Recycling: Five years of September

Each month I’m reaching into the archives to highlight a piece from that month of each past year. Especially for those of you who missed them the first time around, I hope they provide interesting and useful reading. For each piece I’m including a short excerpt; you may click on the title for the full article.

September 2013: Does the Dunning-Kruger Effect help to explain bad bosses and overrated co-workers? — “The Dunning-Kruger Effect has major implications for the workplace. It likely translates into incompetent people demanding better pay and perks, and regarding themselves as especially worthy of elevation to management positions. They may be more effective, or at least more assertive, when it comes to self-promotion. By contrast, competent people may well be more modest about touting themselves and their accomplishments. Some may self-select out of opportunities and promotion possibilities, figuring that other more worthy candidates will apply. They may be less likely to see themselves as leaders.”

September 2012: Will workplace bullying behaviors become increasingly covert and indirect? — “…I’d like to offer a reluctant hypothesis: As workplace bullying continues to enter the mainstream of American employee relations, and as advocates for the workplace anti-bullying movement enjoy greater successes in public education, employer awareness, and law reform, bullying behaviors at work will become increasingly covert and indirect.”

September 2011: Should workplace bullying be a criminal offense in the U.S.? —  “I cannot speak with sufficient authority about whether the legal systems in other nations are capable of handling criminal claims for workplace bullying, but I do believe that making standard-brand workplace bullying a criminal offense in the U.S. would create significant challenges for targets seeking justice and seriously disrupt our workplaces.”

September 2010: Can an ethical HR officer survive at a bad company? — “Say you’re a human resources director who honestly and fervently believes that treating employees fairly and with respect is a classic win-win practice. It makes for high productivity and happy workers, right? If you work for an organization that shares your values, you’re a partner in a great match. But what happens if you don’t?”

September 2009: When workplace bullying triggers workplace violence — “In his 1995 book Violence at Work, Joseph A. Kinney, founder of the National Safe Workplace Institute, observed that workplace violence can be a consequence of bullying at work. Kinney noted that ‘there have been numerous instances where abusive supervisors have baited angry and frustrated employees, pushing these individuals to unacceptable levels of violence and aggression.’…Sadly, it appears that a workplace killing in Fresno, California last week was a replay of that scenario.”

Three great websites if you’re over 40 (or will be someday)

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I wanted to highlight three websites that I keep going back to for information, advice, and wisdom. All bear some relationship to the world of work and careers, sometimes indirectly. More importantly, they give us ideas about how to live with more meaning and even happiness. They’re especially useful for folks in the second half of life who may find themselves more receptive these notions, but I’d recommend them to virtually any adult.

All of have excellent newsletters or e-mail bulletins that you can subscribe to for free.

Next Avenue

First up is Next Avenuea site hosted by public television staffers:

You’re aware that many years of life lie ahead of you and, very likely, you have a different set of expectations for these “bonus years” than you had for earlier adulthood. You sense that you can somehow apply your knowledge and experiences in a meaningful way. Yet you may not know exactly how to achieve this new vision or see all the many possibilities available to you as you navigate the physical, health, work, and financial shifts that inevitably accompany this phase.

Enter Next Avenue. We’re a group of public television people and journalists who, for the most part, are experiencing the very same things you are. Like you, we see both challenges and opportunities and we recognize that what we could all use right about now is an abundance of reliable information that can help us figure out what’s, well, next.

Beyond its home page, Next Avenue has major sections on  health & well-being, money & security, work & purpose, living & learning, and caregiving. For me it has become a “go-to” site.

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Greater Good

The second site is Greater Goodhosted by the Greater Good Science Center at University of California, Berkeley. The Center:

is unique in its commitment to both science and practice: not only do we sponsor groundbreaking scientific research into social and emotional well-being, we help people apply this research to their personal and professional lives. Since 2001, we have been at the fore of a new scientific movement to explore the roots of happy and compassionate individuals, strong social bonds, and altruistic behavior—the science of a meaningful life. And we have been without peer in our award-winning efforts to translate and disseminate this science to the public.

On this site you’ll find pages devoted to family & couples, education, work & career, mind & body, and Big Ideas. It’s a great example of how academic researchers can translate their findings and insights that inform all of us on how to live better lives.

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Brain Pickings

Finally, Brain Pickings is the devoted and intellectually eclectic work of Maria Popova, who describes the site this way:

Brain Pickings is my one-woman labor of love — a subjective lens on what matters in the world and why. Mostly, it’s a record of my own becoming as a person — intellectually, creatively, spiritually — and an inquiry into how to live and what it means to lead a good life.

…The core ethos behind Brain Pickings is that creativity is a combinatorial force: it’s our ability to tap into our mental pool of resources — knowledge, insight, information, inspiration, and all the fragments populating our minds — that we’ve accumulated over the years just by being present and alive and awake to the world, and to combine them in extraordinary new ways. In order for us to truly create and contribute to the world, we have to be able to connect countless dots, to cross-pollinate ideas from a wealth of disciplines, to combine and recombine these pieces and build new ideas.

The site is “full of pieces spanning art, science, psychology, design, philosophy, history, politics, anthropology, and more; pieces that enrich our mental pool of resources and empower combinatorial ideas that are stronger, smarter, richer, deeper and more impactful.”

Bullying and hazing in pro and college sports

On Monday I did a 40-minute interview with the Sports Conflict Institute‘s (SCI) Joshua Gordon on bullying and hazing behaviors in pro and college sports. Our discussion ranged from the Miami Dolphins situation involving Richie Incognito targeting fellow player Jonathan Martin for abuse, to college basketball coaches losing their jobs in the wake of allegations of player mistreatment.

The interview was part of the “SCI TV” series, which includes dozens of interviews that can be accessed on their YouTube channel.

Josh Gordon is a graduate of Suffolk University Law School. He founded the Oregon-based SCI to advance “organizational and individual goals” of pro and college sports entities “through education, research, and service.” It was a pleasure to reconnect with him and to learn more about the important and interesting work he is doing.

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Related posts

Bullying athletic coaches (2014)

Miami Dolphins and Richie Incognito: Sports Illustrated declares win for anti-bullying movement (2013)

Nine preliminary lessons from the Miami Dolphins workplace bullying story (2013)

Ethical failure at Rutgers: Abusive coach, bad management, questionable lawyering (2013)

 

The NFL and domestic abuse: An evolving case study in horrific leadership

Before our very eyes, the National Football League — notably Commissioner Roger Goodell and various team executives and owners — is putting on a show of horrific leadership in the midst of domestic violence allegations against certain NFL players. The current wave of media attention followed the public posting of video footage showing now former Baltimore Ravens star Ray Rice delivering a knockout punch to his then-fiancee (and now wife) and then dragging her body out of an elevator. Days later, Minnesota Vikings star Adrian Peterson was indicted on child abuse charges. More stories involving other NFL players are now popping up.

The Ray Rice story is the most factually developed, at least for now. If you want a sense of the culture of the NFL’s front office and the character of some of its leaders, start by reading this excellent investigative report by ESPN’s Don Van Natta, Jr., and Kevin Van Valkenburg, “Rice case: Purposeful misdirection by team, scant investigation by NFL“:

Just hours after running back Ray Rice knocked out his then-fiancée with a left hook at the Revel Casino Hotel in Atlantic City, New Jersey, the Baltimore Ravens’ director of security, Darren Sanders, reached an Atlantic City police officer by phone. While watching surveillance video — shot from inside the elevator where Rice’s punch knocked his fiancée unconscious — the officer, who told Sanders he just happened to be a Ravens fan, described in detail to Sanders what he was seeing.

Sanders quickly relayed the damning video’s play-by-play to team executives in Baltimore, unknowingly starting a seven-month odyssey that has mushroomed into the biggest crisis confronting a commissioner in the NFL’s 94-year history.

“Outside the Lines” interviewed more than 20 sources over the past 11 days — team officials, current and former league officials, NFL Players Association representatives and associates, advisers and friends of Rice — and found a pattern of misinformation and misdirection employed by the Ravens and the NFL since that February night.

I submit that this story carries relevance far beyond the world of professional sports. In particular, the actions of Commissioner Goodell and Baltimore Ravens executives mimic those of countless other organizational leaders when presented with allegations of domestic violence, sexual harassment or assault, school bullying, or workplace bullying lodged against people they wish to protect due to personal ties or business interests. Whether the claims are directed at a powerful senior executive, a “rainmaking” business partner, a team’s star quarterback, or a golf buddy, they simply choose not to do the right thing.

Roundup on workplace bullying and women

The links between workplace bullying and women are multifaceted, ranging from survey data showing that women are more frequently targeted than men, to the complex topic of female-to-female bullying. I’ve collected some blog posts that examine some of these important aspects:

New WBI workplace bullying survey: Men bully more than women, and women are most frequent bullying targets (2014)

The latest Workplace Bullying Institute public opinion survey on workplace bullying in the U.S., summarized here last week, yielded a number of useful, albeit unsurprising, findings concerning gender:

  • Men are 69% of the perpetrators and females are 31%;
  • When men bully, females are 57% of targets and males are 43%;
  • When women bully, females are 68% of targets and males are 32%;
  • Overall, women are 60% of bullying targets and men are 40%.

These figures largely affirm previous statistical trends on workplace bullying and gender breakdowns.

Female-to-female workplace bullying: Homespun theory on an imperfect storm (2011)

In this post I pulled together survey data and commentaries on female-to-female bullying in an attempt to fashion a connect-the-dots theory on this complex dynamic:

These factors coalesce into an imperfect storm, whereby women who have been treated poorly or even abusively at work by other women are more likely to perceive the behaviors in very negative and hurtful ways. It may help to explain, for example, why female-dominated professions such as nursing have cultures of incivility — “nurses eat their young” is a well-known quip — grounded in characterizations of “catty” aggression.

This also means that women have to be more self-aware of their behaviors than do men, on average. It is unfair that women who mistreat others may be judged more severely than men who act in the same way, but that is an enduring reality.

Kerri Stone on “Why Gender Considerations Should Inform the Emerging Law of Workplace Bullying”

The leading law review article on workplace bullying and gender is a 2009 piece by Prof. Kerri Stone (Florida International U.). I’ve mentioned this article and Kerri’s work in several posts, but rather than paraphrase those references, here’s part of the article abstract (go here for full abstract and download link to article):

This Article submits that the documented phenomenon of workplace bullying operates to stymie the retention and advancement of women in the workplace. . . . This Article adds a new dimension . . . by viewing workplace bullying through the lens of gender discrimination, albeit perhaps unwitting gender discrimination. It explores the disparate impact doctrine of liability and examines how its rationale, ideological underpinnings, framework, and viability as a vehicle might look against the backdrop of workplace bullying. . . . In addition to contemplating possible uses of Title VII, this Article examines proposed state statutes, and posits the possible creation of a federal agency to deal with the problem in a manner that may not implicate a private right of action. It is only through increased awareness and renewed discussion of all of the discriminatory ramifications of bullying, that this last bastion of legally protected workplace abuse, which typically occurs behind closed doors and whose effects are too often obscured, will be stopped.

Is gaslighting a gendered form of workplace bullying? (2013)

Gaslighting “is a form of psychological abuse in which false information is presented with the intent of making a victim doubt his or her own memory, perception and sanity” (Wikipedia). It is commonly associated with workplace bullying, and in this post I examine its potentially gendered dynamics:

But I’ll place a heavy bet that these lines are directed at a lot more women than men, including in the workplace. They are meant to plant seeds of self-doubt that add to the crazy-making dynamics of being bullied, at times with a big dose of discriminatory intent. The e-mail chain you were left off of…the meeting you weren’t included in…the lunch at the club you weren’t invited to…You’re so sensitive. You’re so emotional. You’re defensive. You’re overreacting.

Of course, this is just the comparatively minor stuff. If you’ve seen more harrowing, malicious forms of gaslighting related to work — sabotage, stalking, electronic harassment, and so forth — you know what I mean. This can be among the most vicious of bullying tactics.

Singled out? Workplace bullying, economic insecurity, and the unmarried woman (2010)

Membership in any demographic group will not shield one from the realities of today’s workplace and economy. After all, plenty of white males with families and homes in the ‘burbs have experienced difficult work environments and unemployment. But when you start pulling together information about who is targeted for bullying at work and who is suffering financial distress, single women start to emerge as an especially vulnerable group.

Workplace bullying, stress, and fibromyalgia (2011)

Fibromyalgia is a chronic, disabling medical condition marked by widespread pain and fatigue that afflicts women far more often than men. . . . The Workplace Bullying Institute recognizes that fibromyalgia can be a consequence of workplace bullying . . . . Research is making the link: For example, a 2008 study led by Canadian researcher Sandy Hershcovis . . . found that workplace bullying targets were more likely to develop fibromyalgia. A 2004 study led by Finnish researcher Mika Kivimaki . . . found that stress at work “seems to be a contributing factor in the development of fibromyalgia.”

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To better our workplaces, these opposites must attract

To readers following this blog for any length of time, it’s no secret that I frequently write about the so-called dark side of work: Workplace bullying, mobbing, and harassment get a lot of attention here, and it’s the primary cluster of topics that leads people here via search engines. We’re still learning about the impact and costs of these forms of interpersonal abuse, and I’m committed to discussing them. However, we also must apply our insights on these destructive behaviors to the broad objectives of creating better workplaces and treating workers with dignity.

Sometimes our perspectives on work are split between more abusive, exploitative employment practices and more positive, wellness-oriented behaviors. At times, for example, I’ve sensed some distance with folks who favor a positive psychology perspective on employee relations; they may see my emphasis on workplace bullying and related topics as being immersed in the negative, to a point of excess. However, when I write pieces coming from a more positive, solution-oriented perspective, I may feel resistance from those who are steeped in hurtful workplace behaviors, with an underlying message that I’m being overly sunny.

The bottom line is that we need to understand the light and dark sides of work in order to be effective change agents. If we don’t acknowledge that psychopaths, almost psychopaths, and narcissists constitute a narrow but sizable and destructive bandwidth of CEOs and managers, then we often will be blind to the darkness coming out of certain corner offices and boardrooms. If we overlook the possibilities of creating healthy, even (yes) happy job situations and of transcending debilitating fight-or-flight work environments, then we often will find ourselves stuck in a dark place for an extended period of time.

It’s about balance and integration, yes? For my part, I’ll do my best to examine destructive behaviors at work and their impact on workers and organizations, while also highlighting how organizational change, law reform, and individual and social change can lead us to better, more dignified workplaces and work experiences.

We’ve got a lot of work to do, and understanding the bigger picture, with all its possibilities and limitations, is a good starting point.

New California law directs larger employers to engage in workplace bullying training and education for supervisors

Earlier this week, California Gov. Jerry Brown signed legislation (Assembly Bill No. 2053) requiring employers of 50 or more workers to engage in training and education for supervisors concerning workplace bullying.

The legislation amends an existing California law requiring covered employers to engage in training and education for sexual harassment. These employers are now directed to include “prevention of abusive conduct” in their supervisor training and education programs. The definition of “abusive conduct” draws heavily from versions of the Healthy Workplace Bill, covering:

…conduct of an employer or employee in the workplace, with malice, that a reasonable person would find hostile, offensive, and unrelated to an employer’s legitimate business interests. Abusive conduct may include repeated infliction of verbal abuse, such as the use of derogatory remarks, insults, and epithets, verbal or physical conduct that a reasonable person would find threatening, intimidating, or humiliating, or the gratuitous sabotage or undermining of a person’s work performance. A single act shall not constitute abusive conduct, unless especially severe and egregious.

The California law does not, however, create a legal claim for workplace bullying. Nevertheless, it is an important step forward and constitutes further recognition of the need for our legal system to respond to workplace bullying. This law follows legislation enacted by Tennessee earlier this year directing a state commission to develop a model workplace anti-bullying policy for the state’s public employers.

I’ll have more to say about these developments in a later post.

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