Possibilities

For those dealing with a layoff or recovering from a job where they were bullied or harassed, there may be an understandable tendency to dwell on the negative experiences of the recent past. But ultimately, if they want to turn things around, they’ll also want to envision the possibilities for something better.

This is much easier said than done. Nothing is more frustrating and even infuriating than to be told that it’s time to “get over it” or to “move on” from a horrible experience at work. Indeed, that experience may be with someone for a long time. Job loss, bullying, and harassment leave their marks.

And yet, the ability to look ahead is a key to finding that better place.

During the 2+ years I’ve written this blog, I have identified a number of books, websites, and resources that may be helpful to those who are forging solutions and options that will move them toward a better place.  I thought it might be useful to collect them, as well as a few others I haven’t mentioned, in one post. Here goes:

Inspiration, letting go, moving on

Career envisioning and job hunting

Richard Bolles’s What Color is Your Parachute? is a classic career guidance and job hunting manual, updated yearly. Go here for Bolles’s website.

Career coaching

Personal career coaching may help you define a better path. For example, Career Planning and Management in Boston offers career counseling services for individuals (link here). Principal and co-founder Dan King (and member of the New Workplace Institute advisory committee) has posted a host of excellent advice columns on the website, including “Fight or Flight: When Your Job Becomes a Nightmare” and “What Do You Want To Be In Your Next Life?”

Quitting, defining your role, and connecting

Among Seth Godin’s many great little books, The Dip (2007) helps you decide when to quit or hang in there, Linchpin (2010) helps you to define an indispensable role for yourself, and Tribes (2008) teaches you how to lead and connect.  Godin’s website (with lots of free goodies) and blog can be accessed here.

Starting a business or non-profit

Starting your own business or non-profit organization is hard work, but it may be an attractive option for those who have a great idea and a desire to call their own shots.

SCORE offers free, confidential, small business mentoring and training. Go here for the SCORE website.

The federal Small Business Administration is another helpful resource. Go here for the SBA website.

Boston University offers a four-course online certificate program in entrepreneurship. Go here for the program description.

The NOLO Press offers some excellent guides on navigating the legal end of creating businesses and non-profits. Go here for their small business page and here for their non-profits page.

The Free Management Library has a helpful page on starting a non-profit, here.

Lifelong learning

Especially if you’re considering a career switch, obtaining additional education and training may be advantageous. My advice is to consider all the options, taking the one that gets you there effectively, in the least time, and spending the least amount of money.

In elevated order of time and expense:

Independent learning

Learning what you need on your own is the most cost-effective approach. Three books — Ronald Gross, Peak Learning (1999) and James Marcus Bach, Secrets of a Buccaneer-Scholar (2009), and Anya Kamenetz, DIY U (2010) — are helpful resources.

It’s possible to learn a lot on your own. For example, I recently blogged about Josh Kaufman’s Personal MBA: Master the Art of Business (2010) and his accompanying website.

Continuing education

Non-credit courses, taken at a local college, adult education center, or online, can give you introductions to new vocations and professions and teach you needed skills.

Certificate programs

A certificate program can be useful in terms of both education and credential value, while requiring less time and expense than a full-blown degree. Colleges and universities (in person and online) offer certificate programs, as well as some adult learning centers.

Degree programs

A degree program can provide immersive study and a valuable credential, but it also can be expensive and time-consuming. Investigate this possibility thoroughly. Many people can get where they want to go without obtaining a new degree. But if you want to enter certain professions, such as teaching, nursing, law, and others, a degree program is the standard door opener.

Non-traditional options

Temping as a bridge strategy

Too many companies treat temporary workers shabbily. However, temp work can be regarded as a bridge to something better. You’ll find helpful information about the overall temp job market (here), pros and cons of temping (here and here), and temping strategies (here).

Freelancing

For freelancers, temps, and other workers in non-traditional positions, the Freelancers Union may be an important source of information and support. Go here for its website.

Telecommuting

For some, telecommuting is an attractive and perhaps even necessary choice.  To learn more about telecommuting options, go here (basics) and here (future of telecommuting).

Good luck!

These resources just begin to scratch the surface of the good stuff that is out there for people. If you find yourself ready to consider your next steps, I hope that some of this will be helpful to you.

A Tale of Two News Articles: Snapshots from Egypt and the U.S.

The lead story in today’s New York Times is predictable yet so compelling: It’s all about the revolution in Egypt and the exit of President Hosni Mubarak. As reported by David Kirkpatrick:

An 18-day-old revolt led by the young people of Egypt ousted President Hosni Mubarak on Friday, shattering three decades of political stasis here and overturning the established order of the Arab world.

Egypt’s future is mightily uncertain, but for now, this largely non-violent revolution, fueled by young Egyptians, has all the makings of an historic moment for human rights and freedom of association.

Wisconsin (and America) on a different path

Tucked inside the Times‘s national edition is a story headlined “Wisconsin May Take an Ax to State Workers’ Benefits and Their Unions.” As reported by Monica Davey and Steven Greenhouse, the newly-elected Republican governor, Scott Walker, is proposing significant benefit cuts for public employees and to take away most of their collective bargaining rights.

In addition to calling for benefit cuts, Walker’s plan involves “limiting collective bargaining for most state and local government employees to the issue of wages (instead of an array of issues, like health coverage or vacations).” He claims:

“I’m just trying to balance my budget,” Mr. Walker said. “To those who say why didn’t I negotiate on this? I don’t have anything to negotiate with. We don’t have anything to give. Like practically every other state in the country, we’re broke. And it’s time to pay up.”

If necessary, he is ready to call out the National Guard if protests threaten to become violent.

Collective bargaining is a basic human right

I will put aside for now the question of whether these benefit cuts are necessary and fair. It is a complicated subject, though suffice it to say we are hearing only one side of it in the mainstream media.

Of equal, perhaps even greater concern is the full frontal attack on the very right to engage in collective bargaining, an effort so blatantly anti-worker that it betrays any attempt to characterize this as a budget-cutting measure.

The UN’s Universal Declaration of Human Rights affirms, among other things, the right to association. The International Labour Organization, a part of the UN, holds that collective bargaining is a core human right (link here):

The right of workers and employers to form and join organizations of their own choosing is an integral part of a free and open society. In many cases, these organizations have played a significant role in their countries’ democratic transformation. From advising governments on labour legislation to providing education and training for trade unions and employer groups, the ILO is regularly engaged in promoting freedom of association.

In 2000, Human Rights Watch, in an extensive report titled Unfair Advantage, concluded that the state of labor rights in the U.S. was so abysmal that it constituted a violation of international human rights standards.

The demonization of public employees

To be sure, there are some comparative excesses in terms of pay, benefits, and pensions in the public sector. Certain arrangements carry a heavy whiff of back room deals and political thuggery. It also is true that state budgets everywhere are in crisis, part of the ongoing wave of aftershocks from the Great Recession.

However, the vast majority of public employees earn modest compensation and will receive modest pensions. One major national public employee union estimates that pensions for its members average $19,000 a year, hardly a windfall.

Nevertheless, the demonization of public employees has begun, for doing so helps to justify taking away their basic rights to bargain collectively for themselves and their families. But folks, listen up, this isn’t about budget control or balancing the books. This is part of a broader attack on the right of everyday people to associate and to join together to advance their common interests, make no mistake about it.

Does it boil down to the rich & powerful vs. the rest of us?

Amid the economic and personal struggles confronting people as they deal with forces that sometimes appear beyond their ability to manage or control, I find myself thinking a lot about the abuse of power and authority in our society. Recently these ruminations were triggered by an old book and two January magazine cover stories:

Bertram Gross, Friendly Fascism

Fascism is such an overused word in our tear-down political discourse that I’m instantly suspect of any book that uses it in the title. But Bertram Gross’s Friendly Fascism: The New Face of Power in America (1982), is becoming one of the most remarkably prescient books I’ve ever encountered about politics and society.

Conflicting trends

Gross was a social science professor and public servant who served in two presidential administrations. In Friendly Fascism, he warned of two conflicting trends in American society, as he set out in the preface to his 1982 edition:

The first is a slow and powerful drift toward greater concentration of power and wealth in a repressive Big Business-Big Government partnership. . . . The phrase “friendly fascism” helps distinguish this possible future from the patently vicious corporatism of classic fascism in the past of Germany, Italy and Japan.

…The other is a slower and less powerful tendency for individuals and groups to seek greater participation in decisions affecting themselves and others. . . . It is embodied in larger values of community, sharing, cooperation, service to others and basic morality as contrasted with crass materialism and dog-eat-dog competition.

Power mongers

Gross went on to identify the types of people who are consolidating power in America:

I see at present members of the Establishment or people on its fringes who, in the name of Americanism, betray the interests of most Americans by fomenting militarism, applauding rat-race individualism, protecting undeserved privilege, or stirring up nationalistic and ethnic hatreds.

From the magazine stand

Fast forward to modern day.  Here are two magazine cover headlines. First, from the Jan.-Feb. issue cover of the Atlantic (article link here):

The Rise of the New Ruling Class — How the Global Elite is Leaving You Behind

From a January cover of the Economist (article link here):

The rich and the rest — A 14-page special report on the global elite

What’s going on here? The moderate-to-liberal Atlantic and the free-market Economist on the same page? Well, not quite.

Rise of the plutocracy

Chrystia Freeland’s article in the Atlantic is more along the lines of what concerns me. Freeland tells us that as a business journalist, she’s “spent the better part of the past decade shadowing the new super-rich: attending the same exclusive conferences in Europe; conducting interviews over cappuccinos on Martha’s Vineyard or in Silicon Valley meeting rooms; observing high-powered dinner parties in Manhattan.”

Based on these observations and events surrounding the economic meltdown, she acknowledges the “wider—and not unreasonable—fears that we are living in not merely a plutonomy, but a plutocracy, in which the rich display outsize political influence, narrowly self-interested motives, and a casual indifference to anyone outside their own rarefied economic bubble.” Her lengthy analysis concludes:

The lesson of history is that, in the long run, super-elites have two ways to survive: by suppressing dissent or by sharing their wealth. It is obvious which of these would be the better outcome for America, and the world. Let us hope the plutocrats aren’t already too isolated to recognize this.

But we’re in good hands, right?

By contrast, the Economist‘s take on elites and their power is not so alarmed, suggesting that with appropriate tweaks, things should be fine:

All these curbs require continual refinement: greater transparency in government, vigorous enforcement of antitrust rules, efforts to make justice swift and fair. Yet by and large in liberal democracies the powerful get on by pleasing others. In short, they work for us.

From 1980 onward

My generally liberal politics aside, I often enjoy the Economist‘s sensible, understated prose. But on this I believe they are dead wrong. Since 1980 (at least), buoyed by the election of Ronald Reagan and the policies that came in on his coattails, we have been witnessing a concentration of wealth and power that puts an exclamation mark on what Bertram Gross was writing about as this era was unfolding.

Another way it trickles down, jackboot style

The abuse of wealth and power can manifest itself at the micro level as well. Labor journalist James Parks, in a piece posted to Today’s Workplace blog (link here), reports on a study showing a correlation between excessive CEO pay and poor treatment of workers:

The study examined the corporate behavior of 261 companies and found a close correlation between pay inequality and poor treatment of workers. In companies where CEOs made much more than their average workers, the companies were more likely to underfund pensions or cut corners on health and safety. Often, according to the study, the bosses engaged in a cost-benefit analysis, calculating that a fine would be a cost of doing business, compared with the profits they could make.

Docility, apathy, acceptance

Gross predicted that the rise of friendly fascism would create a politically docile and apathetic American public that largely accepts the economic and power inequities of the status quo, while getting caught up in a culture that embraces petty conflict and superficiality.

Of course, it’s wholly unfair to label an entire populace as being this or that. But if you think we’re in good shape, check out an episode of the “Jerry Springer Show” or “Judge Judy,” watch Donald Trump telling a reality TV underling that he’s fired, listen to a few rap songs, and then log onto the Internet news coverage to read about the latest troubles of Lindsay Lohan.

For now, at least, I rest my case.

Are electronic gadgets promoting or undercutting work-life balance?

This is a question that keeps me going ’round in circles: Are electronic gadgets such as laptops, netbooks, iPhones, Blackberries, and Skype promoting or undercutting a healthy sense of work-life balance?

Promoting

Electronic gadgets can be a godsend for those who jobs require time on the road, whether it’s a business person hosting a conference call or a contractor working with customers across a state. They can render distance largely immaterial in terms of communications.

For those with family responsibilities or health & mobility impairments, all this gee whiz technology makes telecommuting a genuine option. With a relatively modest investment in space and equipment, a wired home office can be a reality.

Undercutting

But there are real disadvantages too. Mickey Meece, writing for the New York Times, captures the downsides of technology that allows us to work anywhere and anytime (link here):

GIVEN the widespread adoption of smartphones, text messaging, video calling and social media, today’s professionals mean it when they brag about staying connected to work 24/7.

…But all of this amped-up productivity comes with a growing sense of unease. Too often, people find themselves with little time to concentrate and reflect on their work. Or to be truly present with their friends and family.

With the right toys, work can go wherever we go, and that’s not always a healthy thing.

A toss-up

I call it a toss-up, with the most important consideration being, as many have noted, whether we’re using the technology to facilitate more balanced lives and make work more convenient, or whether the technology is making it nearly impossible to separate ourselves from our work.

Update on Massachusetts workplace bullying legislation, 2/8/11

[At the MA State House, l to r: Deb Falzoi, David Yamada, Greg Sorozan, Jim Redmond]

On February 3, advocates for the Healthy Workplace Bill gathered at the Massachusetts State House to visit the offices of some of our elected officials.

We started with courtesy stops to the offices of Rep. Ellen Story and Sen. Katherine Clark (our two lead sponsors) to thank them for their leadership, and followed that with visits to our respective legislators to ask them to support the bill.

Thank you to Greg Sorozan, Deb Falzoi, Kim Webster, Jim Redmond, and Ray McGrath for their help in facilitating these visits.

In addition, many thanks to all who contacted their legislators to ask them to co-sponsor the legislation. During our visits, we learned from staff members that legislators had been receiving those requests.

Next steps

1. We are awaiting the assignment of bill numbers for both the House and Senate versions. (The earlier numbers we shared were docket numbers, a preliminary designation.) Once we get the bill numbers, we’ll be encouraging everyone to contact their legislators seeking their support. To repeat what I’ve said earlier, there is no more effective way for a citizen to support legislation than to contact their elected officials.

2. We also will confirm which legislators agreed to co-sponsor the bill with Rep. Story and Sen. Clark.

3. We will be launching our next advocacy efforts soon. In particular, Deb Falzoi, who coordinates communications for our effort, has put together a variety of outreach committees. Please visit our website to sign up for updates and to volunteer to help.

Workplace bullying: A recommended book list

What are some of the best books on workplace bullying and psychological abuse at work?

Last week, I followed an informal e-mail thread among advocates for the Healthy Workplace Bill who were discussing what books might belong on a recommended reading list about workplace bullying. The dialogue inspired me to attempt my own list of 20 books on bullying and related topics.

Some of the listed books are expensive and/or hard to find. Further, to keep to 20, I had to leave many fine books off the list. Finally, obviously I couldn’t include the bevy of important journal articles that are “must reading” for those who want to immerse themselves in the relevant literature.

That said, I think this is a good starting place for learning more about workplace bullying and related issues of employment relations.

Here goes (in alphabetical order):

Andrea Adams, with Neil Crawford, Bullying at Work: How to confront and overcome it (1992) — A pioneering work by a BBC journalist whose investigations into workplace bullying helped to launch the anti-bullying movement.

Paul Babiak & Robert D. Hare, Snakes in Suits: When Psychopaths Go to Work (2006) — Informative and gruesomely entertaining look at the very worst types of workplace abusers, by two leading experts in psychopathic behavior.

Emily S. Bassman, Abuse in the Workplace: Management Remedies and Bottom Line Impact (1992) — Excellent examination of the organizational costs of emotional abuse at work.

Duncan Chappell & Vittorio Di Martino, Violence at Work (3rd ed., 2006) — Updated edition of an International Labour Organization report on workplace violence, including bullying.

Noa Davenport, Ruth Distler Schwartz & Gail Pursell Elliott, Mobbing: Emotional Abuse in the American Workplace (2002) — Built around the European concept of mobbing and the vitally important work of the late Heinz Leymann.

Richard V. Denenberg & Mark Braverman, The Violence-Prone Workplace: A New Approach to Dealing with Hostile, Threatening, and Uncivil Behavior (1999) — Two experts on workplace violence tie together different forms of aggression at work and offer recommendations for dealing with them.

Stale Einarsen, Helge Hoel, Dieter Zapf & Cary L. Cooper, eds., Bullying and Harassment in the Workplace: Developments in Theory, Research, and Practice (2nd ed., 2011) — Updated edition of the best one-volume, multidisciplinary, international collection of research and commentary on workplace bullying, with contributions from leading authorities. (Disclosure note: I contributed a chapter on international legal responses to workplace bullying.)

Tim Field, Bully in Sight (1996) — One of the first works on workplace bullying by an early U.K. anti-bullying movement advocate.

Suzi Fox & Paul E. Spector, eds., Counterproductive Work Behavior: Investigations of Actors and Targets (2005) — Very useful collection of chapter contributions that includes considerable research and commentary on bullying.

Robert W. Fuller, All Rise: Somebodies, Nobodies, and the Politics of Dignity (2006) — Though not primarily about workplace bullying or employment relations, this book by a physicist and former college president places bullying in the context of the need for a “dignitarian” society.

Marie-France Hirogoyen, Stalking the Soul: Emotional Abuse and the Erosion of Identity (English ed., 2004) — Important analysis of emotional abuse in private lives and in the workplace by a French psychiatrist and therapist.

Randy Hodson, Dignity at Work (2001) — Broad examination of dignity at work, including bullying behaviors, from a sociological perspective.

Harvey Hornstein, Brutal Bosses and Their Prey: How to Identify and Overcome Abuse in the Workplace (1996) — This work by a social psychologist examines bad boss behaviors, with especially relevant research findings and commentary about abusive supervision in the midst of difficult economic times.

Ronnie Janoff-Bulman, Shattered Assumptions: Towards a New Psychology of Trauma (2002) — Although not specifically about workplace bullying, it provides an insightful, easily grasped framework for understanding why severe psychological abuse at work can be so traumatizing.

Gary Namie & Ruth Namie, The Bully at Work: What You Can Do to Stop the Hurt and Reclaim Your Dignity on the Job (2nd ed., 2009) — The latest edition of a seminal work by the individuals most responsible for introducing the concept of workplace bullying to a North American audience. (Disclosure note: I have worked with the Namies and their Workplace Bullying Institute on a pro bono basis for over a decade, and my work is discussed in this book.)

Charlotte Rayner, Helge Hoel & Cary L. Cooper, Workplace Bullying: What we know, who is to blame, and what can we do? (2002) — An important, comparatively early book by three leading scholars on bullying and stress at work.

Peter Schnall, Marnie Dobson & Ellen Rosskam, eds., Unhealthy Work: Causes, Consequences, Cures (2009) — Occupational health experts analyze the psychosocial aspects of work, public health impacts, and possible stakeholder responses.

Robert I. Sutton, The No Asshole Rule: Building a Civilized Workplace and Surviving One That Isn’t (2007) — While the title alone guaranteed this book a fair amount of attention, its discussion of incivilities at work is noteworthy in its own right.

Kenneth Westhues, The Envy of Excellence: Administrative Mobbing of High Achieving Professors (2006) — Centers around a masterful and chilling case study of how a well-known theologian was mobbed out of his teaching position, full of insights about individual and organizational behaviors. (Disclosure note: My work is briefly discussed and critiqued in this book, and I contributed a responsive essay to a followup volume.)

Judith Wyatt & Chauncey Hare, Work Abuse: How to Recognize and Survive It (1997) — One of the earliest books about psychological abuse at work, and still valuable.

Ambassadors gone wild! Meet a pair of bullying diplomats

Not all ambassadors are, well, diplomatic. In fact, given that ambassadorships are plums often dished out to campaign supporters and political allies, it shouldn’t surprise us that a few of these folks turn out to be workplace bullies.  To wit:

Turmoil lurks in Luxembourg

Businesswoman Cynthia Stroum was appointed U.S. ambassador to Luxembourg after being a key fundraiser for President Obama in 2008. On its own, the Luxembourg gig must be fairly peaceful, but Ambassador Stroum has been stirring up things within the embassy. As reported by Brian Montopoli of CBS News (link here):

It appears that her fundraising abilities did not translate to diplomatic success, however: According to a scathing State Department probe out Thursday (PDF), Stroum was seen by most employees as “aggressive, bullying, hostile and intimidating.”

. . . Things got so bad, the report says, that staffers asked for transfers to Afghanistan and Iraq due in part to “a climate of acute stress” at the embassy.

Memo to President: When foreign service officers seek postings to war zones in search of less stressful work environments, you know you botched this one.

Cuffing ‘em around at the UN

Before Stroum, the last ambassador to become notorious for bullying behaviors was John Bolton, appointed to represent the U.S. at the United Nations by President George W. Bush. Here’s a snippet of his antics, quoted from a piece I wrote in 2005 (link here):

In recent months, many of these [bullying] behaviors have been attributed to Bolton by current and former State Department co-workers and contractors. Ex-State Department intelligence chief Carl Ford, a Republican appointee, called Bolton a “serial abuser” of subordinates, adding that he showed a talent for stroking superiors while kicking down underlings.

The most publicized allegations came from Melody Townsel, a woman who worked with Bolton in Moscow under a government contract in 1994. Townsel told the Senate Foreign Relations Committee that Bolton chased her down the halls of a Moscow hotel, threw a tape dispenser at her, made disparaging remarks about her appearance, left threatening letters under her hotel door, and pounded on her door and yelled at her.

And that doesn’t even cover the stories about how Bolton antagonized people from other nations!

Bigger problem

This isn’t about knocking Democrats or Republicans; bullying behaviors cut across political lines. Rather, these appointments highlight a larger problem related to bullying at work, namely, the elevation of the wrong people to management positions requiring tact, diplomacy, and social intelligence.

Obviously neither Stroum nor Bolton possess the people skills to lead an embassy staff, and it is quite possible that their behaviors have negatively impacted America’s standing in the world community. When important leadership positions are doled out based on favors, political alliances, or simply negligent vetting, bad consequences are likely to follow.

***

Hat tip to Lucretia Perilli for the Stroum story.

A younger generation is doing a cost-benefit analysis on higher education

Is higher education worth it? Or, more specifically, do the benefits of earning a degree outweigh its costs, which, for all but the wealthy, must be measured in terms of student loan debt?

It remains a matter of faith that going to college and perhaps on to graduate or professional school are the most sensible paths toward success and — for those who seek it — prosperity.

But as the costs of higher education continue to skyrocket, and jobs remain scarce for newly-minted graduates, some sharp, younger voices are beginning to question conventional wisdom and suggest alternatives. Here are two:

Anya Kamenetz: Generation Debt and DIY U

Kamenetz is a 30-year-old writer who has become a forceful, articulate voice in questioning the debt being foisted upon young people and the value of a college education.

Her first book, Generation Debt: How Our Future Was Sold Out for Student Loans, Credit Cards, Bad Jobs, No Benefits, and Tax Cuts for Rich Geezers — And How to Fight Back (2006), was a followup to a series she wrote for the Village Voice weekly newspaper on the financial and economic challenges facing younger adults.

Her latest book, DIY U: Edupunks, Edupreneurs, and the Coming Transformation of Higher Education (2010), looks at the costs and culture of traditional colleges and universities and proposes cheaper, alternative ways to gain job training and a liberal education.

These books are not whiny screeds. Rather, they are well-researched and insightful critiques of how younger folks have been betrayed by the system, accompanied by thoughtful and even exciting options to four years at Standard Brand U.

Check out her sites for DIY U here and for Generation Debt here.

Josh Kaufman: The Personal MBA

Kaufman, age 28, is the author of The Personal MBA: Master the Art of Business (2010), which is picking up rave reviews from readers on Amazon. The Personal MBA provides a one-volume introduction to key business concepts for those who want to pursue careers in management and entrepreneurship.

Unlike Anya Kamenetz, Kaufman is a business guy, not a social critic. But if you check out his website (link here), you’ll detect a continuous undercurrent of criticism of the costs of obtaining an MBA. In his “Personal MBA Manifesto” (link here), Kaufman pitches his book and a recommended reading list as a genuine alternative to going tens of thousands of dollars in debt to complete an MBA program:

MBA programs don’t have a monopoly on advanced business knowledge: you can teach yourself everything you need to know to succeed in life and at work. The Personal MBA features the very best business books available, based on thousands of hours of research. So skip b-school and the $150,000 loan: you can get a world-class business education simply by reading these books.

Heed these voices

Will these emerging critiques and alternatives contribute to bringing down higher education as we know it? I believe that when added to the self-destructive, unsustainable paths being pursued by many colleges and universities, they will have an effect, especially if the job market remains grim for graduates.

It is wholly ironic that many of the university administrators, trustees, and professors who should be listening to these younger folks are part of the very Baby Boomer generation that has prided itself on its 60s-era activism and supposed non-conformity.

Of course, one of the big differences is that when the Boomers rallied and marched and protested, they didn’t have to anticipate spending the rest of their adult lives paying off the equivalent of a mortgage without a house.

Three ways to support the Healthy Workplace Bill

The Healthy Workplace Bill, legislation that provides severely bullied workers with a legal claim for damages and encourages employers to act preventively and responsively toward abusive behaviors at work, has been introduced in nearly 20 states in recent years.

We are getting closer and closer to the day when the bill becomes law in states across the country, and here are three ways you can help:

1. Connect with the campaign — Join the campaign to enact the Healthy Workplace Bill (HWB). Healthy Workplace Advocates groups are organizing across the country in support of the legislation. For more information, visit the HWB national campaign website. Massachusetts residents, please sign up at the Massachusetts Healthy Workplace Advocates website.

2. Contact your legislators — Contact your state legislators and ask them to support the HWB. If you are in a state where the legislation is active, make sure to include the bill number (if available) in your letter, e-mail, or phone call. There is no more effective way to persuade legislators to support a bill than direct communications from voters in their districts.

If you have a personal account to share, please considering doing so, and try to keep your story succinct. We need to convey the human costs of abuse at work to policymakers everywhere.

3. Solicit support — If you are a member of a union or advocacy group that endorses legislation, ask it to support the Healthy Workplace Bill. Organizational endorsements are vital toward building momentum and clout.

For example, our success in getting the HWB passed by the New York Senate last year was built upon obtaining support from labor unions and other groups throughout the state. In addition, past blog posts have reported the central role of SEIU/NAGE labor support in Massachusetts (here) and national support from Americans for Democratic Action (here).

“Homework” and commitment

Being part of a grassroots social movement for dignity at work requires learning and commitment.

First, educate yourself about the phenomenon of workplace bullying and the need for law reform. Explore the website of the Workplace Bullying Institute.  Read one of my papers on the need for the Healthy Workplace Bill, such as this one presented at an international conference last year.

Second, be restlessly patient when it comes to advocating for the HWB. Change can take time, and it usually requires multiple sessions of a legislature to enact cutting edge law reform proposals. Advocates for the HWB need to bring a steadfast, long haul commitment to our advocacy efforts.

***

Disclosure note: I am the author of the Healthy Workplace Bill, variations of which are being considered by state legislatures across the country. The HWB provides targets of severe workplace bullying with a legal claim for damages and creates legal incentives for employers to act preventively and responsively toward bullying behaviors. For more information, go to the Healthy Workplace Bill website.

Recycling: Sweeping it under the rug, inflated self-images of bosses, and why worker dignity is radically middle

From the archives of this blog, here are three previous articles of possible interest:

1. Ethical employers handle employee complaints fairly and promptly; lousy ones sweep them under the rug. For more, go here to this March 2009 post.

2. Many bosses have an awfully inflated opinion of themselves. Go here for a February 2009 post that cites survey data and then appeals to a celebrity CEO for advice.

3. Proposed workplace bullying laws and other legal measures to safeguard worker dignity aren’t as left leaning as some might claim, says Radical Middle Newsletter. Go here for a January 2009 post that puts an interesting spin on legal efforts to advance a “dignitarian” agenda at work.

***

[Editor's Note: In addition to maintaining a list of articles that have remained very popular on this blog -- see the Popular and Notable Posts page -- every month or so I'm going to be recycling relevant posts from more than a year ago. Hopefully they will be of interest to newer readers.]

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