Mediation Channel on good blogging and recommended ADR blogs

Diane Levin, friend of this blog and host of the popular Mediation Channel (http://www.mediationchannel.com), has written a great post that both affirms basic “best practices” about blogging and provides a list of alternative dispute resolution blogs that capture those practices.

Her three rules of thumb for good blogging are “create good content,” “be social,” and “don’t plagiarize,” and she elaborates nicely on each point.  Her list of ADR blogs is a blessed time saver for those in search of quality commentary.

Mediation Channel was recognized by the ABA Journal as one of the top 100 law-related blogs, and Diane has been a leader in promoting an interactive and collegial blogosphere among legal and ADR practitioners and thinkers.

Link: http://mediationchannel.com/2010/02/18/blog-responsibly-a-public-service-reminder-for-dispute-resolution-bloggers/

Is Britain’s Prime Minister a Workplace Bully?

Multiple news stories from across the pond are asking whether Great Britain’s Prime Minister, Gordon Brown, is a workplace bully. Here’s Catherine Mayer, reporting from London:

Britain’s Prime Minister emerges in three new books – by Peter Watt, a former general secretary of the Labour Party, Lance Price, a former Downing Street adviser, and Andrew Rawnsley, a political journalist – as a man of volcanic rages, prone to lobbing mobile phones and choice epithets if provoked.

Of course, with elections on the horizon in Britain, there are countercharges of political motivations behind these revelations. That said, my sense is there’s some substance behind the allegations.

Perhaps my own prejudices are fueled by a recent post reporting on a study about the effects of concentrated power: https://newworkplace.wordpress.com/2009/11/30/why-concentrated-power-at-work-is-bad/

Big Tent

It bears emphasizing that bullying behaviors in political work settings are not the province of any political party. Gordon Brown happens to be of the left-leaning Labour Party.  One of my poster bosses for political bullying in the U.S. is former U.N. ambassador John Bolton, a Republican appointee, whose repeated tirades were well documented. In politics, bullying bosses gather under a big tent.

Jobs, Unemployment, and the Great Recession: Articles Worth Reading

The mainstream moderate-to-liberal press is finally starting to get it: America’s high unemployment rate is having a devastating effect on individuals, their families, and their communities.  It is impacting hopes, dreams, and bare survival.  It is fueling a public health crisis that we largely have chosen to ignore.

While some columnists have been sounding this alarm since the beginning of the 2008 meltdown — Bob Herbert of the New York Times is a shining example — only within the last few months have their host periodicals started to put the jobs crisis front and center.

Fortunately, the emerging news coverage and commentary are sharp and insightful, reminding us that job loss is more than simply an economic event.  It is the reality of blogging that few busy readers will be able to make the investment of time to dig beyond the post itself, but here are three cover/lead articles worth printing out and reading, along with a sampling of recent Herbert columns that also merit your attention:

“How a New Jobless Era Will Transform America,” Don Peck, The Atlantic (March 2010)

The Great Recession may be over, but this era of high joblessness is probably just beginning. Before it ends, it will likely change the life course and character of a generation of young adults. It will leave an indelible imprint on many blue-collar men. It could cripple marriage as an institution in many communities. It may already be plunging many inner cities into a despair not seen for decades. Ultimately, it is likely to warp our politics, our culture, and the character of our society for years to come.

Lay Off the Layoffs,” Jeffrey Pfeffer, Newsweek (Feb. 15, 2010)

Much of the conventional wisdom about downsizing—like the fact that it automatically drives a company’s stock price higher, or increases profitability—turns out to be wrong. There’s substantial research into the physical and health effects of downsizing on employees—research that reinforces the seemingly hyperbolic notion that layoffs are literally killing people. There is also empirical evidence showing that labor-market flexibility isn’t necessarily so good for countries, either.

“Millions of Unemployed Face Years Without Jobs,” Peter S. Goodman, New York Times (February 21, 2010)

Economists fear that the nascent recovery will leave more people behind than in past recessions, failing to create jobs in sufficient numbers to absorb the record-setting ranks of the long-term unemployed.

Call them the new poor: people long accustomed to the comforts of middle-class life who are now relying on public assistance for the first time in their lives — potentially for years to come.

A Sampling of Bob Herbert

At times he has been a voice in the wilderness:

“The Worst of the Pain”

Those in the lower-income groups are in a much, much deeper hole than the general commentary on the recession would lead people to believe.

“Time is Running Out”

Rescuing the U.S. economy will require a commitment, and undoubtedly sacrifices, that need to start now.

“Constraining America’s Brightest”

Instead of getting a chance to set the world on fire, college graduates are facing a gloomy economy, unpaid internships and unemployment.

***

Addendum (October 2010) — This has become one of the most read posts on this blog, an unfortunate testament to how many people are searching the Internet for news commentaries on the Great Recession. With apologies for my growing devotion to the New York Times coverage of the human impact of the recession, I want to add several suggestions drawn from their work:

  • Bob Herbert continues to be one of the most devoted chroniclers of the ground-level destruction of this recession and the need for strong public sector responses. His columns can be accessed here.
  • The paper has been running a periodic series of extended news features under the banner “The New Poor,” which are collected here. One of the more bracing and noteworthy pieces in the series is Motoko Rich’s “For the Unemployed Over 50, Fears of Never Working Again.”

Finally, let me reiterate my recommendation above of Don Peck’s article in The Atlantic. The bleak picture it paints remains a plausible scenario.

Addendum (January 2011)The Economist, which leans toward free-market conservatism, weighed in with a feature in its year-end issue on the crisis of long-term unemployment facing millions of Americans, “In the bleak midwinter: Poverty looms for the long-term unemployed“:

Fifteen million Americans are now unemployed, according to the most recent jobs report. The unemployment rate for November inched up to 9.8%. The grimmest numbers, however, are for the long-term unemployed…: 6.3m people, 42% of those unemployed, have been jobless for more than 26 weeks. That number does not include 2.5m people who want a job but who have not looked for a month or more, or the 9m who want full-time work but can only find part-time openings.

Ontario deliberates workplace bullying regulation

Canadian employment lawyer Howard Levitt, writing for the Vancouver Sun, examines the province of Ontario’s deliberations over amending its occupational safety and health laws to cover workplace bullying.  According to Levitt, the problem is the “grey area” between bullying and “an assertive management style.”  He continues:

Corporate rainmakers and top executives and salespeople often exhibit demanding and exacting traits that can be perceived as bullying. In a competitive environment, an assertive and “take charge” style is usually rewarded. If a manager exhorts and pushes subordinates to perform, those that can comply might be flush with success, while those people who are laconic by nature may view the exhortations as bullying.

I agree that such grey areas should not be the legal battlegrounds upon which bullying claims are fought, which is why I drafted the Healthy Workplace Bill to require that malice — defined for these purposes “as the desire to cause pain, injury, or distress to another” — must be proven to recover damages.  This language is contained in all standard versions of the Healthy Workplace Bill filed in the U.S.

However, Levitt’s suggestion that those who are “laconic by nature” are more likely to view an “assertive” and “take charge” management style as bullying is puzzling.  Many different personalities, not just those who may be more economical with their words, do not respond well to top-down, command and control management practices.  Such practices may not reach the level of bullying, but they well could be both obnoxious and ineffective.

Levitt’s article: http://www.vancouversun.com/life/Office+bullying+grey+area+employers/2536593/story.html

Hat tip: APA’s Psychologically Healthy Workplace Program

Following up on the University of Alabama-Huntsville shootings

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Because many readers of this blog do not work in academic settings, I will limit how much more I write about the February 12 shootings at the University of Alabama-Huntsville that left three people dead and three others injured.  However, for those who want to follow the latest news and commentary about the tragedy, these sources may be useful:

Chronicle of Higher Education

The Chronicle of Higher Education, academe’s unofficial weekly newspaper, is devoting extensive coverage to this event. Go here for the link.

Boston Globe

Because so much of suspect Amy Bishop’s life was spent in Massachusetts, Boston Globe reporters have been investigating pieces of her past that may relate to the UAH shootings. Go here for the link.

Response to Blog Entry

I am gratified that my earlier blog entry calling upon colleges and universities to take faculty mental health more seriously has attracted attention in discussions about how we regard the UAH tragedy.  Excerpts from that entry and my subsequent interview comments can be accessed here:

Chronicle roundup of commentary on UAH

Chronicle article by Jennifer Ruark about mental health issues in academe

Boston Globe article by Tracy Jan about the personal impact of tenure processes

My original blog entry

I appreciated that both Jennifer Ruark and Tracy Jan took balanced, non-sensationalistic approaches to examining the aftermath of UAH and its relevance to academic culture and tenure processes.  Alas, not all reportage and commentary have been so evenhanded.

Finally

If you are a member of the UAH community who has found this entry, please accept my deep sympathy and best wishes toward your recovery from this trauma.  I cannot pretend to know what you are experiencing, but I do understand that this tragedy touches everyone in academe and should serve as cause for serious reflection.

***

[June 2010 update: Amy Bishop has been charged with the 1986 shooting death of her brother.]

Global news about workplace bullying and the law — Feb 2010

As we in the U.S. continue to advocate for (or at least deliberate over) the Healthy Workplace Bill, other nations continue to demonstrate a much greater willingness to hear bullying-related claims brought by workers.  Here is a sampler of recent news reports:

Four fined for bullying after employee suicide in Australia

Four workmates of a young waitress who killed herself by jumping off a building have been convicted and fined a total of $335,000 over relentless bullying before her death.

Brodie Rae Constance Panlock, 19, was subjected to the humiliating bullying by workmates at Cafe Vamp in Hawthorn, in Melbourne’s east, before she threw herself from a multi-storey car park in September 2006.

Link: http://bigpondnews.com/articles/National/2010/02/08/Four_fined_for_workplace_bullying_426286.html

Bullying on the Rise in the United Kingdom

The recession has seen a big increase in bullying at work, the Guardian has learned. One in 10 employees experience workplace bullying and harassment, according to the conciliation service Acas, while a survey by the union Unison reports that more than one-third of workers said they were bullied in the past six months, double the number a decade ago.

…Employment lawyers say allegations of bullying have become a frequent feature of claims for unfair dismissal and discrimination.

Link: http://www.guardian.co.uk/money/2010/jan/04/bullying-workplace-recession

Workplace bullying trial begins in Germany

Sedika Weingaertner, who is suing her former employer Siemens for 2 million euros ($2.82 million), headed to court in the German town of Nuernberg on Wednesday. Weingaertner claims she was bullied for years by her bosses and discriminated against for being a woman and an Arab. 

Link: http://www.dw-world.de/dw/article/0,,5150735,00.html

What Martha Coakley and Sarah Palin (and Ann Hopkins) teach us about gender, leadership, and the workplace

During the past 18 months, the stories of two prominent political figures — former Alaska governor and VP candidate Sarah Palin and Massachusetts attorney general and former Senate candidate Martha Coakley — have dovetailed to invite us to think about the challenges that women continue to face in seeking leadership opportunities.

Getting It Just Right

Do women who aspire to visible leadership positions still have to strike it just right when it comes to honing their public images — blending the charismatic sex appeal of a Sarah Palin with the non-threatening stoicism of a Martha Coakley?

Frankly, I don’t think either was ready for her prime time appearance.  Although Palin may attract crowds and adoring fans, media accounts about her conduct during the campaign reveal that she was in way over her head when it came to understanding major public policy issues.  As for Coakley, she appeared politically and substantively underprepared for a tough general election campaign with national implications.

That said, I ask myself if we are too hard on both because they are women.  After all, history shows us that countless men with similar or worse deficiencies have managed to get elected to high office.  (Dan Quayle or Rod Blagojevich, anyone?)  Furthermore, being elected attorney general (Coakley) or governor (Palin) of any state is no small achievement; both earned the right to be contenders even if, like so many male candidates, the voters found them wanting.

Back to the Future?

One of the oft-discussed Supreme Court cases in the realm of employment discrimination law is Price Waterhouse v. Hopkins (1989), which involved a claim by senior accountant Ann Hopkins against her employer for failing to promote her to partnership.

Hopkins had earned strong reviews for attracting business and working with clients but was criticized by some for having a harsh and abrasive style with co-workers.

Walk, Talk, and Dress Like a Girl

The superior who informed Hopkins that her application for partnership was being deferred suggested that her chances for promotion would improve if she acted, talked, and dressed more femininely.  There was other evidence that Hopkins was subjected to gender stereotyping in some of the evaluations submitted in connection with her partnership bid.  The Supreme Court held that she may have been discriminated against and returned the case to the lower court for further proceedings.

Price-Waterhouse v. Hopkins is still debated today because it remains so relevant.  By comparing the fates of Sarah Palin and Martha Coakley, we see continuing reverberations of the very issues put before the Justices over two decades ago.

***

Price Waterhouse v. Hopkins summary and link to full decision: http://www.law.cornell.edu/supct/html/historics/USSC_CR_0490_0228_ZS.html

Law review essay (pdf) by Ann Hopkins describing her experience in the litigation: http://law.hofstra.edu/pdf/Academics/Journals/LaborAndEmploymentLawJournal/labor_Hopkins_vol22no2.pdf

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