NBC’s Today Show Examines Workplace Bullying

Yesterday’s NBC Today Show did a nice segment on workplace bullying.  Here’s the link, via the Workplace Bullying Institute website: http://www.workplacebullying.org/2009/07/14/today/.

Note the website comments, rightly taking issue with the NBC work expert’s assessment that “standing up” to a bully at work is the way to respond.  Although that may work on occasion, in many instances it backfires, only enraging the bully more and triggering an escalation of the abusive conduct.

[Note: Readers looking for a post on the Today Show’s segment covering the July 30, 2010 suicide of Virginia literary journal editor Kevin Morrissey, reportedly due to workplace bullying, may go here.]

6 responses

  1. I’m confused. The website you linked to seems to be saying that people dealing with abusive bosses should NOT try to proactively affect change on their own. Isn’t it important to determine what your own personal situation is? How do you know if your boss is intent on psychologically harassing you or merely an uninformed/insensitive/poor manager unless you go through the proactive ‘steps’ of making the situation better? Even Matt Lauer pointed out that victims should document everything in case the situation is more than standing up to normal office politics can remedy. I personally have paid severe financial and physical damages due to standing up — but I also know of many situations in which standing up to the boss was all that was needed.

    • Frank, the comment on the Workplace Bullying Institute website was aptly saying that standing up to the bully may not be the solution, and I agree. NBC’s “expert” mistakenly believes that there’s a one-size-fits-all response to workplace bullying, but there isn’t. Document everything, yes, but how someone takes it from there depends on a whole range of circumstances too varied to summarize here. Sometimes standing up to the bully works; other times, it backfires horribly. If you’re dealing with a serial bully boss who has the backing of his/her superiors, it’s usually not a wise strategy.

      Especially in the absence of direct legal protections against severe bullying (and you can read posts on this blog that describe our efforts to enact anti-bullying legislation across the country), an individual employee’s response to bullying may depend on a host of variables. That’s not what most people want to hear, but it’s the truth. It’s also why we need a law, to give individual bullying targets some ammunition with which to fight back.

      • Well Lauer clearly says that in the news report. And I for one am glad they brought it to public attention within the 3 or 4 minute time frame they were limited to. The abrasive response of advocates I rely on to represent people like me is disturbing.

      • I share your appreciation for the fact they ran the segment. But I don’t think NBC’s workplace expert really understands how vicious bullying can get. If she did, her response to what you do in these situations would’ve been more nuanced, even within the limitations of a five-minute story.

        Problem is, some folks are going assume that she knows what she’s talking about, and they’re gonna march right into work the next day and confront their tormenter. Sadly, this is not like one of those made-for-TV after school movies where David stands up to Goliath on the playground and comes out triumphant. Some, many, who take that approach at work are going to find the bullying behavior intensifying.

        Unfortunately, this is why the exit strategy — either “voluntary” resignation to save one’s health and sanity, or being forced out — is the most common result.

    • Frank, I’m afraid I can’t turn this setting into one for individual coaching or feedback. As I said, it depends on so many variables, legal, interpersonal, and organizational.

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