The third and final day of the excellent 7th International Conference on Workplace Bullying & Harassment in Cardiff, Wales, finished up in earnest on Friday, with delegates present for a morning keynote address and two more sessions of parallel panels. I’ll be mentioning more specific pieces from the conference in posts to come, but here are some wrap-up observations.
Sense of purpose
What strikes me as being unique about this conference, at least compared to so many other academic and professional gatherings, is a shared sense of purpose that turns the conference into a three-day learning community. By and large, academicians, practitioners, and graduate students attend and participate out of a serious interest in and commitment to research and practice concerning this destructive phenomenon. The cross-disciplinary and scholar-practitioner mixes make for valuable learning experiences.
Don’t get me wrong — it’s not a giant feel-good assemblage. There are genuine differences of opinion among people doing work in this field, and the cozy sense of togetherness that prevailed when conference attendees numbered in the dozens rather than the hundreds is giving way to a larger look and feel. Nevertheless, friendships form and the overall atmosphere is one of collegiality and even fellowship. This is quite the contrast to the uptight, buttoned-up milieu of many other academic and professional gatherings.
Workplace bullying and the law
I was pleased to see the significant increase in presentations about the employment and labor law aspects of workplace bullying, covering countries spanning the globe. I’ll have more to say about this later, but for now let me note that of the several conferences in this series that I have attended, this is the first time where law and public policy enjoyed such a strong presence among the different panels. The news was not always good — legal protections against severe bullying at work are far from adequate, globally speaking — but the encouraging piece is that the topic is starting to get the attention it deserves.
Graduate student presence
I’m happy to see more graduate students are attending and presenting their work. As I noted in my post about Day 1 of the conference (link below), a pre-conference doctoral workshop attracted some 30 attendees. In addition, doctoral students were frequent presenters, and their work is helping to grow our knowledge base about workplace bullying. Some of them will take their interest and work into the university classrooms of tomorrow, thereby helping to educate new generations of learners about workplace bullying and its effects.
Gary Namie of the Workplace Bullying Institute has been elected to the board of directors of the International Association on Workplace Bullying & Harassment. While confessing bias, I have long believed that Gary’s understanding of the different aspects of workplace bullying — behaviors, costs, and responses — is second to none. He will contribute mightily to this organization.
Hosting and organizing an international conference of this nature is an enormous undertaking that spans more than two years, starting with the initial proposal and concluding with countless little post-conference odds and ends. Special kudos go to Professor Duncan Lewis, conference organizer Louise Davies, and staff member Catherine Wilson — all of the University of Glamorgan’s Centre for the Study of Workplace Behaviours — for putting together a first-rate, memorable gathering. Professor Michael Sheehan, who was unable to join us for the conference but put in significant contributions toward its success, also deserves our thanks.
Their efforts not only supported their colleagues who shared insights at the conference, but also will help workers and organizations in the years to come.
Copenhagen! (But start filling the piggy bank — I’m told it isn’t cheap to be a visitor there!)
Short report on Day 2 of the Conference
Short report on Day 1 of the Conference