who have probably asked their unions for help with bullying situations and been rebuffed. Their unions did no more for them than HR. It is based on real experiences.

How could unions be so feckless about workplace bullying?

Four principal explanations come to mind:

1) Unions officers rise in the ranks based on their ability to fight and be adversarial (good to win victories for the union’s members) and do not want any curbs on their actions with anyone else, whether it is with management or with other members. In other words, they might be intimidators and want to stay that way without interference from a new company policy or a future law.

2) Unions are organizations, too. The bureaucratic mindset can take over. People get defensive for the organization and show less compassion for the people the organization is supposed to serve. Some unions have a low service threshold. They don’t care about helping members.

3) Too many unions have been co-opted by “partnership” talk with employers. They want to get along and ignore their members’ needs. This doesn’t mean there is corruption in every instance. Unions have been forced into concessions by scheming, but cash-rich employers for years. Employers threaten to shutter the business and move it offshore if pensions aren’t abandoned or health insurance co-pays aren’t increased, etc. In other words, unions have been whipped into submission. Survival is the operating mode. Concern over quality of worklife issues seems unimportant.

4) Unions can be great when the bully is a non-member, typically a manager.  But when bullying is member-on-member, most unions are paralyzed. They erroneously feel compelled to defend both the abusive and abused member. In reality, the responsibility is to represent, never to defend.

None of these reasons are to be used to defend hapless, ineffective unions. However, if unions are to regain trust of their members, each of the above four issues must be confronted honestly and reversed.

Our work has expanded to offer options for unions to serve their bullied members. We have had marvelous union officials attend WBI University to take back to their unions new ways to deal with bullying. In fact, in late 2011, WBI will offer a special Unions-Only University to increase the number of wise member-supporting unions out there.


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This entry was posted on Sunday, January 30th, 2011 at 3:59 pm and is filed under Bullying-Related Research, Tutorials About Bullying. 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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  1. Kachina says:

    I think a strong, ethical union would be advantageous to workers. My last union permitted hours of work which would have been illegal for non-unionized workers, failed to support me when I was bullied by a members on collusion with management, and suggested that I meet with the bullies to socialize on my days off to develop a better working relationship. Not helpful, but I think education and a return to basics and renewal of their mission would help.

    • Jay Jacobus says:

      I have a better chance of finding employment than I do of starting a union. Yet I would be glad to support any existing union who wants to join the effort to eliminate bullying.

      You are right on about the “at will law” I have not yet voted for this law and neither has anyone else. I would like to vote. Apparently legislators don’t.

      The non-existent “at will law” also applies to punishment, salaries, assignments, reputation and career path. A company can do what it wants without restrictions from legislators or judges no matter how reckless and unfair.

      One cannot prove he is innocent of charges because his employer need not make charges before acting punitively. Any charge is merely insinuated. Due process would be a bully’s restraint.

      So, this is one concept I endorse.

  2. Carol Fehner says:

    I know that unions need to be educated about what bullying is and how to deal with it before they can really be effective in dealing with it. As a union rep I tried all of my union tools in dealing with a bully manager and was not successful. Only when I realized what I was dealing with could I come up with a plan of action after a lot of trial and error. I KNOW that unions can do better in this area.

  3. varn says:

    educating the world on what bullying is and the effect it has on the victim is the key to any successful law being enacted. in the workplace people join forces like a cult, if you dont join in they will make your life a living hell. at least 50 people witnessed or knew about the harassment, taunting and ridicule i was subjected to, not one would come forward with the truth, knowing this added to my stress and anxiety. you are one person who knows the truth and everyone else is lying, then you are labeled (crazy)when you know the cult members are actually psychopaths. union or not if you plan to fight know your opponent and their tactics because they may look innocent but they are devious liars with company backing. if a company knows the victim is truthful do you think they will admit it no! because then they are subject to liability.

  4. varn says:

    I was just agreeing with the union person about not knowing what you were up against. attorneys need to be educated on bullying because this is unchartered territory. if we can get one pass a judge and to a jury we can pave the way for others and put employers on notice.

  5. kay says:

    My experience with my current nightmarish situation of bullying/harassment is that unions do nothing more than keep your pay check coming. The cost you pay in emotional trauma and mental turmoil in a toxic environment seems to be of less concern to them then the dues you pay from your earnings each week.

    In my situation, my in-office union president and vp are the bullies. They participated in deaming open insults, coined the name “Princess Tiara” as a description of me, and would repeditively say that I was going with —(name I won’t mention) who was a co-worker that had been fired. I’d been a b****, Tr***, sl** openly right near my workstation as I’d work. The woman would then tell me how great I was and was very professional & a “silent observer” when speaking directly to me.

    The union pres would frequently say that an older supervisor should have been in trouble long ago for sexual harassment and laugh. The male sup would be asked for his pymt of $1 for lottery and he’d respond to the female co-worker “IS THAT ALL -IT-COST”. Nothing was out of bounds and I’d watch in silence, being one of the most productive in office.

    Later I found out that this supervisor had videotaped me in the restroom stall. He’d tell me just what I’d done in stall as I’d pass his desk alone. I ended up at the ER at about 3-4am with a near nervous breakdown and am now on meds for severe depression and anxiety. I also see a psychiatrist. I kept it a secret for a short time but the union rep knows of this. My HR did nothing and even retaliated against me when I spoke up. They sent me for a so called computer selected random drug test right after I spoke out to them. I don’t even drink nor smoke. I am now on heart monitor due to arythmia that I knew nothing about until my doc clocked it at a visit and told me.

    My life has been changed and I spend it in my room with the windows covered and cant imagine how I’m gonna rebound from this. I feel raped. The insults and name calling and statements of wanting to “punch” me were bad enough. The supervisor took the opportunity to invade me, knowing that I would not be supported by the union women. It’s a culmination of a toxic environment. I don’t much share my personal distress with veteran co-workers, but I have been a fly on the wall when they’d been speaking of their own encounters in the environment. Before excepting this -thought to be dream job just over 6yrs ago, I’d not even known that these types of things were happening in workplaces across the world. It was foreign to me, now my reality.

    I am only 33 and have a spouse of 16yrs and we have 3 children, one being a now 6yr old diabetic. I carry on for my children, just to protect their lives and happiness. They are wonderful and excelling but each day is almost insurmountable for me. I can’t seem to keep the depression at bay and soon will have to return to the environment. I cant even be of sound mind to look for another job while I’m off on sick leave. I am my family’s only income right now. I am a strong woman and I love to work. I’ve worked at location for 6yrs, but I am destroyed with what has happened. My joy has been hijacked.

    The idea of unions is WONDERFUL, the reality however, has in my case been worthless. My previous employer was an at will office and you’d abide by the rules or be escorted to the door. I worked there for years and had no problem. Sadly enough, in that environment, if anyone disrespected anyone, they’d take that walk. I do know that this leaves open opportunity for mistreatement, but honestly for unions, not everyone elected into power deserves or honors the responsibility with vigor for the best intent. When witnesses standby in fear, as in my case, the damage is much worse.

    Respectfully-sorry post so long. This is a topic near to me.

    • Jay Jacobus says:

      I feel bad for you. You are in a very difficult situation.

      My suggestions may not work but they may give you some ideas.

      1-Ask the national headquarters of your union if they have a policy on harrassment.

      2-Ask the legal counsel for your organization the same thing.

      Tell them that this is just for your information. You don’t want to make a complaint until you can predict what they will do.

      3-You can circulate anti-bullying brochures to the female workers in your office. If you want to do that anonymously you should do it surreptiously.

      4-If you can get a lawyer to send a threatening letter that adresses harrassment but doesn’t name you, that would be good.

      All these tactics raise the awareness of abuse in your workplace. If you are lucky, a powerful person will make a rule about abuse.

      Companies use subliminal messages to raise awareness in loyalty, honesty, diligence, quality and many other concepts. By sending anonymous letters you hope to do the same with abuse.

      • kay says:

        Thanks for the very thoughtful ideas Jay. One in particular was the idea to contact the union headquarters for general information. I’d never thought to do that and honestly was just getting used to the idea of organization.

        Prior to my becoming “Princess Tiara” and sitting in horror and disbelief as the two union women said I’d be sure to lose my job and going with —-, I’d not given much thought to the organized status.

        I have really a reserved disposition and tend to try and avoid conflict and respect even the most terrible of personalities. I try and stear clear of them, when i encounter them, but I still show common respect. I can recognize all of the disfunction and toxicity going on around me but the extent of it was jarring.

        I’ll do what I can in this situation, but I am just so very glad that there are wonderful folks like the creaters of this site who are willing to force this issue out into the open for public view. My HR finally told me in a very kind mannor that “it was just co-workers being mean” I sat there stupidly staring and wanted to calmly walk out of the room and stand in the floor and scream –HE HAS VIDEO TAPES OF ME PARTIALLY NUDE USING THE RESTROOM!!!– forget about the few women calling me green eyed so and so’s or saying that they wanted to punch me and princess this or that…. The union woman said “some people just get picked on” She also said at one point “oooo mean girls” all while I was basically quiet. The other female sup would say that those envolved had no class or she’d even say to me, that they used to do her the same way before she became sup. Again I wanted to scream YOU ARE THE OTHER SUPERVISOR SO DO SOMETHING,THIS IS NOT THE LOCAL PUB. THIS IS MY JOB!! Instead I kept it all in and ended up in the condition I am in. I now spend most of my days online reading dozens of posts about the progress of this epidemic.

        I’ve begun to write letters recounting my ordeal. I’d started documenting yrs back date and time and what was said just near me as I’d worked since 2006. I intend to send a very detailed fact based brief letter to those driving legislation. The contents of the accountings would make a mature professional grab their mouths or shake their heads when hearing what passes as professional conduct in my place of employment.

        We just wanna work and feel proud of our accomplishments. Work without having to worry about, or rehurse a response to being openly called a b**** or other. Even the notion of indecent voyeurism or other opportunistic abuse should not dare be contemplated.

        I hope we can hold employers accountable so much so that they will immediately say to the perpetrator NO YOU DONT, IF YA DO THAT IN HERE YOU’LL BE PROMPTLY ASKED TO LEAVE! NO EXCUSES!!

    • Janey says:


      Not all unions are like that. I am President of my local and am trying to get a bully fired for what she has been allowed to do to her employees for more than 5 years. First of all, go to Radio Shack and buy a small digital recorder. I purchased a very nice one for about $69. Get this abuse on tape. Not sure what state you are in, but in my state only one person (me) has to know a conversation is being recorded. The suggestion to go over the heads of your President and VP is a good one. Complaints can be brought to the National and having a tape of how you have been treated by people who should be looking out for you would be very helpful. Am going to pray that your situation gets resolved to your satisfaction. God bless,

      • J. says:

        I made the recording with an old fashioned cassette tape, but either way it’s an excellent idea. Although, now there is a struggle over the tape. I think the law you mention about who must have knowledge of taping is common in several states. However, it is important to be very, very careful about that – if your consent to tape is not enough under the laws of your state, taping without consent may be criminal.

      • J. says:

        Kay, you mentioned that someone has videos of you in the restroom. I do not understand. I cannot imagine a way in which they were made legally. Have you looked into sexual harassment charges, or something beyond that? That really is something you should discuss with an attorney, or maybe law enforcement. This sounds very serious and possibly dangerous.

        I understand how the demeaning names work. I am the Prima Donna, according to my department chair.

      • kay says:

        Thank you for the kind words Janey. I really do believe that there may be other union officials that actually are not sociopathic, or narcistic. I think there may be some who truely do care about ALL employees not just those women who stand around an office cursing like sailors, harassing a good employee. Those seem to be the types willing to kiss union pres/vp backsides.

        I can be polite, civil, and respectful,even if I know that you don’t posess that basic human decentcy, but I will not kiss your behind because of a title that you are abusing. It is amazing just how nasty women can be to other women. I don’t know if it is an insecurity? They find a woman who they may see is interested in actually working and doing a good job and being polite and maintaining some level of respect,minding her own business,while raising beautiful,smart,kind children and trying to live a loyal stable clean life and they just wanna take her down.

        They call her princess this or that and say who does she think she is while the other women are not bothered by her at all and are very kind and professional and actually get to know her and tell her they love her. In my office, I couldn’t wrap my head around it because my union reps are both women and in their upper 50’s or maybe heading toward 60’s and both have grown children as far as I know(scary), yet they behave like the 12yr olds in my daughters middle school. It’s weird for me because I have just never been the type to disrespect women my senior. I actually find it very fulfilling to have friendships with women of all ages and always have had rapport with mature women,it to me,is valuable.My previous work family would come to my apartment and I’d grill and cook with my childhood bf and we’d pitch in and have get-togethers. I had NO problem. All colors,genders,and age ranges.

        But these females at this toxic workplace are neither particularly attractive by society’s(very stringent)standards of face nor body type,definitely not insides, yet they will take inventory of another women’s attire or simple hairdue for the day and critique,openly at that and in a degrading hostile mannor,right down to the fact that she’d warn small stud earings?? This seems only when the woman -does- fit society’s standard in some way.

        They bring such vile toxicity to the environment. In my office, I was told very early on that they were horrible and the women would regularly say that the president did not need her position and did not have a clue how to handle the honor that she’d been entrusted. I’d been directly told that others from other divisions of the company, men and women,not within the office would say that this president was a “kiss up” and loud and inadequate.

        They’d say that she was only interested in the position for the perks. This was without my EVER saying a nasty word about her. I was a fly on the wall and I’ll tell ya, I did not even like that,and if she’d have heard it and it hurt her, I’d have spoken up. I observed, but never said a nasty word.

        You are in a unique position. In your situation,is the women in power/management? How sure are you that she is the bully in the situation? How were you able to distinguish and find that she was not a mobbed target herself? Since bullies seem to enlist support and imtimidate others into backing their stories to destroy a persons career, and it seems to be universal that they gain support for their agenda from a union rep. I’m curious to know if you’d taken time to get to know her and find out her true character. It must be hard I commend you for taking action if this woman is truely doing something to the others. I just worry that it may be her smile, or bright eyes or caring nature, or even her private demeanor that is bothering some workers. I trust you have sincere and earnest guided intentions. Maybe just because of the experience with my union pres, I wonder. Pls respond/elaborate if you dont mind. I’d like to hear more.


      • kay says:

        Also, I was reading J’s response and the responses about anger, I can relate to that as well. I dont know why folks do these kinds of things to people considering the state of the world. To harass someone,especially a person with children to care for, should not seem an attractive notion for bullies, given that there is a clear pattern of workplace violence occuring more each day.

        I am not saying that I condone violence, but I can now say that I 100% understand how it might occur. If a worker turned to violence after experiencing even half of the intrusions and malicious attacks or indecent invasions that I have experienced, I can understand how emotions may have provoked a violent response.

        The unrelenting negative attention and sabotage… things like going to tell a sup that you came to work early ONE day…you were not perfect, all other days you are right on schedule but they are following your schedule so closely that they go to the male sup and tell him that you came in early, not late, but early. He then: to see you upset and provoke a fight amongst the both of you, comes and tells you in front of the harasser that the bully came and told him that you were early.

        Or after you have spoken up in a few ways to get them to think of something other than you for 24hrs, HR does a 10min bogus meeting and sprinkles in a lil..be kind to others,while talking business, the bully nearly interrupts the meeting saying “but if it were me I would not tattle” and a veteran employee who is sick of you being bullied speaks up for you right as the bully is spewing her once again harassing nonsense, and tells you not to worry and let HR handle it as you sit there silently.

        Too many incidents to mention, but they are unrelenting, and even if you ignore them completely, they will continue. I ran out of space Janey and forgot to say thanks for the blessing. Thank you and same to you. I hope you were not offending by my questions, I tend to rant, since finally I am getting to talk about this to others after holding it for so long. I just think it is dangerous and what do they expect to happen. In these schools and especially where adults who are responsible for the lives of their children, work to earn a living.

        People should think about those things before launching their attacks on someone who is clearly minding her very own business and has far too much on her plate already having to worry about raising her children god fearing and decent, as well as making sure her toddler stays alive while she is at work.

        Hopefully carbs or lack thereof do not put in into coma or other. People just see the outside and think because you may look to have all of your ducks in a row with finances, being a homeowner at 28 and private schooled children and whatever, they dont know that your baby has been told that without specific monitoring and shots each and every day of his life,everything he puts in his mouth, he could suffer irreparably. They also dont know that your income is stretching to its limits with those things and you are the backbone of it all, just so you and your spouse can play tag team in watching your baby suffer over 800 sugars and lows of 20 while in school.

        Someone has to be on standby to be sure he is ok. It is disgusting that I have to deal with this all going on at work as well. They say that god does not give a person anything that they cant handle, and that he will see you through all of your trials, I have a spouse who loves me the same after 16yrs, friends and family who love me and an entire congregation praying that this will hold true for me and my family.

        I guess I’d better get that xanax and be front row each Sunday. It’s always been in my heart, and I show it to even strangers, but I’d better be steadfast in order to endure this and keep my values without losing it.

    • Phyllis Stokes says:

      February 11, 2011

      Boss Bullying
      It needs to stop!

      If I had known back then what I know now,
      It would have NEVER happened!

      I’m a female and I work at a major hospital in New York City. I was born and raised in America. When I go to work, I feel like I’m entering a third world county.

      Being raised to go out into the world and make it on my own not knowing that one day down the road someone would be waiting to take it all away from me.

      In all the years I have worked, I never thought that I would end up being supervised by a malicious, vindictive person.

      Sure, no boss is perfect but who expects, especially at the latter stages in your life that you would be coming to work to be talked down to, lied on, insulted, criticized, yelled at, screamed at, degraded, tormented, lunch time being stolen from you, being told how lucky you are that you was transferred because if you had to be interviewed they would have never hired you, making fun of your voice and other employees join in making fun of your voice also, making fun of the way you talk, making fun of your headwear, making you cry while they sit there smirking at you, denying you from making more money but making sure other people get it, making sure that whatever positions you apply for that you will never get it, threatening to suspend or fire you if you don’t go see counselors, talking in front of co-workers and outside people about your personal business, telling you you’re not doing enough no matter how hard you try, ordering you to walk quickly to them as if you’re a little puppy dog, telling you how pretty you are while you’re crying and they’re smiling as if it’s a turn on to them, nitpicking at you from the time you walk through the door, always creating small meetings with their friends and their friends sit there staring at you as if they want to help you but they know they better not because they fear him/her, insulting you because of your height, questioning about your personal life, telling you their personal problems, trying to make you feel sorry for them, telling you how stupid other employees are, talking about you when you’re off, making plans for you, telling you what they feel is good for you and what they don’t feel is good for you and whatever else they can think of to put you down and keep you miserable while on the job and as time goes on you find yourself miserable off the job because you know you have to come back.

      The weird part is that they will always tell you that you are a very good person, how kind you are, caring, smart, a very good worker and then turn around and start tearing you down again. Every time you think it might get better, it gets worse.

      You try to transfer from their department and they stop it. You go to a different department and they stop that also. You know there’s higher paying positions coming up and before you even apply for them, you’re being told that you’re not getting it anyway and not to bother putting in for it. The people that are suppose to help you ends up leaving you to fend for yourself.

      They’re always comparing you with other co-workers saying how you should be like them.

      Over a period of time you start to wonder if it’s personal or is it an obsession. You begin to feel as if you’re in a world of your own. It can become very scary when they start telling you things like they’re never going to let you go, they have to keep you there, then they raise their voice at you saying that they’re trying their best to make you a better person than what you are and while saying these things their expression changes as if they’re getting annoyed with you because you’re not living up to their standards.

      How do we expect our children to tell when they’re being bullied if adults are afraid to tell when they’re being bullied and keeping quiet for fear of losing their jobs.

      It’s time for us to stand up for what we believe and stop being

  6. Mary Lou Conca says:

    The Union representative for my school district did not help me at all. As a matter of fact she bullied me herself! She told me she was tired of my calling her… I was confused at first by what she meant and didn’t understand why she never returned any of my phone calls. How else would we have ever been in contact if I hadn’t telephoned her. She did virtually nothing for me as far as standing up for me in my work place bullying ordeal that I was being subjected to on a daily basis. She yelled the very first time we spoke and it rose a defensiveness in me, because I wouldn’t allow myself to be bullied in my own home–even if we were on the telephone! I would like to ask this union for my years of dues to be returned to me. They did nothing for me except sit back while my supervisor created a hostile working environment and chased me out of my job!!

    • kay says:

      I understand each and every word you wrote and I am pretty sure that I have an idea of the emotion behind those words. Sad, but true, or at least in most situations from what I hear.

      I know just what ya mean. I never complained about what was going on because I am a bit shy and very private and most often reserved. This type of a demeanor can be a huge asset to a bully/harasser. In my case, the male sup sent me an e-mail telling me that he’d not thanked me enough and at times I well should have complained but I never did and how great I was.

      His words were pretty much just that. He went on to say how I was in my seat and do my work and he was thankful and sorry he’d not voiced his appreciation and all of this other mess. He’d slid some free restaurant passes onto my desk. This was a man who I stayed clear of and was only polite and interacted with him when I absolutely had to.

      He knew that I sat by and let him and the union pres and vp first bully and then harass me. It was the worst mind game ever. I felt myself shake like the temp had dropped to below zero as I wrote a very professionally toned, but stern response and copied my female sup that used to be a regular office worker like myself, and the young HR rep that I’d contacted a few mths earlier to ask about conduct policies.

      I’d not given her my name in the earlier contact but I’m sure she remembered. I advised him that I was always very appreciative of any of my contributions and that I did not want to ever complain about anything, but that I must speak up about what was going on with a few of the women for so long. I laid it all out there, but did not tell of his involvement. He was furious and was then retiring. I guess he felt the overwhelming need to let me know just how he’d taken advantage of me.

      I don’t know if it was a sexual thing or a power need that it fulfilled in him, but he would wait for me to walk past and then began speaking very loudly where I could hear and tell me step by step just what I’d done in the stall while using the restroom. I could have fainted right there. I struggled to make excuses in my head as I went to my cubical. I could hardly work and sat there in shock. There were no witnesses. From there on he would behave sicker and sicker.

      I could not deny what had happened, but somehow I put it somewhere and each time he’d indicate, I’d put up some sort of a wall. It did not last long, I nearly had a nervous breakdown and -Did Not- want to go back and tell the HR girl about what happened so he left and it took me many mths to tell them. I asked both in person and written statement that they check his computer. I did not tell anyone else not even my female sup. Folks would pop up in my cubical and find me quietly sobbing and ask me what was wrong and I’d say I was fine.

      It did not take me long to get sick. At my Doc appt I was sitting and had been for some time, but the assistant checked my vitals and got the Doc and the Dr came in and asked me what was going on and if I felt palpitations. She checked it again and resting beat was almost 200. I then had to wear lifewatch machine.

      The entire nightmare has been awful. What’s happened since was awful. If this did not happen to me, I’d question if it were real. Some sort of shame and a need to be not seen as a victim, made me try and block out my emotions and keep going, until my body told me it would not work. I know how you feel not wanting to get pity or be a bother. We just want to work and be acknowledged for the merits of our work and our professionalism and ethics. I had a very good standing and no hint of discipline. Employee of the mth, award for most positive. I had stats above me and always met and exceeded company goal. I had no reason to speak out other than they were beating the crap out of me with words. Little did I know that the male sup had plans for me. He was taking with him a momento or souvenir/my virtue. He wanted me to know it knowing paralyzing

  7. Jay Jacobus says:

    Some more thoughts for you:

    Bullies create repressive workplaces. We abhor repression in Korea, Iran, Uganda and China. We should clean up our own house as we attack others.

    Legislators, the DOL, unions, the Justice department should keep us safe. They fail to do this in toxic work places and therefore ignore cries for help.

    Only companies can take timely action to resolve bullying in their company. By delay and evasion they turn problems into catastrophes.

    A person who is hired healthy and capable, must leave his employment in the same way. A damaged person does not harm himself.

    If you anonymously send these ideas around your company, you may get executives to think about these issues.

    I hope you get help and encouragement.

  8. allie snyder says:

    I accidentally came across this site and am thrilled with the fact that workplace bullying is recongnized as a problem. I have had problems in the workplace in the past and I blamed myself for it because I am shy and I have difficulty making friends quickly. Usually if I stay at a workplace long enough, I am accepted, but I have had instances where I just had to leave after a year or two because of bullying. I have been called princess before in the workplace by my coworker at one job. I had found out later she had a history of calling her coworkers princesses and she had been let go at her previous jobs because of doing this. She made it very difficult to work with and she vindictively told our supervisor what a terrible worker I was and lied to her about my taking extra time off and putting on my time card that I worked, etc. My supervisor develped distrust toward me prior to my addressing my coworker causing problems in the workplace. My supervisor sided with my coworker because of the lies she had instilled in my supervisor’s brain. My position there was temporary, but this situation made it impossible for me to obtain a permanent position. My coworker had actually taken a swing at me and missed, but my supervisor was already biased toward me. Nothing I said mattered. There was nothing I could do.
    Another issue I have is working for doctors in sinle doctor practices. I have been in the medical field for a very long time and have developed a code of ethics because I have become educated over time my field. I wittness this code, which is reasonable to conform to especially being a doctor, constantly being broken in order for the doctor to save money by illegally cutting corners (which could cause patients harm), the doctor disrespecting the staff, the doctor making disrespctful remarks about individual staff behind thier backs to other staff, the doctor manipulating the staff when they can or cannot take vacation time, etc. I can go on and on and on. Not all doctors are like that, but you would be amazed with what goes on behind closed doors. The doctors think thier staff is cornered and don’t have anywhere else to go and many put up with this abuse enabling the doctor. It is true in most cases, but I cannot put up with it anymore. I am unemployed right now because I was let go at my last job where the doctor practiced manipulating her staff and broke some rules doctors are to abide by. I am looking for another job in another field. There are many doctors who do this-it’s not just one. Workplace bullying needs to be seriously addressed because I know now that I am not the only one this has been happening to.

    • kay says:

      My goodness Allie, I’ll tell ya, I just don’t even know what to say. Ethics seem to be a thing of the past. I found that there seems to be nothing that an employer will not do in order to behave, really, however they want. They then blatantly cover any tracks of the truth of wrongdoing. Especially when they are a very profitable public corporation that seems to have a pretty bad name for ethics already (news to me). I don’t think they care how they harm the employees and their families at all.

      I don’t even think it is an after thought. In my case, I did not want money, nor ask for ANYTHING but acknowlegement and help. I guess that for acts as horendouse as what happened to me, they needed to protect the companies interests. I think my new name might be –collateral damage.

      You hang in there, I wish you strength, peace and prosperity.

  9. J. says:

    The concept of employment at will, which is entrenched in our system, is based on a false idea that the two parties (employer and employee) negotiate as equals. Under employment at will, it is unfairly assumed that the employer and the employee are equals who can freely determine their relationship. In reality, the employee never has the power that the employer has and can never negotiate as an equal. In a bad economy, the employee has even less power. Most employers never seem to realize that high turnover increases their costs, or they would rather keep costs high than have empowered employees.

    Statutory protections of employment at will are state level. Unless the employee is a member of a federally protected group and can show discrimination or unlawful retaliation, there is no remedy. Where there are no unions, we have so few employment protections that lawsuits (where causes of action exist) are the only avenue. Even the EEOC is lawsuit based. Legislation that would give the employee rights to sue will also push the burden onto the employee and many will choose not to sue if they cannot find contingent fee arrangements. However, expanded rights to sue an employer are better than no rights at all.

    There is another segment of the working population that I would like to see addressed here. I think many people do not know we exist. We are not all pure employment at will, or union employees. Some of us are contract employees and we may make up a larger portion of the population than many people believe. Almost everyone who works in education, as a member of faculty or administration, is a contract employee. Some are also union members, but many are not. I am a contract employee, but I do not have access to a union.

    On the surface, employment contracts offer employees rights that those employed at will do not have. Terminations require due process, there are appeals processes and a variety of other protections in employment contracts. My employer cannot terminate me in breach of my contract (without following written procedures) without facing a wrongful termination suit. Universities in my system lose these suits with some regularity because they often breach employee contracts. If I quit, in breach of contract, my employer could sue me for the dollar value of the remainder of the contract and for any harm caused (like the added cost of a replacement).

    I have seen almost no benefits from having a contract, despite being a tenured faculty member with an exceptional research record. My employer cannot terminate me, but it can make my life miserable and ruin my professional standing so that I cannot find other employment. In the absence of strong federal laws prohibiting workplace abuse and wrongful termination, protections may not be as useful as they appear.

    • Jay Jacobus says:

      Our power is limited by our failure to organize. If we were organized and strong, we could begin taking down the worst bullies.

      We could start dossiers and track their movements. We could create stigmas and advertise their villainy. We could hinder their opportunities and threaten their well being.

      In short, we could what they did to us.

      People who are still employed might want to keep a low profile for fear of retribution. But these people could provide creative and managerial work to aid those of us who are not employed and can therefore be brave.

      • J. says:

        I think I was referring to a different sort of power. Because we lack strong employment laws to protect the employee, the employer will always have the advantage in at will employment. Where unions are dysfunctional, or nonexistent, employees will always be faced with less economic and political strength than their employers and will be unable to negotiate with them on an equal level. I am not optimistic that we will ever see substantial change to our employment laws, enough to protect the employee. In some states, laws work against organizing labor unions.

        Threats are always wrong and sometimes criminal. I think there is a difference between threatening and exposing. I do not want to encourage bullying by refusing to identify the bully, thereby supporting harmful behavior.

        At my place of employment, I have seen little difference in the treatment of bullying targets who defended themselves and those who did not. Targets who believed the bullying would stop if they did nothing were no less bullied than I have been and some of their careers were equally attacked. I never experienced bullying at work until I left at will employment and moved to contract employment – I know it exists, but it was not my experience. I think for contract employees in education bullying takes on some different forms than in at will employment.

        I am still employed, even though I am involuntarily “reassigned” to work at home, but I do not see myself as a coward. I do not view those who choose not to defend themselves as less than brave, but I understand that they may be losing some of their contract rights in making that choice – this makes us different from at will employees. I do not think leaving my employment, either voluntarily or involuntarily, would make me brave.

  10. Jay Jacobus says:

    And I am not malicious.

    I do not intend to harm anyone. If someone gets harmed, that is not my intent. I am simply pressuring people to act with empathy and caring.
    Wholesome leaders are what we need. Can anyone blame me or hold me responsible for the bad deeds of others. Common law says that bullies should be stopped.

    In my case, malice cannot be proven. You are fools if you try.

    • Jay Jacobus says:

      It doesn’t matter how angry I am. My tormentors are far from sight. I have no hold over them. I cannot prove their involvement. Nor does it matter if I could. No one would listen.

      I call for my protectors to notice me but they don’t. They explain that I have not done what they want. They put requirements upon me and when I say that I have fulfilled their requirements already, they ignore me. They insinuate that I did not do right. Yet, not doing something is not against the law.

      But they write the law as if talking to my tormentors is both required and illegal.

      Can my protectors see the trap or are they blinded by the law? The law which says that I can be punished without justification.

      Surely I quit because I wanted a change. If I wanted to attack powerful people, I would cut out my desire and be passive.

      Oh dear. I am in a pickle and cannot please my tormentors. I have tried but they want an example of how free will is dangerous.

      What should I do? Should I name my tormentors?

      • Kachina says:

        Jay, it does matter how angry you are. It affects you physically, psychologically, and spiritually. I know only too well how the people whose job it may be to care and to help you can let you down and fail to fulfill their responsibility to you.

        By now it is clear to you that no one in a position to do so will help. That leaves you, and the like minded people in the anti-bullying movement. Although this is taking a terrible toll on you personally, it is not a personal problem. It is a social problem. Despite the toll it has taken on me and my family and friends, I too found that I could not give up or let go.

        I don’t know if it will help you, but the way I have decided to deal with my anger is to redirect it toward the larger-than-I -am issues that put me in harm’s way in hopes that by adding my voice to the chorus I can become part of a resonance that will eventually change the hearts and minds of enough people that our institutions will react.

        Trying to make sense of it all and feeling personally diminished were not productive. I hope you give it up and find another way. Pleasing your tormentors may provide some short-term relief but will lead to Stockholm Syndrome! While they are far from sight, work on giving yourself a new identity! I wish you every success in a bright and meaningful future.

  11. Jay Jacobus says:

    Thank you for your caring response.

    Know that if my tormentors should decide to let me go that will also affect me physically, psychologically, and spiritually. But not in such a negative way.

    Also,some protector may save my future and that also willl affect me physically, psychologically, and spiritually.

    There was a website that demanded that I foregive everyone to solve my problems. And when I wouldn’t agree with them, they banned me from their website.

    Foregiveness is something that you do for yourself, not for anyone else. You can forgive and still hold other people responsible for actions. Or you can say that you foregive and never do anything else. I say my inner feelings are my own business and my outer actions should not provoke the pious.

    • kay says:

      Hello Jay, and all of you wonderful folks who have commented. I have been staying away from the boards since my last post. I find that I must step away and close my computer and almost hide it from my sight in order to keep my wits about me. This is now my life, and I have a myriad of emotions surrounding all of this.

      I find that when I force myself to revisit or dare I say, acknowledge the events that have taken place, it almost destroys me all over again. So I’m stuck, it’s like I can’t look back, nor can I go forward.

      I have been off on sick leave for just over 2mths and I only feel -a fraction- of a percent better. The time away has at least saved off a heart attack for now,(the haulter monitor stopped beeping every other min recording arythmia) but the knowledge of what happened has me resting right on the web of depression. I don’t want this in my life at all. But it is not possible to erase it all.

      I dont want to see the bldg or think of the dozens of incidents that occured. I got so bad last week that I sat and cried for hours and actually gagged the more I thought of things. I almost took myself to the ER since it was Friday.

      I was thinking that I needed something stronger than zoloft and Klonopin (my currents). I was gonna ask them for xanax. I was never big on medication, but I just didn’t wanna think about it anymore and it was almost as if I could not stop the memories and thoughts. I’m thinking to myself: Why are you sitting here suffering and keeping nice and quiet, what’s wrong with you?

      I have to be able to function for my children and it gets harder to laugh with them and then excuse myself to another room out of their view, to let out the pain again. It’s always there, I just move it over for a few mins.

      It is just amazing how vulnerable to emotion we are as human beings. I can’t believe how strong my feelings and thoughts are. I feel myself fighting for my sanity and clinging to hang on to my now shreded personality. It’s very frightening.

      Honestly, I don’t think that I will ever get over it, and I’m afraid to go to another job until lawmakers have laws in place to protect what will be left of me. But I know that won’t work because I have to go back in about two weeks. I don’t know what to do. Just when I think I have my armor built, I find that it is not yet ready at all.

      I feel anxious not being at work, I like to work, but I don’t wanna go back there and I am not ready to go anywhere, nor do I have Anywhere else to go that will pay my mortgage and have same benefits and such.

      My kids are national honor society kids and my son just had a function at the University for his scholarship that is waiting for him if he finishes out this and the last two years of high school well. I have to find a way to breath and keep it together.(sorry I think I was ranting a bit)

      About forgiveness—- I completely understand your feelings Jay. I am a very compassionate person and deeply rooted in religion, but I am no where near a shred of forgiveness for my perpetrators. I mean NONE.

      I could understand if ya wrecked my car, or almost if ya even accidentally physically harmed me. This is something much bigger in my opinion. Daily abuse is a mental stamp/a bolder unmoveable. This male sup ambushed me in a place that I had no say so.

      I had to be there to work, I had to use the restroom and therefore become vulnerable to a very sick man. He could be home right at this very moment watching tapes of me. I don’t know how many there are, I just know what was done, and my company knows too. Noone will deny, or even talk to me about it.

      All I can say is that they promptly replaced each and every computer tower in the office after my stepping forward and giving HR my statement advising of all of the conduct. I gave them dates times and verbatim EVERYTHING. There is so much to all that has happened, I keep trying to make sense of how this all could even be possible in today’s society

      • Jay Jacobus says:

        I feel so bad about your situation. Know that I was in a terrible way at one time and things got better but it takes time. You should not go back to your job, but if you can get some sympathy (unlikely) the leaders might give you a new job working for a new boss.

        Foregiveness is a good thing, but saying that you foregive puts pressure on you to act like you have foregiven and also tells all the people who have let you down that all issues are over. Foregiving in your mind is part of a process of leting go.

        How much have I foregiven?

        A lot but I have more to go.

        I hope that some people come along to lift your burden and speed you on to a better life.


  12. Jacquard says:

    Aren’t union strike tactics pretty much bullying exclusively? Someone in my town crossed a picket line (his employer told him to if he wanted to work) and 20 years later he STILL has to watch his back around certain people.

    The kind of force unions use is shameful. I understand they need to use force, but ostracizing those who perhaps can’t afford to protest is not something which endears me to them.

    When unions can recognize their own contribution to workplace bullying, and address it, they will have better ‘legs’ to stand on when trying to understand and address it with employers.

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