Family and friends of workplace bullying suicide victims support Healthy Workplace Bill

If you’re wondering about the terrible impact of workplace bullying on targets and their family and friends, a recent press conference in New York hosted by advocates for the anti-bullying Healthy Workplace Bill put the question front-and-center.

Among the speakers were Maria Morrissey, sister of Kevin Morrissey, an editor for the Virginia Literary Review who committed suicide last July; and Katherine Hermes, friend of Marlene Braun, a California park service employee who committed suicide in 2005.

Maria Morrissey on Kevin Morrissey

Maria Morrissey has become an advocate for the Healthy Workplace Bill in the aftermath of her brother’s suicide, which has been linked to his work experience at the University of Virginia’s Virginia Quarterly Review, a literary magazine.  As reported by Veronica Lewin for the Legislative Gazette (link here):

When she and [Kevin’s] friend Waldo went through his apartment they found a clue next to his suicide note: a copy of the book “Working with the Self-Absorbed: How to Handle Narcissistic Personalities on the Job.”

…According to Maria, the book was underlined and filled with notes, suggesting Kevin read the book in an attempt to end the workplace torment he dealt with for three years.

“We both got chills feeling like that was Kevin saying please carry on this fight, I can’t do it anymore.”

Katherine Hermes on Marlene Braun

Kathy Hermes, a college professor in Connecticut and coordinator of the Connecticut Healthy Workplace Advocates, spoke at the press conference about Marlene Braun. As reported by the Legislative Gazette:

Marlene Braun shot herself and her three dogs after being a target of bullying in her office. Katherine Hermes, Braun’s friend, said the bullying started after Braun sent an e-mail correcting a factual mistake her boss had made without copying him into the document.

“This may sound trivial, but a lot of workplace bullying starts with trivialities,” said Hermes.

…Braun often told Hermes about her work environment. Braun’s boss often ordered her out of the room during meetings and took her name off memos she had written and submitted them as his own. After an offsite meeting, Hermes said Braun’s boss cornered her outside of her truck and screamed at her.

Multiple victims

We have a considerable body of evidence documenting what severe workplace bullying can do to its direct targets. But we also need to grasp how workplace bullying can have a destructive effect on personal relationships with spouses and partners, other family members, and friends.

And when those so-called third parties understand what the target is experiencing, they often suffer with the target — what psychology experts call “secondary trauma.”

Oftentimes, that secondary harm does not become evident until stories like these emerge. Just as we have seen with school bullying, it often takes an act as desperate and horrific as suicide to bring the human costs of workplace bullying to public attention.

In these tragedies, we can hope and pray that the victims are at peace. But their surviving relatives and friends must bear the pain of those losses. Some have channeled their mourning and grief into a commitment to effect change. Others are struggling more privately.

For more information

Kevin Morrissey

The Hook, a Virginia weekly, has followed closely the story of the Kevin Morrissey suicide and aftermath. In particular, editor Dave McNair has written several thorough investigative pieces, including here (initial investigative piece, August 2010), here (analyzing the University of Virginia’s internal report, October 2010), and here (looking at the future of the literary journal, April 2011).

Marlene Braun

The Workplace Bullying Institute has compiled an extensive online archive of information about Marlene Braun, here.

Friends of Marlene Braun maintain a Facebook page with information about her death and ongoing support of the workplace bullying movement, here.

To support the Healthy Workplace Bill

To join the legislative campaign to enact the Healthy Workplace Bill in your state, go here.

3 responses

  1. I find it both interesting and upsetting that workplace bullying noted was within educational institutions. Considering that we have identified school bullying ad s severe issue we rarely relate the relationship between school bullying and administration bullying to faculty. I theorize that bullies grow up and continue to be bullies who seek out administrative positions in schools. They have found this ‘hunting’ ground the perfect environment to become successful. I am a Special Needs teacher who has been the victim of workplace bullying for the last three years. The predators have grown in strength and numbers and the irony is that they are being recognized for anti-bullying programs developed in their schools. It is the inmates guarding the jail.
    Thank you for my voice,

    • All of this boss bullying really needs to stop. Do these people have a real life or is their lives about just tormenting others?

  2. I suffered as a target of workplace bullying for 4 long, horrible years before I was finally able to scrounge together enough money to buy my last 4 years of retirement time and get out of the place. I still suffer today even though I have been out of the environment for 2 years. I suffer from depression, anxiety, and insomnia still. My nightmare began when a promotion that was supposed to be mine was given to another employee who had been there half the time I had been there. I was absolutely devastated by the event and became very depressed over what had happened. When a supervisor retired, everyone underneath him was promoted up a notch and that’s when the nightmare really began. The man in charge should NEVER have been given the job. He was a control freak who promoted a hostile work environment. I basically got targeted because I was angry that the promotion that I had worked so hard to get was given to someone who worked directly in the administrative office (I worked downstairs in another department of a county detention center). First, I was taken aside and scolded for being upset about the promotion. I was then given a set of rules that was only enforced on me. My internet was turned off, making it difficult for me to do my job. I was harassed constantly and at one point was flat out told that I HAD to leave the building during my lunch hour (where I worked, I had to go through a series of doors with an access card and then had to be let out of the last door by an officer in a control room. Some days I just didn’t feel like putting up with the hassle of getting out so I would eat in our breakroom in our area). If I dropped my keys in the parking lot, I was written up for it. After one write up, I filed a grievance, which was basically a joke seeing as how the grievance committee was made up of the people I filed the grievance against. I tape recorded that meeting and sent it to the jail chief’s supervisor so he could hear for himself what was going on. Nothing happened to the supervisor. However, not long after I sent the recording to my supervisor’s boss, I was transferred out of the job I had worked in for 9 years to work in the mail room under the supervision of another vicious, evil bully. The transfer was out of retaliation for blowing the whistle on my corrupt supervisers. One day I stamped a letter with the wrong date and was suspended from work for a day without pay. The funny thing is it was my last week of work (I did not give them a notice that I was leaving for fear of them firing me and ruining my chance to retire) so I got an extra day off from work my last week there. There is much, much more to my story but there isn’t enough time to tell it all on here. I am now patiently waiting for Karma to visit 3 of the 4 bullies I had to deal with. One of them is getting his now–he has terminal cancer.

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