Illinois workplace bullying bill lobby day, April 22

Workplace Violence News blog has posted a media advisory on an April 22 lobbying day in Springfield, Illinois in support of workplace bullying legislation filed in that state:

Legislator education about Workplace Bullying is scheduled as a Citizen Lobby Day on April 22, 2009 at the Illinois State Capitol to promote both HJR 40 Taskforce on Workplace Bullying Resolution and HB 374 Abusive Work Environment Act. Both are very critical to our State and Nation’s continued social development. These bills are quite timely, if not overdue. Ours is of the last industrialized cultures to ignore work abuse and the toll it takes on individuals, families, and organizations.

For the full media release:

This is a great example of the growing U.S. advocacy movement in support of protections against workplace bullying.

“Dead Men Walking”

Boston-based writer, facilitator, and trainer Candelaria Silva, in her blog “Good and Plenty,” discusses a different way of being laid off in a provocative post:

I used to think that escorting a worker off the premises was the cruelest thing that an employer could do (no matter if severance pay was offered).  Now, I’m rethinking that it may not be.

I’ve watched a couple of people be in the position of being dead-men walking.  Their positions have been  eliminated but they are working for the remainder of their contracts whose endings are months away.  This seems the cruelest way after-allYes, they get to say goodbye.  Yes, they get to tidy up their affairs.  And, yes, they get to sit in meetings like ghosts….–what-do-you-do-after-a-layoff.aspx

The ways in which people are being disposed of at work are cruel in and of themselves, and this post drives home that point.

Hat tip to Universal Hub (

Workplace bullying video

This short video from, “Calling a Bully a Bully,” features Carrie Clark of the California Healthy Workplace Advocates:  Released last year, it’s well worth a look.  Carrie is a former schoolteacher and bullying target who has emerged as a leading spokesperson in the anti-bullying movement.

The “Good Recession”?

Not by a longshot, especially when you’ve got millions of people struggling to make ends meet.

But in the April issue of the American Prospect, economist Robert Frank suggests that we can live better lives while not being so caught up in the frenzy of buying and consumption that helped to produce the current mess:

The economic bonfire fueled mostly by consumption in recent years has ended. As we have watched the familiar statistics plummet, with credit cards maxed out and home-equity loans a thing of the past, the reality has slowly become clear: We won’t return to the economic world of 2007 anytime soon, if ever.

But would we want to? In the boosterish world of CNBC, life without an ever-rising Dow Jones average and year-to-year gains in holiday-sales figures would self-evidently forecast protracted misery. Yet matters are less hopeless than they seem. There is an easily attainable future in which we consume less than at the peak of the boom and yet still enjoy far better opportunities to construct a fulfilling life for ourselves.

For the full article:

Cyberbullying on campus

As a sequel to our popular post on workplace bullying in higher education (, here’s a piece from the spring 2009 edition of Boston University’s Bostonia magazine reporting on growing concerns over cyberbullying on college campuses:

In summer 2007, a music professor at BU was shocked to learn that he had a Facebook page — in his name, with a recent photo and a spot-on bio. But, the professor recalls, “embedded in the document were really scurrilous things that were reputed to have been said by me, and they were quite unpleasant and ugly and immature.”…

…Welcome to Cyberbullying 2.0, the adult version of the meanest pastime on MySpace and Facebook. In recent years, the dangerous game has grown up and grown calculated, and its consequences now include adult-sized miseries — dashed career opportunities, ruined professional relationships, crippling anxiety, even thoughts of suicide.

To read the full article:

Update on Massachusetts workplace bullying legislation

As I reported earlier on this blog (, the Healthy Workplace Bill has been introduced in Massachusetts as Senate Bill No. 699 by State Senator Joan Menard.

For those who are interested in supporting the bill, I’ll be hosting a meeting of the newly formed Massachusetts Healthy Workplace Advocates on Thursday, April 16, at 6 pm.  Please e-mail me at for details.

The bill has been referred to the Joint Committee on Labor and Workforce Development (, whose membership includes the following legislators:


McGee of Third Essex and Middlesex – Chair
Spilka of Second Middlesex and Norfolk – Vice-Chair
Buoniconti of Hampden
O’Leary of Second Worcester
Menard of First Bristol and Plymouth
Hedlund of Plymouth and Norfolk


Coakley-Rivera of Springfield – Chair
Rice of Gardner – Vice-Chair
Rogers of Norwood
Fresolo of Worcester
Rush of Boston
McMurtry of Dedham
Garballey of Arlington
Arciero of Westford
Ferrante of Gloucester
Smola of Palmer
Polito of Shrewsbury

If any of these legislators represent your district, contact them to express your opinion on the Healthy Workplace Bill.

Typing Your Workplace Culture

As we consider possibilities for organizational change, I want to share a very insightful paper by psychologists Linda Hartling and Elizabeth Sparks titled “Relational-Cultural Practice: Working in a Nonrelational World” (2002), published by the Wellesley Centers for Women.

Building on the pioneering work of psychiatrist Jean Baker Miller, Drs. Hartling and Sparks distinguish between healthy “relational” cultures and dysfunctional “non-relational” cultures:

A “relational” culture is one that values “growth-fostering relationships, mutual empathy, mutuality, [and] authenticity,” creating qualities of “zest, empowerment, clarity, sense of worth, and a desire for more connection.”

By contrast, the authors identify three types of “non-relational cultures” that hurt morale and productivity:

(1) “traditional hierarchical” cultures that emphasize top-down power;

(2) “pseudo-relational” cultures that value superficial “niceness” over constructive change; and,

(3) brute “survival” cultures that pit everyone against one another in the quest for status and institutional spoils.

What kind of workplace culture does your organization have?  The answer probably says a lot about your organization and the experience of working there.


The paper is written specifically for mental health professionals, so there are repeated references to clinical work settings.  However, anyone who is interested in employment relations should find it understandable and insightful.

Learning about work: Workplace Bullying Institute University

Since 1998, it has been my pleasure to work with Drs. Gary and Ruth Namie, who have spearheaded the anti-bullying movement in the United States.  They founded the Campaign Against Workplace Bullying, which later evolved into the Workplace Bullying Institute (WBI), a leading source of public education and innovative programming that serves as their primary vehicle for raising awareness about bullying at work.

Last year, Gary and Ruth launched “WBI University,” an intensive, three-day training session, taught in a small-group tutorial format,  for individuals in fields such as mental health, education, and advocacy who want to understand the phenomenon of workplace bullying:

In this personal immersion program you will receive graduate-level knowledge of the workplace bullying phenomenon. . . . You will learn to customize the components for your personal needs. After completion of this course, you will be able to deliver a research-driven presentation introducing Workplace Bullying to a variety of audiences — public or business groups.

The next WBI University is scheduled for June 19-21.  For information, go to:

Is Simon Cowell a Workplace Bully?

If you’ve ever watched the popular FOX network singing competition “American Idol,” you know what I’m asking about.  British music executive Simon Cowell is one of four judges who deliver short, snappy critiques following the live performance of every “American Idol” contestant.

Of the judges (Paula Abdul, Kara DioGuardi, and Randy Jackson being the others), Simon is easily the most caustic and brutally frank, regularly serving up feedback such as “You sounded terrible,” “That was simply awful,” and “I think you may have blown your chance in this competition.”  While the other judges often couch their criticisms with positives, Simon doesn’t hesitate to rip into what he believes was a sub-par performance.  The young performer has no choice but to absorb the criticism in front of millions of viewers.

Because Simon is the toughest judge, contestants often appear apprehensive when it’s his turn to comment.  If Simon praises the performance, the contestant breathes a sigh of relief and beams with delight.  If he pans the performance, the poor contestant tries to take it in stride.

All of this is against the background of a competition in which relative unknowns are striving to become the next American Idol.  The judges have the most power early in the competition, when they are screening out thousands of wannabe performers.  By the time the dozens or so finalists are competing, votes from viewers — surely influenced by the judges’ reviews — are what largely determine the contestants’ fates.

OK, so Simon can be arrogant and insulting, and he wields real power over the futures of these performers.  But is he a “workplace bully”?

Here’s my read on it: If we define bullying as repeated, malicious, health-endangering behavior, Simon may be guilty of committing high misdemeanors, but he’s not a hardcore felon in the pantheon of workplace jerks.

Simon no doubt has been the source of tears and hurt feelings over the years, and many of his comments are downright mean-spirited.  I’m sure there are past Idol contestants who bear the scars of his gratuitously harsh criticisms.  However, he tends not to play favorites — he calls ’em like he hears ’em, albeit in needlessly insulting terms.  At least he is consistently obnoxious, in contrast to workplace bullies who are masters of Dr. Jekyll and Mr. Hyde unpredictability.

Don’t get me wrong: I’m not endorsing or defending Simon’s style or practice.  He’s a bonafide jerk, and he sometimes abuses the power his role confers upon him.  His Idol fame makes him a workplace bullying poster boy.  But as some readers can certainly attest, there are many, many bosses out there much worse than Simon Cowell.

Virtuous Cycles

Journalist Bob Rosner, posting to Today’s Workplace blog, writes about “virtuous cycles” of friendly, helpful service by workers who appreciate their customers:

There is also a supermarket checkout person in Oakland that a friend told me about. When people are checking out she’ll ask questions about what they’re planning to make with their groceries. She always has a stack of homemade recipe cards that she offers to people. She has dog biscuits and candies for the kids. My friend tells me that routinely people will wait in a long line for her, while other checkout lines in the store are empty. 

A little hokey?  Perhaps.  But as Rosner notes, it’s a refreshing alternative to contemplating the likes of Bernie Madoff and AIG.

To read the full post:…/

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