Writing from the heartland

Wesemann Hall, home of the VU School of Law

Wesemann Hall, main home of the VU School of Law

Hello dear readers, I’m currently spending a fall semester research sabbatical working on an exciting book project on workplace bullying and mobbing. As I’ve mentioned earlier, Dr. Maureen Duffy, one of the leading authorities on mobbing behaviors, invited me to join her as co-editor on a two-volume book set that will feature a comprehensive, multidisciplinary collection of chapters by leading and emerging U.S. experts on bullying and mobbing at work, with a focus on American employment relations. Writing for and co-editing this book set are the main focal points of my fall work.

To spur my productivity, for a few weeks I’ve decamped from Boston to Valparaiso University in northwest Indiana, my undergraduate alma mater. I’m a Visiting Scholar in Residence at VU’s School of Law, and the good folks there have given me an office in the law library to work in and an invitation to give a talk about my work to the law faculty and other members of the law school community.

This kind of temporary relocation may strike non-academicians (i.e., many readers of this blog) as odd. Why spend time, money, and effort on going out of town simply to work in another library?, a sensible person might ask. Yeah, I know, it doesn’t make sense. But the writing process doesn’t make sense, either. It can be very helpful to remove yourself from your immediate surroundings, with fewer of the usual distractions. This is not to say that I have turned into a writing machine. But even during my first few days here, I’ve already been more productive than I would’ve been at home.

This also marks the 35th anniversary of my graduation from VU’s College of Arts and Sciences, with a (then) shiny new bachelor’s degree. Fall homecoming festivities were held over the weekend, and for me they included receiving an Alumni Achievement Award from the university’s alumni association, in recognition for some of the work discussed periodically on this blog. At a luncheon following the awards ceremony, I was joined by some of my closest friends from college. It made for a deeply memorable weekend.

And so now I’m back to work, hopefully further justifying that lovely award — and with fewer procrastinatory tendencies than those that marked my collegiate years!


10 responses

  1. David
    Congratulations on your Sabbatical and we look forward to the Book.
    I urge you to read and study the recent articles in the New York Times on the events regarding employees at Wells Fargo Bank.
    The “Institutional Bullying” of so many employees and the lack of recourse should be awhile chapter in your book. One employee as reported spent $18,000 trying to protect herself and lost her retalialtion case. There is little legal recourse as per these powerful stories as per NY Times.

    If I can help – can come to meet you – with the tremendous disadvantage bullying employees face please let me know.

  2. David, particularly since you are a member of the legal community, such a book should have at least one chapter on how the lawyers and the courts generally deal with individuals versus corporate entities in workplace discrimination & retaliation matters. I for one can supply you with substantial documentation, reflecting on both my personal experience and that of many other victims of employer abuse.
    In a nutshell: lawyers won’t represent you if you were/ or are a low wage earner (not enough in it for them) and if you are lucky enough to earn wages and benefits worth enough for lawyers to go after, the courts will usually favor the corporation, and there a judges not worth the black disguise they are wearing that will distort a strong and legitimate case enough to be able to find for the employer or cleverly trick the jury to side with the employer.
    And the higher up you attempt go to reclaim your dignity the more abuse you suffer, at least in Massachusetts, at the hands of government officers and court personnel who subscribe to the “pay to play” business model.
    This is important for any bullied, discriminated or retaliated against employee to know.

    Recommended reading by Thane Rosenbaum, the John Whelan Distinguished Lecturer in Law at Fordham Law School and Director of the Forum on Law, Culture, and Society: Payback: The Case for Revenge.

    Aliana Brodmann E. von Richthofen

    • I can’t agree more
      We now understand Bullying and the price an individual will pay.
      But what is the legal recourse in cold, hard terms.

  3. In your upcoming book, if you are looking for another arena that bullying shows up in the workplace, it shows up in the disability accommodation processes. If you are interested, I can write a chapter in your book about how bullying is used to push people past their limitations so that they do not receive an effective accommodation. This leads to health damages and job loss. Anyone employed that needs an effective accommodation is vulnerable to bullying in the interactive process.

  4. Hi folks, thanks so much for your comments in response to this post. A few additional words about the book project: I very much appreciate your suggestions and offers to contribute stories and even chapters. For now the content is pretty much set, the result of an interactive process with our publisher, involving what they had in mind and what we had in mind. The result, we dearly hope, will be an encyclopedic-type coverage of this topic, with roughly two dozen chapters covering a wide waterfront for both researchers and practitioners. It will not be a “target oriented” work, but rather a general resource for people who want to know the state of the art in research and practice.

    The legal part will take up only two chapters, one of which will be a summary of legal developments in the U.S. authored by me. Many frequent readers of this blog and my published journal articles already know much the content of what will be in that chapter.

    I have been working on a legal book that will cover much more. It will distill the best of my earlier work and add more commentary and information. But that will come later. In the meantime, between this blog and my scholarly pieces, you’ve got much of what that book will contain.

    Thanks so much for your interest.

    • David
      I just want to say again that your work has been enormously helpful to all those who have experienced this bizarre syndrome we now can identify and name – bullying at work both institutional and individual directed bullying.
      We now have extensive information to help those who have experienced this syndrome.
      But the huge missing piece is those (institutions and/or individuals) are not accountable for their behavior except in isolated cases and/or when a settlement is reached to buy silence and comes with a gag order.
      Until legal remedies are developed – and this is a very tall mountain to climb, victims will continue to wake up in the morning and know the bullies have gotten away with everything that is well described in all the books/articles written to date on the subject.
      We are “stuck” on reiterating all the great clinical insights into the bullying.
      The next step has to be identifying/creating new legal remedies and frames so attorney’s can win a bullying case in court.
      Most attorney’s will not touch these bullying cases due to the lack of clear identifiable causes of action and grounds to prevail under the current legal system. And in a court of law there is no way to frame the bullying issues in language that makes sense to the legal proceeding.
      This is not only about recovering the financial loss to bullying victims but more importanty a legal recognition to the prevailing reality namely, “the victim must have done something wrong”.

  5. David, Congrats on the well-deserved reward. Even by receiving it you are spreading the word about bullying and workplace health issues. Thank you.

    I TOTALLY understand the value in temporary relocation to work on a specific writing project. Enjoy the time at your alma mater! Laura Gilbert ________________________________

  6. Congratulations David! This is my 2nd month at my new job at Barnard as the first Ombuds Officer (first time employed in an academic institute). Hope to see you at HDHS in December. Best wishes, Judit


    • Judit, thank you! And congratulations on your new position! I’ve become very interested in the roles of ombuds in academic organizations, and I hope we can chat a few minutes in December about your initial impressions. Good luck with this!!! Take care, David

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