MTW Revisions: September 2019

In this regular feature, each month I’m reviewing some of the 1,700+ entries to this blog since 2008 and opting to revise and update several of them. I hope that readers find the revised posts useful and interesting. Here are this month’s selections:

Professional schools as incubators for workplace bullying (orig. 2012; rev. 2019) (link here)  — “It has long been my belief that the seeds of workplace bullying are planted in professional schools that prepare people to enter occupations such as law and medicine. 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; (3) disproportionally come from privileged backgrounds; and (4) tend to be driven, Type A achievers. You then put them in high-pressured, competitive educational environments that emphasize technical knowledge and skills and a lot of analytical thinking. . . . You then unleash them into the world of work.”

Are calls for more resilience and “grit” an indirect form of victim shaming & blaming? (orig. 2016; rev. 2019) (link here) — “Bottom line? Resilience and grit are good. Targeted bullying, mobbing, and abuse are bad. Let’s strive for less interpersonal mistreatment and more individual resilience. And let’s take more personal and social responsibility for our actions and the state of the world.”

After Auschwitz, Viktor Frankl saw only two races (orig. 2017; rev. 2019) (link here) — “When Viktor Frankl reflected upon his experiences as a Nazi concentration camp prisoner, including time spent at Auschwitz, he concluded that humanity basically can be divided into two races: ‘From all this we may learn that there are two races of men in this world, but only these two — the “race” of the decent man and the “race” of the indecent man. Both are found everywhere; they penetrate into all groups of society. No group consists entirely of decent or indecent people.'”

“Let’s run it more like a business” (The problem with many non-profit boards) (orig. 2014; rev. 2019) (link here) — “If running a non-profit group ‘more like a business’ means empowering effective, inclusive, and socially responsible leaders and holding them accountable, then I’m all for it. . . But all too often, the ‘more like a business’ mantra translates into the same authoritarian, top-down, command & control model that at least some board members who are drawn from the private sector may embrace in their respective roles as executives and managers.”

3 Questions for Linda Crockett, founder of the Alberta Bullying Research, Resources, Recovery Centre, Inc.

Linda Crockett, Alberta Bullying Research, Resources, Recovery Centre, Inc., Canada

Linda Crockett is the founder of the Alberta Bullying Research, Resources, Recovery Centre, Inc. (ABRC) in Alberta, Canada.  She is a clinical social worker, therapist, trainer, and advocate with a deep commitment to the workplace anti-bullying movement.

I had the pleasure of meeting Linda last April at the Workplace Bullying Institute’s “All-Star edition” of its well-known Workplace Bullying University training and education seminar. Because of her important work and deep dedication to helping those who have experienced bullying and abuse at work, I thought she would be an ideal subject to revive the “3 Questions” interview feature that I had done back in 2012-13. 

  1. Linda, please tell us a bit about ABRC and what prompted you to create it.

David, I started ABRC after I experienced bullying in my workplace. It wasn’t the first time for me, but it was the time I hit rock bottom. I had been in social work for 22 years and I knew how to assess, investigate, and address all kinds of abuse. I was highly experienced with complex, politically sensitive cases of abuse. I trained child abuse investigators. I had hundreds of cases of domestic violence, addictions, and sexual abuse. I knew the signs and the systems in place to assist with abuse; medical teams, legal, criminal, insurance, human resources, unions, and recovery services.

Yet when I hit rock bottom, I was in shock that I could be the one being abused. I worked in a hospital for cancer patients and I was being abused by my supervisor and manager. There was no language or training for me to identify this insidious, confusing, passive aggressive nightmare. It was so crazy making, with everyone telling me to keep my head down. I began to doubt my own natural ability to ‘see, hear, think, sense, and feel.”

When I came to terms with the shame I felt, I went looking for help, but there was nothing. Therapists made me feel worse because neither of us knew what we were dealing with. After some healing, I created this resource to help others, build awareness, and offer appropriate services. If I could not identify it, how would others manage? Especially if English was not their first language!

I completed a master’s degree specializing in this area, attended training at the Workplace Bullying Institute, joined the International Association on Workplace Bullying and Harassment, and began collaborating with others doing this work. In 2012 I started ABRC and so far, I have won two awards. I train leaders, staff of all professions, and offer needs assessments, consultations, and coaching. I’ve lobbied for legislative changes, and as a trauma therapist, I offer specialized counselling or clinical therapy for those harmed, and for those identified through investigations as harming others.

  1. What projects and initiatives are you concentrating on right now, and how might readers want to learn more?

I offer training all year round and customize my training for each organization’s unique needs. As you know, the Workplace Bullying Institute has “Freedom from Workplace Bullies Week” each year. This year it is Oct 13 – 19. This is my 6th year joining WBI by having “Workplace Bullying Awareness Week.” I have invited all Provinces in Canada to join me and hope that in time, this will become worldwide! I believe we need to address this as a worldwide issue. There is power in numbers and you can’t get any bigger than that!  

I put on trainings, post blogs, stories, articles, or videos, and posters.  My colleague Pat Ferris and I are launching a 1-2-day specialized training for counselors and therapists around the world. This will be the first such training of its kind! It will be an amazing training opportunity to help professionals working with individuals or groups of people harmed by workplace bullying. With our growing awareness and changes in legislation, we will need more helping professionals trained to offer skilled and appropriate support and treatment.

Readers can go to my website, join social media, and share my posts so others can see they are not alone. People can also email me if they would like more information or a consult, or counselling.  We offer sessions via skype or zoom so locations won’t limit us.

  1. Where do you see the workplace anti-bullying movement going in Canada, and how would you like to be involved in the years to come?

Sadly, we still have Provinces in Canada that do not have laws against bullying in the workplace. I am confident they will join us. My hope is that they will not waste time trying to reinvent the wheel.  I and Pat Ferris are available to help other Provinces implement new legislation and learn from our Provinces’ mistakes.

Also, within each of our Provinces we have many unions, human resource workers, medical teams, insurance companies, investigators, mediators, lawyers, and many more, who are not taking in-depth training. Some are just checking boxes taking a one-hour webinar, but this is not sufficient. ABRC’s training offers a holistic perspective that includes the “human experience” of this issue. This includes the employee targeted, the bystander who struggles with reporting, the employee who is harming others, the difficulties for leadership, and the impact on the organizations.

Most importantly my training offers “what to do about each of these aspects.” Bottom line, we need a team of experts willing to work collaboratively to provide services for all levels involved.  This is a complex issue with multiple layers. A holistic understanding and approach is the only way to restore a work culture, prevent further harm, ensure early intervention, and offer a variety of restorative or repair options.

***

Linda also wishes to share her contact information:

Website         www.abrc.ca

Email              lrmcrockett@gmail.com

Twitter           @BullyingAlberta

LinkedIn        http://www.linkedin.com/in/LindaCrockettABRC

Facebook        @workerssafety

Instagram     Alberta_bullying_resources

***

With this post, I am reviving an interview format from 2012-13. “3 Questions” will be a regular feature presenting short interviews with notable individuals whose work and activities overlap with major themes of this blog. Go here to access earlier interviews in the series.

MTW Newsstand: September 2019

Every month, the “MTW Newsstand” brings you a curated selection of articles relevant to work, workers, and workplaces. Whenever possible, the materials are freely accessible. Here are this month’s offerings:

“Study shows workplace bullying rivals diabetes, drinking as heart disease risk factor,” Safety + Health (2019) (link here) — Employees who are bullied or experience violence at work may face an additional stressor – an increased risk of cardiovascular disease, a recent study of Scandinavian workers suggests. . . . ‘The effect of bullying and violence on the incidence of cardiovascular disease in the general population is comparable to other risk factors such as diabetes and alcohol drinking,’ lead author Tianwei Xu, a doctoral student at the University of Copenhagen in Denmark, said in a Nov. 19 press release.”

Jeffrey M. Jones, “As Labor Day Turns 125, Union Approval Near 50-Year High,” Gallup (2019) (link here) — “Sixty-four percent of Americans approve of labor unions, surpassing 60% for the third consecutive year and up 16 percentage points from its 2009 low point. . . . The current 64% reading is one of the highest union approval ratings Gallup has recorded over the past 50 years, topped only in March 1999 (66%), August 1999 (65%) and August 2003 (65%) surveys.”

Paul E. Spector, “Why Is Job Satisfaction Important?,” Professor Paul E. Spector, Ph.D. (2019) (link here) — “Job satisfaction is the extent to which people like or dislike their jobs. People vary in how much they like their jobs, even when the hold the same job with the same job conditions. This means that satisfaction is as much determined by the individual as by the job. But why should organizations care about it, in other words why is job satisfaction important?”

Patricia Cohen, “New Evidence of Age Bias in Hiring, and a Push to Fight It,” New York Times (2019) (link here) — “The shadow of age bias in hiring, though, is long. Tens of thousands of workers say that even with the right qualifications for a job, they are repeatedly turned away because they are over 50, or even 40, and considered too old. The problem is getting more scrutiny after revelations that hundreds of employers shut out middle-aged and older Americans in their recruiting on Facebook, LinkedIn and other platforms. Those disclosures are supercharging a wave of litigation. But as cases make their way to court, the legal road for proving age discrimination, always difficult, has only roughened.”

Debate and Dialogue

The first piece listed below by Arthur C. Brooks has prompted a lot of discussion. I’ve included a sampling of responses.

Arthur C. Brooks, “Your Professional Decline Is Coming (Much) Sooner Than You Think,” The Atlantic (2019) (link here) — “In sum, if your profession requires mental processing speed or significant analytic capabilities—the kind of profession most college graduates occupy—noticeable decline is probably going to set in earlier than you imagine.”

Elizabeth MacBride, “Successful Women Are Starting Businesses. Yes, Even After 50.,” Forbes.com (2019) (link here) — “While I was reading it, drawn by the fear-inspiring headline “Your Professional Decline Is Coming Sooner Than You Think,” I felt how little the bleak worldview and the sense of loss reflect the reality of women I know as they near and pass 50.”

Chris Farrell, “Your Professional Decline Is Coming (Much) Sooner Than You Think? Bunk!, Next Avenue (2019) (link here) — “But the tight link Brooks makes between aging and decline is a false one. Research by noted economists, sociologists, neuroscientists, scholars of creativity, students of innovation and other disciplines is inclined towards a very different narrative about the second half of life than Brooks’ declinist view.”

The Conversation, The Atlantic (2019) (link here) — “Readers respond to our July 2019 feature on professional decline and more.”

Freedom from Workplace Bullies Week, 2019: Dr. Gary Namie in Greater Boston

As I wrote back in June, we’re observing Freedom from Workplace Bullies Week 2019 here in Greater Boston with a visit from Dr. Gary Namie, co-founder of the Workplace Bullying Institute and one of the world’s leading authorities on workplace bullying. Gary will be in town for two events:

“A Conversation with Dr. Gary Namie,” Friday, October 18, 4:00-6:00 pm, Suffolk University Law School, Boston, MA — Join us to discuss the past, present, and future of the U.S. workplace anti-bullying movement with one of its originators. This event is free of charge, but because space is limited, please RSVP to my staff assistant, Trish McLaughlin, at tmclaughlin@suffolk.edu. Beverages and snacks will be provided. The event will be held at Suffolk University Law School’s Sargent Hall, 120 Tremont Street, 4th floor faculty dining room, in downtown Boston.

Workplace Bullying University — Labor Union Edition,” Saturday, October 19 through Sunday, October 20, NAGE/SEIU Headquarters, Quincy, MA — Gary will be facilitating a special edition of his world-class training and education seminar, specially for labor union shop stewards and representatives, business agents, officers, and activists. Workplace Bullying University is an intensive, immersive, and interactive program that examines the dynamics of workplace bullying and what can be done to prevent and respond to it. The program’s host, NAGE/SEIU, has provided invaluable support and assistance in advocacy efforts to enact the Healthy Workplace Bill in Massachusetts. Their union headquarters is right outside of Boston. Go here for full information about registration.

I have participated in past Workplace Bullying University programs and can attest to the rich content and enlightening discussions that are core experiences of this seminar. If you want your union to be at the forefront of addressing issues with workplace bullying, abusive supervision, and the like, then I cannot imagine a better program to provide that foundation of understanding and knowledge.

On living an “undivided life”

Parker J. Palmer’s A Hidden Wholeness: The Journey Toward An Undivided Life may have been published originally back in 2004, but it seems to have a special significance for today’s world.

Palmer suggests that many folks are living a “divided life” that can manifest in several ways:

  • “We refuse to invest ourselves in our work, diminishing its quality and distancing ourselves from those it is meant to serve”;
  • “We make our living at jobs that violate our basic values, even when survival does not absolutely demand it”;
  • “We remain in settings or relationships that steadily kill off our spirits”;
  • “We harbor secrets to achieve personal gain at the expense of other people”;
  • “We hide our beliefs from those who disagree with us to avoid conflict, challenge, and change”; and,
  • “We conceal our true identities for fear of being criticized, shunned, or attacked”

Palmer says that we’re living in a “wounded world,” and it sure feels that way at times. (U.S. readers who wake up each morning to news of the latest mass shootings may specially agree.) Much of his book examines how to do inner work in response to these outer realities.

If this sounds interesting to you, then I recommend the paperback edition that includes a very detailed reader’s guide and a DVD with interviews of Palmer.

Authenticity

The themes contained in A Hidden Wholeness also resonate with the notion of personal authenticity, which I have commented on in previous entries. The professions, especially, can foster an emphasis on posturing as opposed to authenticity. As I wrote back in 2014:

What do I mean by posturing? In the context of meetings and conferences, posturing is the practice of saying “learned” things or raising “clever” questions primarily to make an impression, rather than to enrich a discussion. The two fields I am most familiar with, academe and law, are positively rife with posturing.

I’ve also suggested that inauthenticity at work can plant the seeds for an early midlife crisis. From 2013:

As a law student, lawyer, and law professor, I’ve spent a lot of time around people whose career ambitions are largely defined by others. To some extent, I have internalized some of those messages myself.

But one of the most important lessons I’ve learned is to pick and choose wisely among these markers of achievement. If you fail to do so, you may find yourself living an inauthentic life (at least the part spent at work), and your psyche may struggle with the grudging realization that you’re pursuing someone else’s definition of success. It’s an easy recipe for a midlife crisis.

In sum, it’s hard to be true to one’s self by living an inauthentic and divided life. Here’s to more wholeness for all of us.

MTW Newsstand: August 2019

Every month, the “MTW Newsstand” brings you a curated selection of articles relevant to work, workers, and workplaces. Whenever possible, the materials are freely accessible. Here are this month’s offerings:

Zakiyah Ebrahim, “Office horror stories: Workers tell of trauma at the hands of office psychopaths and bullies,” Health24 (2019) (link here) — “Earlier this month, Health24 ran a story on several types of psychopaths you might find in the workplace, and reached out to victims of workplace bullying. They told us about how the thought of work filled them with dread. They were cornered for every little mistake, and the anguish and pain of being bullied was sometimes so severe that often throwing in the towel often seemed to be the only way out. Here are their stories….”

Bartleby, “Employee happiness and business success are linked,” The Economist (2019) (link here) — “Rather like the judge’s famous dictum about obscenity, a well-run company may be hard to define but we can recognise it when we see it. Workers will be well informed about a company’s plans and consulted about the roles they will play. Staff will feel able to raise problems with managers without fearing for their jobs. Bullying and sexual harassment will not be permitted. Employees may work hard, but they will be allowed sufficient time to recuperate, and enjoy time with their families. In short, staff will be treated as people, not as mere accounting units.”

“How to Curb Workplace Incivility,” Knowledge@Wharton (2019) (link here) — “Companies expect every employee to behave respectfully in the workplace, but that doesn’t always happen. A lack of professionalism can imperil an employee’s future, isolate co-workers, upset customers and infect the wider corporate culture. Workplace incivility in health care can be especially harmful because mistakes made by distressed employees can have grave consequences. The Perelman School of Medicine at the University of Pennsylvania has launched a Campaign for Professionalism to mitigate such conflicts.”

Noah Smith, “America’s Workers Need a Labor Union Comeback,” Bloomberg (2019) (link here) — “Unions are probably a big part of the reason that people look back so fondly on the era of manufacturing. So far, the service-sector jobs that now employ a large majority of the American workforce have failed to unionize like manufacturing workers once did. A recent spate of strikes shows that this vast low-paid service class may finally be awakening to the possibility of collective bargaining….”

Jennifer Moss, “When Passion Leads to Burnout,” Harvard Business Review (2019) (link here) — “At the end of the day, everyone wants to go home to our personal lives feeling inspired and fueled by a day of passionate engagement in purposeful work. This is clearly preferable to monotony and boredom, which can also cause burnout. But we have to be careful: When it feels like your passion for work — or that of your employees —has become all-consuming, it might be time to take — or to offer — a break.”

Chrystle Fiedler, “How Being Kind Makes You Healthier,” Next Avenue (2019) (link here) — “When you are kind to another person, even in a small way, it has a positive effect by helping that person feel valued and supported. If you make such acts of kindness a regular habit, it’s actually good for your health and even slows your body’s aging process, according to research.”

Skip the time travel: How would you advise a close friend?

Oliver Burkeman devotes one of his Guardian columns (link here) to the logically futile but frequently posed question of what advice would you give to your younger self, in terms of major life insights and decisions:

You only acquired the wisdom on which your advice is based by making the mistakes you’re now advising your former self to avoid. . . . Experience, as the saying goes, is a harsh teacher: it makes you sit the test first and only gives you the lesson afterwards.

This may only lead to regret and, perhaps, deeper self-berating.

The better approach, he suggests, is to “abandon all this time-travel business . . . and go straight to the real question: how would you advise a beloved friend?” Burkeman writes:

Because the crucial issue, after all, isn’t what you might have done differently in the past, had you been someone that you couldn’t have been back then. It’s what you’d do now, if you treated yourself with half the kindness and goodwill you unhesitatingly extend to your favourite relatives or friends. For many people, I know, this can be a major challenge. But unlike changing the past, it has the enormous advantage of not being impossible.

Indeed. To borrow a line from one of Sinatra’s standards, “regrets, I’ve had a few.” But the reality is that time-travel do-overs are impossible, unless I’ve missed a major development in applied physics. Or, to stay on a musical note, as my voice teacher Jane is fond of saying, if you sing a wrong note, there’s nothing you can do about it, so move on without beating yourself up about it.

Yes, we can learn from the past, but it’s only useful to us if we apply the lessons to our present and future, with a healthy dose of self-compassion to go along with it.

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