Working notes: Bullied bus monitor update, whistle blowing books, and massive U.S. job dislike

Here are three work-related stories worth a look:

Bullied bus monitor retires and pays it forward

Last year, video of a group of 7th graders mercilessly taunting and ridiculing 68-year-old school bus monitor Karen Klein went viral. The Rochester, NY students subjected her to a humiliating stream of insults and profanities, all caught on tape by a classmate. I wrote about it here, including a link to the video, which still is hard to watch.

In the aftermath of her experience, a good samaritan named Max Sidirov used a social media site to raise money intended to provide Klein and her family take a needed vacation. But a rush of pledges totaling some $700,000 poured in, enabling her to take the retirement she thought was impossible in view of her $15,000 annual salary. At the time, Klein said that she would use some of the money to address problems of bullying and suicide.

Today she’s making good on that intention. Carolyn Thompson, reporting for the Associated Press (here, via Boston.com), details how:

Klein used $100,000 as seed money for the Karen Klein Anti-Bullying Foundation, which has promoted its message of kindness at concerts and through books. Most recently, the foundation partnered with the Moscow Ballet to raise awareness of cyberbullying as the dance company tours the United States and Canada.

‘‘There’s a lot I wish I could be doing, but I don’t know how to do it,’’ Klein said.

‘‘I’m just a regular old lady,’’ she added with a laugh.

Books on whistle blowing

Sunday’s Boston Globe included Katharine Whittemore’s welcomed review essay on books about whistle blowing, the first time I’ve seen such a piece in a major newspaper. She begins by saying, “When it comes to whistle-blowers, we may be living in a kind of strange, explosive golden age.” Here’s more:

There’s now a self-help book on the topic. Seriously, I give you “The Whistleblower’s Handbook: A Step-by-Step Guide to Doing What’s Right and Protecting Yourself”(Lyons, 2011). It’s vastly shrewd and practical, but it also offers an astute long view of American whistle-blowing. Author Stephen Martin Kohn knows about precedents: He’s one of the lawyers who helped procure the biggest whistle-blower reward ever.

Whittemore mixes overviews of the topic with personal accounts:

Then there’s Cynthia Cooper, a vice president of internal audit for WorldCom, who in 2002 harnessed a team of accountants that worked clandestinely to uncover the company’s $3.8 billion in fraud (the biggest in US history up to that time). Her “Extraordinary Circumstances: The Journey of a Corporate Whistleblower” (Wiley, 2008) jumps (not always successfully) between her WorldCom experience and the moral upbringing that created a whistle-blower “decision by decision, and brick by brick.”

Most Americans aren’t happy with their jobs…and their bosses

Timothy Egan, blogging for the New York Times, writes about “an exhaustive and depressing” Gallup study indicating that American workers are seriously unhappy with their workplaces:

Among the 100 million people in this country who hold full-time jobs, about 70 percent of them either hate going to work or have mentally checked out to the point of costing their companies money — “roaming the halls spreading discontent,” as Gallup reported. Only 30 percent of workers are “engaged and inspired” at work.

And while lagging pay and benefits have something to do with this state of affairs, the main culprits are bad bosses, who are costing their organizations plenty in lost productivity:

But here’s the surprise: the main factor in workplace discontent is not wages, benefits or hours, but the boss. . . . The survey said there was consistent anger at management types who failed to so much as ask employees about their opinion of the job. Ever.

“The managers from hell are creating active disengagement costing the United States an estimated $450 billion to $550 billion annually,” wrote Jim Clifton, the C.E.O. and chairman of Gallup.

5 responses

  1. The problem of workplace bullies will continue until state legislation is passed to cover this type of discrimination. It is unfortunate that NYS does not take WPB seriously enough to pass the Healthy Workplace Legislation. This legislation would provide a means of relief to all employees from WP bullies whether or not they fall under a Title VII protected category. Businesses will regain control of their organization and start “cleaning house” once they are hit in their pockets. If NYS passes this almost certainly other states would follow.

  2. Only 30 percent of workers are “engaged and inspired” at work.

    If you are engaged and inspired, the bullies attack you like no other because you make them look bad. Why I got bullied out the door after being ordered to “stop working so hard” by my ‘supervisor’ who did nothing but sit in meetings with the other “supervisor” bullies devising plans to destroy people’s lives. NO focus on any goal, at all, including and especially maintaining the trust and respect of customers, other than to make themselves feel powerful? Strange place. And even though everyone knew it was going on, nothing ever done about it year after year after year…

  3. This is what makes no sense. Long term experienced and knowledgeable employees are being bullied in hopes that they will leave so the company can avoid unemployment expenses and hire lower salary inexperienced young employees who will likely leave in a year, while the quality of work fails, thus driving customers away? So that costs the company money in the long term. Given there are no laws to stop this, and it has obviously become a rampant “management strategy” given the volume of press these days, they are free to do so. The result is a large number of baby boomers seeking but unable to find employment because of the same stereotypical thought. SO, then, this is a drain on our economy given there are a large number of mentally abused people out there in the world who are having to survive off of government aid that otherwise would have been contributing to society, if it had not been for the abuse in the first place? So exactly what is the economic benefit in all of this, to anyone?

  4. I’ve work at a top law firm and have been “bullied” for the last 15 years by my dept. manager. Its been a roller coaster ride of ups and downs, winning and losing some battles including health issues and HR issues. Why do I stay, because I am a survivor and will not allow this person to push me out the door. It is a well paying job that I like and it has provided me with the income and benefits to take care of my children. I am still currently employed there, however; I have been planning my “escape”. I worked dilligently to educate myself on this topic and recently earned my MBA. I am thinking of sharing my experiences when I leave the firm. Its been a journey and one that may help others gain strength, hope and insight about this topic. Maybe I will share my story with the NYS legislature so they can hear first hand how WPB survive and thrive even in top law firms.

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