On page one of the local paper…


The Northwest Indiana Times reports that a “recent survey of Northwest Indiana public employees found complaints of bullying, sexual harassment and drinking in the public workplace.” Bill Dolan’s front page article in the paper’s Friday edition highlighted the results of  a survey of some “1,500 local government employees in Lake, Porter and LaPorte counties” of the Hoosier State.

I grew up with the Times as a kid living in Hammond, Indiana. As I wrote in my last post, I’m now spending a few weeks at Valparaiso University in northwest Indiana, my undergraduate alma mater, as a Visiting Scholar in Residence at VU’s School of Law. Imagine my surprise when I opened the local paper over breakfast at the roadside hotel I’m staying at to see a headline mentioning bullying at work.

As someone who has been in research, public education, and advocacy work concerning workplace bullying since the late 1990s, I am always looking for signs that bullying at work has become mainstreamed as an identifiable, nameable, employee relations concern. This is evidence of that occurring. Fifteen years ago, I doubt that a front page sub-headline of the local northwest Indiana paper would’ve included such a reference.

Indeed, during my trip here, I’ve talked to several college and high school classmates who have experienced bullying behaviors at work, sometimes seriously so. During these discussions, I no longer have to go into a lengthy “Bullying 101” intro before they start telling me their stories. Putting labels on human behavior can be tricky and sometimes contentious business, but it can help to validate experiences and create a framework for understanding them.

3 responses

  1. I experienced this very same toxic environment for over 4 years in my last job which I resigned. I had filed a complaint that my coworker was consuming alcohol (wine) in her office, along with another coworker. I depended upon this individual for work assignments and deadlines, which she would frequently delay. However, the general manager responded that he had no issues with the alcohol consumption. This violated the company’s personnel policy handbook, with termination upon the 1st offense, however no one was ever held accountable and the wine drinking went on for years. There was a sense of entitlement and disrespect for company policies by these individuals. I then filed yet another complaint with an oversight committee and their attorney regarding ALL of them with the alcohol consumption, along with other toxic and bullying conduct that interfered and sabotaged my work. No action was taken and no one was held accountable. It escalated with mobbing and more aggressive disrespect, demeaning and degrading insults, my work computer was tampered with, pornography downloads, and frequent “behind the door” hostile, verbal and angry meetings by the general manager. I was even screamed at by the woman who was drinking, yelling, “You told the attorneys!” It was one of the most unethical, unprofessional and toxic work environments where nepotism, micro-management and a jealous female “clique” ruled. Where there are weak and unethical people in positions of leadership with no respect for professionalism, employees, company policies and even themselves, these types of hostile and toxic offices negatively affect morale, productivity and reputation of the company.

  2. Over the last ten months, I have been in one of the most toxic environments I have yet experienced. I would come home exhausted from guarding my facial expressions and speech, not sharing my self with the group, and withdrawing slowing in to the work at hand to survive. I have learned to control myself in these situations but I could not control my peers’ behaviors. As a contractor, I had no control over the gossip, innuendo, or sailor speak (I was cornered and the f-bomb was screamed at me for five minutes because I have a “PhD.”). I knew two months in, it was not where I needed to be and there was no protection from my peers or those in charge. The aggressive behaviors turned my mind off and I know I will need recovery time. It impacted any time I had outside of work too. And I really could not express that until now.

    The contract was finished Thursday and I intend to write about the experience more fully later.

  3. Progress is certainly being made. I’m hopeful that one day public pressure will require that public employers conduct regular workplace surveys to assess levels of unacceptable workplace conduct as a measure of accountability. Private companies will likely follow suit when their stakeholders recognize that there are productivity gains to be made by ensuring that workers provided with safe and healthy working conditions.

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