Workplace bullying 2.0: Have we reached a tipping point in U.S. public awareness?

When I started this blog in late 2008, I could’ve posted about, and linked to, virtually every news article on workplace bullying, without driving myself to exhaustion.

Not anymore. In the U.S. alone, articles about workplace bullying and related topics abound in newspapers and other periodicals, the electronic media, and all over the Internet.

When I first started to give presentations about workplace bullying to American audiences about a decade ago, I usually began with a fairly lengthy definition and explanation of workplace bullying.

Not anymore. While at times I still have to explain the topic in greater detail, many audiences comprehend the basics already. This includes professional organizations whose members hadn’t even heard of the term workplace bullying a decade ago.

Yup, it now seems like a long time ago when I first called Gary & Ruth Namie in 1998 to ask them about an initiative they had dubbed the Campaign Against Workplace Bullying.

Have we reached a tipping point?

Does this mean we’ve reached a tipping point in terms of public awareness of workplace bullying in the U.S.?

Okay, some academic hedging here: Yes and no. We’ve seen vast progress in getting this topic before the public, but there’s still a long way to go.

The answer also depends on what aspects of public awareness we’re talking about. We’re seeing a lot of general media coverage, considerable discussion in fields such as organizational psychology, but not yet as much attention in law.

During the next few months, I’m going to be writing a series of blog posts under the “workplace bullying 2.0” rubric, exploring the degree to which workplace bullying has become a mainstream topic in employment relations, psychology and mental health, the law, and related fields, as well as the extent to which the term resonates with the general public.

14 responses

  1. Hi David
    This sounds great – looking forward to hearing the details about progress on this issue in the US. Will be interesting to compare this to the progress of public awareness here in Australia
    Best regards, Carlo

  2. David
    i have only known of you just over a year now and in that time i have learned so much from your hard work, the information has been extremely valuble. I have read Gary and Ruths books and learned so much from them, i was shocked at how everything they said in their books i was experiencing. It is very grounding to know what it is that you are going through. I want to personally thank you for your work and thank you in advance for the work you are yet to do, because without people like yourself we will never get past such critical hurdles as workplace bullying. i can tell you first hand the damage that severe bullying can do and it is devastating in many areas: physical health,psychologicl health,financial health, family,career, just to name the important ones. David if i didnt get out when i did, the job i had because of the severity of the bullying, i would have probably died, either i would have made some fatal error while working with electricity because i was so emotionally detached, and distracted or something else, or i could have had a heart attack. Never the less the road to recovery is long, but i am alive. My psychologist told me last week, it is most likely that i would never emotionally survive another job like the one i came out of where i was treated like i was. It is very similar to being a prisoner of war, that is how bad it was for real. When you put that into perspective it is pretty sad that this can happen in America,and it also makes a statement about how important it is to stop this from happening. The destruction of a human especially just because they want to work and provide for their family is horrific!!!!!!! Thank you David and keep up the incredible work you are doing.

    • I am so glad that some can talk about the work issues openly, I am in the same place as Mel is, for almost two years now my life and health was effected by other people in my work place. At this time I am not yet able to talk about what happen to me and still deal with it everyday.
      Great work David and hope to see something happen soon, it maybe to late for me but I would love to stand up for others some day.
      Thank you. anonymous

  3. “Bullying” indeed is perceived as a national cause for attention in various media. Most of it attends to issues of children bullying other children.
    More scarce are issues of adults bullying other adults.
    “Workplace bullying” as a concept appears to refer to events in the commercial or governental workplace.
    The academic environment, based on principles of academic freedom, freedom of speech, and the like, represents a third environment, operating under different laws and expectations of freedom of action and speech. These are sort of adressed by the AAUP and faculty handbooks which have no enforcement capabilities.
    Can you comment on this third area of the academic environment, and what legal resources are available? I make this request not as a request for legal assistance, but as an academic question. What resources can an academic refer to or rely on?

    Gretchen Whitney, PhD, University of Tennessee (Retd.)

  4. All real victims of bullying, whether child or adult, experiences an intense pain, both physically and mentally. As an adult, the stories I hear are mirrored to my own. The effects are devasting. I pray we are heard and action is taken. The damage has been afflicted upon so many people who never thought this could or would happen to them. Unfortunately, it does, and it will, if we do not continue to be proactive in putting a stop to the toxic behavior that has, and will, destroy the very fibre of the human condition. America was built on fighting for what is right. Let us not forget the past. Thanks to Mr. David Yamada for bringing this action to the forefront in the form of a bill and continued dilligence. He is deeply appreciated by many. Sincerely, mj

  5. Post script: Much thanks to Gary and Ruth Namie who were and are invaluable for exposing this severe and toxic behavior in the workplace. Hate to use cliches’ but, “it takes a village” to raise awareness Kudos. mj

  6. Thanks for this post and I do look forward to your following blog posts exploring this issue. It’s amazing to think how ‘workplace bullying’ wasn’t even known.

  7. Thank you to all of you for your comments. Raising public awareness of workplace bullying in the U.S. certainly has “taken a village,” to borrow from what MJ Pagano said. Much of the impetus came from the Namies’ pioneering work (which continues steadfastly to this day), and since then a lot of people have joined this cause…researchers, advocates, and everyday workers who are fed up with facing this mistreatment on the job.

    Here in Massachusetts, for example, Greg Sorozan and his SEIU/NAGE union have taken the lead on supporting the Healthy Workplace Bill. Deb Falzoi, a graphic designer and communications expert, has organized much of our outreach & advocacy on the HWB. We now have dozens of people in Mass. who have taken leadership roles in supporting the legislation.

    Although I realize that Australia still faces significant challenges concerning bullying at work, I hope that the U.S. will reach the level of public awareness of our friends down under. Indeed, much of this movement has been fueled and informed by the work of folks in many other countries, Carlo among them.

  8. I have to share. I read this blog back when I was experiencing office bullying at its worst. 1.5 years of hell! Unfortunately I’m in the military and leaving the situation just wasn’t as easy as it may be for others. Please note: When I filed a complaint, my life became even more of a living hell! My co-workers (who knew nothing about what I was going through) abandoned me, I was shunned by even lower level employees. During the investigation my character and work ethic suddenly were placed under scrutiny, and after four months of again hell, my reputation, and image were both destroyed and my bully was allowed to go on as if nothing had happened. I couldn’t feel more defeated, and I’m still overcoming the disaster. No one knows what I went through, and very few can possibly imagine. Maybe its easier not too believe me, as the military doesn’t want to accept that it happened, as it is seems easier for them to look the other way. Anyway, I received a poor performance rating for the first time in my career and I’ll never make E-8 or E-9, when I had a flawless, stellar career before the bully entered my life. If you are getting bullied, I recommend you leave or complain immediately. I put up with it too long, so no one would believe me when I complained. No one should have to go through this, and yes when I still see my bully, I want to kick his a*&!

  9. Sorry for what you are going through Jenn, it is painful and you are right many people cannot understand it and look the other way, people are funny, if things are going good for them, they often will not rock the boat. Hang in there and try and keep your chin up and learn as much from this as you can. Going forward you wont let this happen to yourself again. One of the reasons a lot of bosses get away with bullying for so long is they have a financial stronghold on us in a very poor economy and it shouldnt be, we shouldnt have to suffer because our economy is doing poorly. I hope things get better for you!!!

  10. There are Laws that both protect and punish this type of abuse in our homes (domestic), on the ‘streets’, and in our schools; I don’t understand why it is so difficult to carry them through to include the workplace, given the number of people it affects. There is no shame to stepping up and revealing the abuser and in my experience SOONER IS BETTER – go with your gutt – if it doesn’t feel right IT ISN’T! I questioned myself (Is it ME?). Trust yourself enough to speak up, stand up, and make it stop before withdrawing or accepting it. I also found that challenging the Bully made it worse, but I had to somehow fight back. I am 10 weeks out of work and still feeling the affects – withdrawal, depression, hopelessness. A big worry of mine is how to explain the gap in employment to future employers. This just SO VERY WRONG!!!!

    • Laurie i agree it should not be thtat difficult, i think lawmakers and politicians are much more reluctant though to pose laws on employers because of the poliitical impact it might have . I understand your pain. I was bullied at work for ten years and severely. I have been on this site talking about it for a year and a half and i am still not back to work. I am also worried about what i will say to a potential employer about the time i have been out. They wont say it, but they will think it{ is this person a risk for us} I know because i was a supervisor once and i know what higher ups told me to look for. It is wrong, its hard and it needs to stop.Public awareness is way up on bullying but we are still a long way from stopping it. Many other problems exist too. The workers comp system is extremely difficult, the insurance companies can keep appealing and make claimants go without income for months sending them back through many hurdles, over and over again to try and force the injured to give up. It is why we need these laws against this stuff. If people have not been there, they just do not get it. Hang in there and keep fighting back!!!!!!!!!!

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