Greetings from the beautiful Bavarian city of Augsburg, Germany, where before being stranded by volcanic ash I participated in a terrific weekend conference on workplace bullying and discrimination sponsored by the University of Augsburg Faculty of Law.
More a roundtable or symposium than a large, impersonal gathering, the conference featured participants from Europe and the United States presenting on comparative aspects of law and public policy pertinent to workplace bullying and discrimination.
As always, insights from our European neighbors continue to enlighten and inspire us. Dr. Martina Benecke, dean of the Augsburg Faculty of Law, was our primary host and moderator. I was particularly drawn to remarks about the German concept of violations of the fundamental constitutional right to personality (via Dr. Benecke) and to the panoply of ways in which Dutch law addresses workplace mobbing situations (via Dr. Evert Verhulp, University of Amsterdam).
Other European speakers included Dr. Steffen Krieger (law firm of Gleiss Lutz), Dr. Luca Nogler (University of Trento), and Dr. Martine Le Friant (University of Avignon). I learned something from all of their presentations and enjoyed meeting them.
New North American ally
From the American side of the Atlantic, I’m delighted that Prof. Lea Vaughn of the law school at the University of Washington is jumping into workplace bullying and abuse research.
Her presentation on the uses of neuroscience to understand how abusive workplaces harm individuals drew from cutting-edge scientific research and gave us an exciting preview of her forthcoming work. (Gary Namie of the Workplace Bullying Institute and researchers in the field of occupational health psychology have been highlighting this scientific research, so Prof. Vaughn’s applications to employment law and policy will be especially welcomed.)
Ties that bind
The North American connection to the University of Augsburg came by way of Dr. Silvia Lang, whose 2009 visit to the Workplace Bullying Institute with Drs. Gary and Ruth Namie as part of her doctoral research led to invitations to participate in the Augsburg conference. Drs. Benecke and Lang obtained a grant from the Thyssen Foundation that helped to fund the conference, including much appreciated travel and accommodation funding for their overseas guests.
I’m very much looking forward to coming home to the U.S., but this has been a welcoming and beneficial visit, not to mention a wonderful opportunity to experience a charming and historic European city.