Labor Day 2014: It’s up to us

On this Labor Day 2014, here’s the basic, fundamental question for each of us:

“What will I do to nurture dignity, opportunity, and well-being in the workplace?”

The world of work needs a lot of improvement right now. Many readers understand this through their own work experiences. Others have witnessed friends and family members struggling with bad workplaces.

It’s up to us to create the changes we want to see. It can range from living up to the Golden Rule at work, to joining collective efforts to create better workplaces.

In any event, we must be the change agents. It won’t happen otherwise. It’s as easy and as challenging as that.

Of possible interest

“I want to help stop workplace bullying” (2014)

“Rebellious Lawyering” conference: Discussing origins and meaning of the intern rights movement (2014)

Intellectual activism and social change (2013)

Insiders, outsiders, and change agents (2013)

Setting agendas for positive social change (2013)

The social responsibilities of intellectuals at a time of extraordinary human need (2013)

10 ways to make a difference: Advice for change agents (2013)

What if we applied the Golden Rule at work? (2010)

Advice to Young (and Not So Young) Folks Who Want to Make a Difference (2009)

Recycling: Five years of August

Each month I’m reaching into the archives to highlight a piece from that month of each past year. Especially for those of you who missed them the first time around, I hope they provide interesting and useful reading. For each piece I’m including a short excerpt; you may click on the title for the full article.

August 2013: Notes on the workplace anti-bullying movement — “If you’ve been reading this blog for any length of time, you’ve figured out that workplace bullying and related issues of human dignity at work have become focal points of my career. …These experiences have been defining ones, personally and professionally. They also have taught me a lot about the challenges of organizing a movement and building public support for it. I’d like to step back for a brief moment to share some of those insights and observations, centering on the types of people who have been drawn to be a part of this. Concededly, these are fairly broad generalizations, and I apologize in advance to anyone who believes I’m overstating my points. But here goes…”

August 2012: Professional schools as incubators for workplace bullying — “You start with ambitious young people who (1) are used to being heralded as academic stars; (2) do not have a lot of life experience; and (3) tend to be driven, Type A achievers. You then put them in high-pressured educational environments that emphasize technical knowledge and skills and a lot of “left-brain” logical thinking. These degree programs don’t place a lot of emphasis on interpersonal skills and the development of emotional intelligence. You then unleash them unto the world of work. Uh oh.”

August 2011: Hiring decisions, hard times, and personal & institutional integrity — “Employers, managers, and HR folks have a lot of power in an economy where jobs are hard to come by. Sometimes, the hiring decisions they make reveal something of their personal and institutional integrity, or lack thereof.”

August 2010: Can an apology help to prevent and settle employment litigation? — “It would take considerable reworking of the commonly assumed role of an employer’s lawyer to encourage, when appropriate, apology and disclosure as a healthy approach toward resolving employment disputes.   Right now, too many management-side lawyers assist their clients in creating a public fiction: We do no wrong — never, ever.  However, is it possible that a different turn will lead to less litigation, less contentious dispute resolution, and — ultimately — better employee morale?”

August 2009: Bully rats, tasers, and stressNew York Times science reporter Natalie Angier has an interesting piece in today’s edition…about an experiment using lab rats to assess the effects of chronic stress, feedback loops in the brain, and how to reverse the damage.  It’s a good report on a thought-provoking study, but for me it confirmed what has become obvious…”

The quest to enact Healthy Workplace legislation, Part II: From individual targets to advocates for change

In our efforts to advance the Healthy Workplace Bill (HWB) in the recently concluded Massachusetts legislative session, we started getting feedback from folks inside the State House at levels of frequency and intensity that we hadn’t heard before: Your advocates are making a difference.

In other words, when our outreach coordinator asked HWB supporters to contact legislators at different points in the process,  those supporters responded by getting on the phone, sending e-mails, and scheduling visits. While we fell short of the success we had hoped for, at critical points the HWB made it to next procedural steps and overcame opposition because of the voices of our grassroots advocates.

This is a critically important development, and permit me to explain why.

Many advocates for the Healthy Workplace Bill have experienced workplace bullying. In other words, they have been targets, and they know firsthand what this form of interpersonal abuse can do to people. They also understand how being bullied at work can be a lonely, isolating experience, especially when others around you dive for cover or start to keep their distance.

That sense of isolation can create self-protective barriers that may make it difficult for targets to participate in a movement to create legal protections against how they were mistreated.

And yet, we’re now seeing more targets coming out of the woodwork, joining with others to say that the law, among other societal institutions, should step in and draw the line against workplace bullying.

For many, it’s not easy. Sharing one’s story, even self-identifying as a target during, say, a phone call with a legislative staffer, means revisiting very difficult stuff. But those personal stories are helping to drive the forces for change.

Especially for those people, I hope that being a part of a broader response to their own terrible experience is a life-affirming way to make positive change. So many social movements leading to legal reforms — the civil rights movement, the women’s movement, the LGBT movement, to name a few — have been fueled by people who have experienced injustice and abuse. Why not this one?

***

Related post

The quest to enact Healthy Workplace legislation, Part I: Subtle progress in Massachusetts (2014)

 

What if our society was built around advancing human dignity and well-being?

Let’s pretend, for even a few minutes, that we could build our society around the advancement of human dignity and well-being.

What would our educational, social, economic, and governance institutions look like? How would we balance opportunity, individual responsibility, societal safety nets, and shared obligations? How would we address health care and public health issues? How would our laws and legal systems operate? How would we define our relationships with the planet and other species that inhabit it? How would we operate our workplaces?

Most importantly, how would each of us choose to conduct our own lives?

For many reasons, I think we’re at a juncture where we need to be steadfast and unapologetic about making human dignity and well-being the defining priorities for our society. The ensuing discussion may take us in many different directions, and we won’t always be in agreement about what approaches to take, but at least we’d get the framing concept right.

***

Related posts

Dignity instead: The “markets and management” framework for U.S. workplace law should go (2014) — “Within such a “dignitarian” framework, there is plenty of room for market-based competition, entrepreneurship, individual responsibility, and sound management prerogative. Furthermore, the call for dignity in the workplace is not a rallying cry for state ownership, runaway taxation, or regulatory micromanagement of the workplace. Rather, it is about promoting the complementary goals of healthy, productive, and socially responsible workplaces within a mix of robust private, public, and non-profit sectors.”

Visioning law and legal systems through a psychologically healthy lens (2014) — “One of my periodic “battery rechargers” is the opportunity to reconnect in person with a network of law professors, lawyers, judges, and students associated with a school of legal thought called therapeutic jurisprudence (“TJ”), which examines law, legal procedures, and the legal profession from the standpoint of psychological health.”

Dialogues about dignity (2013), Parts I (Meeting in Manhattan), II (Mainstreaming the message), and III (Claiming and using power to do good) — “The founding president of [the Human Dignity and Humiliation Studies Network] is Evelin Lindner, a physician, psychologist, and self-styled global citizen whose life mission is rooted in the displacement of her family during the ravages of the First and Second World Wars. In her remarks to the group, Evelin talked about the need to “embrace the world as our university.” She urged that in the face of powerful political and economic forces that operate to advance the interests of the most privileged, we must “build a new culture of global cohesion, global friendship.”

“Total Worker Health” vs. “Wellness” vs. “Well-Being”: Framing worker health issues (2013) —  “By the end of the conference, further informed by other discussions and panels, I had became a convert. Indeed, I realized that well-being, within the context of workplace health and safety, is a very good fit with broader questions about human dignity and employment law that I’ve been raising for several years.”

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How about more tribes and less tribalism?

In his 2008 book Tribes: We Need You to Lead Us, author and entrepreneur Seth Godin popularized the idea of informal tribes in society, consisting of “a group of people connected to one another, connected to a leader, and connected to an idea.” A shared interest and a mode of communication are necessary to enable a tribe, and thanks to the power of the Internet, both are made especially easy.

Modern-day tribes can bring people together over shared interests, organize for positive change, and create networks that cut across distances. With the right leaders at the helm, they can do wonderful things.

However, tribes also can generate insularity and hostility toward outsiders. Tom Jacobs, writing for Pacific Standard magazine, observes that “tribalism — accompanied by active hatred for perceived outsiders — [is] emerging as a driving force everywhere from Middle Eastern battlefields to the halls of Congress.”

So it follows, do tribe members necessarily engage in tribalism? Well, it depends, suggests Jacobs. He cites research indicating that those who believe in the tribe’s purpose, but who also possess a strong ethical code that accords to all people a degree of “moral regard,” are less likely to behave in tribalistic ways.

These lines of research may hold much insight into how our society has become so fractured in terms of politics, ideology, and social mores. They also shed light on employee relations, both within and between common groupings, such as executives, mid-level management, staff, and labor. And when we toss into the mix a healthy understanding of the role of leadership in shaping organizational behavior (and individual conduct within), then a lot of light bulbs may start to flip on.

In addition, this discussion returns us to notions of human dignity. In a world where conflict, difference, and disagreement are inevitable, and where people will naturally bond into tribes based on common interests and beliefs, how can we create a society that provides everyone with a baseline of dignity?

Announcing the U.S. Academy on Workplace Bullying, Mobbing, and Abuse

academy-web

The Workplace Bullying Institute and the New Workplace Institute are collaborating on an important new initiative, the creation of the U.S. Academy on Workplace Bullying, Mobbing, and Abuse.

The Academy will support and promote the multi-disciplinary work of its Fellows, a group of leading and emerging educators, researchers, practitioners, writers, and advocates who are dedicated to understanding, preventing, stopping, and responding to workplace bullying and related forms of interpersonal mistreatment.

Although we recognize the universality of these destructive behaviors, we are creating this network to focus on the unique challenges posed by American employee relations, mental health, and legal systems.

This initiative has been in the works for over a year, and I’m delighted to see it taking shape. The Academy’s website, to which more will be added in the months and years to come, is here. And here is the initial list of Fellows.

Academy Co-Facilitators

    • Gary Namie, Ph.D.
      Director, Workplace Bullying Institute, Bellingham, WA
    • David C. Yamada, J.D.
      Professor of Law and Director, New Workplace Institute, Suffolk University Law School, Boston, MA

Academy Fellows

(Note: Fellow status does not imply agreement with, or endorsement of, editorial, analytical, or public policy positions taken by the Workplace Bullying Institute or the New Workplace Institute.)

    • Beverly J. Aho, M.B.A., J.D.
      Attorney, James H. Gilbert Law Group, Eden Prarie, MN
    • Carol Arao, M.A.
      Co-Coordinator, California Healthy Workplace Advocates
      Columnist, Workplace Bullying Institute blog
    • David W. Ballard, Psy.D., M.B.A.
      Assistant Executive Director for Organizational Excellence
      American Psychological Association, Washington, DC
    • Peggy Ann Berry, Ph.D. candidate, R.N., SPHR, COHN-S
      Owner, Thrive At Life: Working Solutions Dayton, OH
    • Jane Bethel
      President, SEIU/NAGE Local R4-200, Norfolk, VA
      State Coordinator, Virginia Healthy Workplace Advocates
    • Sharon Brennan, Ph.D.
      Past Pres. & 2014 President-elect, Division of Organizational, Consulting & Work Psychology
      New York State Psychological Association; Psychoanalyst, NY, NY
    • Jessi Eden Brown, M.S., LMHC, LPC, NCC
      Psychotherapist, Seattle, WA
      Professional Coach, Workplace Bullying Institute
    • Carrie Clark, M.A.
      Co-Founder, California Healthy Workplace Advocates
    • Ellen Pinkos Cobb, J.D.
      Senior Legal Analyst, Isoceles Group, Boston, MA
      Author, Bullying, Violence, Harassment, Discrimination and Stress: Emerging Workplace Health and Safety Issues (2013)
    • Lana Cooke
      State Coordinator, West Virginia Healthy Workplace Advocates
    • Barbara Coloroso
      Author, The Bully, The Bullied and the Bystander (Wm. Morrow, 2009)
      Expert in Youth Bullying, Littleton, CO
    • Pamela Countouris
      Bullying Prevention Trainer and Consultant, TCB Training & Consulting, Pittsburgh, PA
    • Teresa A. Daniel, J.D., Ph.D.
      Dean & Professor, Human Resource Leadership Program, Sullivan University
      Consultant & Author, Stop Bullying At Work (SHRM, 2009)
    • Michelle K. Duffy, Ph.D.
      Professor, Work & Organizations, Center for Human Resources & Labor Studies
      Carlson School of Management, University of Minnesota
    • Maureen Duffy, Ph.D.
      Author, Overcoming Mobbing (Oxford U Press, 2014) and Mobbing: Causes, Consequences & Cures
      (Oxford U Press, 2012) and Psychotherapist & Consultant, Miami Shores, FL
    • Lisa Farwell, Ph.D.
      Professor of Psychology, Santa Monica College
    • Carol Fehner
      Co-Coordinator, California Healthy Workplace Advocates
      Union Bullying Consultant, AFGE National Officer (Ret.)
    • Bernice L. Fields, J.D.
      Arbitrator & Attorney, Minneapolis, MN
    • Jackie Gilbert, Ph.D.
      Professor of Management, Middle Tennessee State University
      State Coordinator, Tennessee Healthy Workplace Advocates
    • Denise Halverson, Ph.D.
      Professor of Mathematics, Brigham Young University
      State Coordinator, Utah Healthy Workplace Advocates
    • Leslie Hammer, Ph.D.
      Professor of Psychology, Portland State University
    • Katherine A. Hermes, J.D., Ph.D.
      Professor of History, Central Connecticut State University
    • Victoria Johnson, Ph.D.
      Author & State Coordinator, Pennsylvania Healthy Workplace Advocates
    • Melody M. Kawamoto, M.D., M.S.
      Public Health & Occupational Medicine Physician, Cincinnati, OH
    • Loraleigh Keashly, Ph.D.
      Associate Professor of Communications, Wayne State University, Detroit, MI
    • Wynne Kearney, Jr., M.D.
      Surgeon & Activist, Mankato, MN
    • Kevin Kennemer, M.A.
      President, The People Group, Tulsa, OK
    • Paul Landsbergis, M.P.H., Ed.D., Ph.D.
      Associate Professor, Department of Environmental and Occupational Health Sciences
      SUNY Downstate Medical Center, Brooklyn, NY
    • Pamela Lutgen-Sandvik, Ph.D.
      Associate Professor of Communication, North Dakota State University
      Author, Adult Bullying: A Nasty Piece of Work (2013)
    • Lewis Maltby, J.D.
      Founder & Director, National Workrights Institute, Princeton, NJ
      Author, Can They Do That? Retaking Our Fundamental Rights in the Workplace (Portfolio, 2009)
    • Andrew Mitchell
      Activist, Blogger – Stop Workplace Bullies Now, Dixon, IL
    • Ruth F. Namie, Ph.D.
      Founder, Workplace Bullying Institute
      Author, The Bully-Free Workplace (Wiley, 2011) and The Bully At Work (Sourcebooks, 2009, 2nd ed.)
    • Joel H. Neuman, Ph.D.
      Director Center for Applied Management, State University of New York at New Paltz
      Associate Professor of Management and Organizational Behavior
    • Christina Purpora, R.N., Ph.D.
      Associate Professor of Nursing, University of San Francisco
    • Judith A. Richman, Ph.D.
      Professor of Epidemiology in Psychiatry, University of Illinois, Chicago
    • Heidi R. Riggio, Ph.D.
      Professor of Psychology, California State University, Los Angeles
    • Kathleen M. Rospenda, Ph.D.
      Associate Professor of Psychology in Psychiatry, University of Illinois at Chicago
    • Mike Schlicht, M.S.
      Founder & Co-Director, New York Healthy Workplace Advocates
    • Peter Schnall, M.D., M.P.H.
      Clinical Professor of Medicine, University of California, Irvine
      Director, Center for Social Epidemiology
    • Michelle E. Smith, M.A.Ed.
      Co-Founder, California Healthy Workplace Advocates
    • Gregory Sorozan, M.Ed., L.C.S.W.
      President SEIU/NAGE Local 282, Quincy, MA
      State Coordinator, Massachusetts Healthy Workplace Advocates
    • Matt Spencer, Ed.D.
      Consultant, Workplace Bullying in Schools Project
      Author, Exploiting Children: School Board Members Who Cross the Line (R&L Education, 2013)
    • Len Sperry, M.D., Ph.D.
      Clinical Professor, Florida Atlantic University & Medical College of Wisconsin
      Author, Overcoming Mobbing (Oxford U Press, 2014) and Mobbing: Causes, Consequences & Cures
      (Oxford U Press, 2012)
    • Lamont E. Stallworth, Ph.D.
      Professor of Human Resources and Industrial Relations, Loyola University of Chicago
      Founder & Chairman, Center for Employment Dispute Resolution
    • Kerri L. Stone, J.D.
      Associate Professor of Law, Florida International University, Miami, FL
    • USN LCDR Leedjia A. Svec, Ph.D.
      Director & Senior Scientist, Defense Equal Opportunity Management Institute, Patrick AFB, FL
    • Bennett J. Tepper, Ph.D.
      Deans Distinguished Professor of Management & Human Resources, The Ohio State University, Columbus, OH
    • Darren Treadway, M.B.A., Ph.D.
      Associate Professor of Organization & Human Resources, State University of New York at Buffalo
    • Esque Walker, M.S., Ph.D.
      Arbitrator/Texas Credentialed Distinguished Mediator
      State Coordinator, Texas Healthy Workplace Advocates
    • Tom Witt, M.L.S.
      Co-Director, New York Healthy Workplace Advocates

As U.S. universities embrace the New Gilded Age, what institutions will help us to grow a better society?

Suffice it to say that American higher education, as a general proposition, is embracing the values of the New Gilded Age. A growing number of American colleges and universities are degenerating into career training centers, touting unpaid internships while charging sky-high tuition, neglecting the liberal arts, and loading up on well-paid administrators and exploited adjunct faculty while shedding full-time professors.

These trends are disturbing in and of themselves. Moreover, they raise a challenging question: If universities are heading in this direction, what institutions, structures, and networks will help us to blend research, theory, and service toward creating a better society? And how do we create decent, paying, sustainable jobs to support this work?

Of course, the fate of the public intellectual in higher education has been a subject of debate for some time now, especially since the 1987 appearance of Russell Jacoby’s important book, The Last Intellectuals: American Culture in the Age of Academe. Among other things, Jacoby posited that sharp trends toward narrow specialization in academic scholarship were creating a professoriate that is less relevant to the major public issues of the day.

Yup, one could argue that part-time college teaching jobs, unpaid internships, “non-stipendiary” fellowships, and assorted volunteer gigs offer outlets for expression and creativity. And between individual blogs, sites like The Huffington Post, and free websites, there’s no shortage of online venues for publishing or sharing one’s work.

The problem is that most people have this weird need for food, shelter, and clothing. “Exposure” and “contacts” don’t pay for those basic necessities. A little bit of job security wouldn’t hurt either.

During the coming months, I will devote some space to exploring this and related questions, incorporating a variety of new and emerging voices on public intellectual life in this plutocratic, New Gilded Age. In doing so, I’ll be talking about educators, researchers, activists, practitioners, writers, artists, and others who share a common, understandable concern that our society has no place for them.

As a central part of this inquiry, we need to consider strategies for change. Is it possible to reverse the bad course taken by so many standard-brand universities? Or do we have to think about creating new, sustainable entities that embrace a different, better set of values? If so, how do we go about this?

***

To the many readers who follow this blog because of its focus on issues such as workplace bullying, employee well-being, workers’ rights, and the like, stick with me on this one. Research and ideas matter, including within the realm of dignity at work. However, mainstream academe has not been a major driving force in calling for a more humane workplace, which means that we have to identify, support, build, and create the institutions that are eager to do so.

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