Redbook magazine examines bullying of women at work


Writer Jessica Press was caught by surprise. When she posted to social media that she was looking for stories from women about their experiences of being bullied at work, she expected a sprinkling of replies. Instead, as she recounts in the lede to her feature article appearing in Redbook magazine’s October issue, she got a deluge:

My inbox was flooded — overflowing with incoming mail. I’d put out the call to a handful of experts and Facebook groups for women’s stories of workplace bullying. I thought perhaps I’d hear from a dozen women.

Instead, within a week, nearly a hundred stories from around the country and around the world poured in, with a steady stream continuing in the days and weeks that followed. They worked in hospitals, academia, sales, food service — anywhere and everywhere. There were women still living in fear of retaliation. There were those who shared their journeys of deteriorating marriages, depression, anxiety, and PTSD-like symptoms. There were a surprising number who had involved lawyers and were limited in what they could even reveal due to nondisclosure agreements.

It’s a substantial feature article, and I suggest giving it a full read. Among those interviewed was Deb Falzoi, one of the key advocates for the anti-bullying Healthy Workplace Bill here in Massachusetts:

“Every day I would come to work feeling like, What is she going to do today? remembers Deb Falzoi. “Now that I know the ways bullies work, I realize she was very textbook. There were false accusations, removal of my responsibilities. At the time I didn’t know what to call what was happening to me. When I finally found the term ‘workplace bullying’ and saw that there was research on the issue, I felt a sense of relief. I hear that same thing from other targets.”

Press also gives a shout-out to our national campaign to enact the Healthy Workplace Bill:

[Drs. Gary] Namie and his wife, Ruth, the cofounder of [the Workplace Bullying Institute], along with David Yamada, professor of law and director of the New Workplace Institute at Suffolk University Law School in Boston, are leading a movement to pass the Healthy Workplace Bill, which Yamada wrote. The bill would give both workers and employers clear-cut rights and clearly defined boundaries, which are of course the basis of any healthy relationship, professional or otherwise. “It provides an incentive for employers to adopt reasonable steps to prevent and correct bullying, which translates to having a policy and faithfully enforcing it,” explains Namie.

What’s the significance of Redbook doing a feature piece on the bullying of women at work?

I think it’s another important sign of the mainstreaming of workplace bullying and mobbing behaviors as topics worthy of our close attention. After all, Redbook is a long-time, monthly lifestyles magazine marketed primarily to women, with a circulation of some 2.2 million. That’s a sizable readership.

This is akin to the Boston Globe‘s front page feature on workplace bullying that appeared at the turn of the year.

These articles are an important form of public education about work abuse. And especially for those who are targeted by these behaviors, they serve an informative and validating purpose that helps them understand what they’re experiencing. I hope we see a lot more coverage like this.

10 responses

  1. It really is good to see this issue go mainstream. I will say, though, that the author “is standing on the shoulders of giants” like yourself and the Namies who have been writing about it for a long time.

  2. It’s interesting that the men are positioned as the leaders of the movement, while the woman who appears to be leading efforts that have attracted attention nationally on social media is reduced to a “key advocate.” Aren’t you all leaders of the movement? Ironic. We need to do better.

    • Hi Alex, thank you for your comment. My reference to Deb Falzoi was intended to highlight her key role in advocating for the HWB in Massachusetts, not as a slight, because the article itself didn’t provide that context. Although I was not in contact with Jessica Press (author of the Redbook piece) in her writing of the piece, it’s clear that her reference to the work that Gary Namie, Ruth Namie, and I have been doing on the Healthy Workplace Bill was meant to quickly identify the founders of the American workplace anti-bullying movement (the Namies) and the author of the legislation (me).

      • She’s helped people nationally and internationally. You’ve diminished her role regardless of what the article said. That IS a slight. It’s interesting that the diminishing of roles falls along gender lines — something lots of targets experience.

  3. I am a university educated registered nurse forced into retirement September 11,2013 due to “workplace bullying trauma.” In the spring of 2015 I struggled several months to put down on paper in detail the last decade of my nursing career in third person my personal experience of the monster in my workplace environment. I title my personal story “The Monster In Sandy’s Workplace Environment.” I was fortunate to have had a therapist who had close to 20 years of experience counseling targets of workplace bullying Dr. Pat Ferris with Janus and Associates here in Calgary Alberta. She shared with me the new term ” workplace bullying trauma” the neurobiology of trauma to the brain. It was only then I realized why I physically and mentally was unable to cope in my workplace environment. I was determined to pursue take action to address “psychological injuries in workplace environments. For three years I lobbied with a great number of politicians at all level of governments sharing my personal story “The Monster In Sandy’s Workplace Environment” as a tool to paint a picture of ” psychological injuries in a very toxic workplace environment over a ten year period forcing me into retirement September 2013. I sustained an additional four years of harassment & abuse following retirement as AHS falsely accused me of “unprofessional conduct to CARNA my licensing body. October 2016 I wrote Alberta’s Labour Minister Christina Grey sharing my personal story, politicians I shared my story with, the two politicians who wrote letters to her on my behalf to advocate for legislation to address “psychological injuries”in workplace environments. I also informed her of the ongoing of the CARNA investigation.I received a response letter from Christina Grey two weeks later thanking me for sharing my story and she takes my concerns seriously.
    After three years of research I published an article in the Alberta RN magazine February 2018 ” Examining the effects of Workplace Bullying, Harassment and Psychological Injuries in Alberta’s Health Care Sysrem: A CALL FOR LEGISLATION ” for 37,000 Albetta nurses to read. July 2017 Christine Grey was emailed the initial draft of my article. November 27, 2017 Christina Grey initiated Alberta Government Bill 30: An Act to Protect the Health and Well-being of Working Albertans. December 15, 2017 the bill reach Royal Assent. June 1 2018 the Alberta Occupational Health and Safety Act was replaced to address ” psychological injuries ” in workplace environments!!! February 2018 I wrote Christina Grey three fold purpose: to thank her for Bill 30 answering my request for legislation to address “psychological injuries ” in workplace environments, outcome of my CARNA investigation having had to self represent falsifying all allegations against myself as FALSE and having my CARNA case dismissed and lastly to inform her of my published article.
    I also requested her assistance on having my 2014 Investigation of AHS Harassment & Abuse appealed as U was denied due process. No response from Christina Grey.
    From the time of onset of the harassment & abuse up until retired I reported allegations of harassment and abuse to my employer Alberta Health Services and my union United Nurses of Alberta. My allegations were never acknowledged. January 2014 I filed yet another complaint with AHS allegations of harassment and abuse in my workplace. March 2014 I met with Alberta Health Services management, Human Resources and United Nurses of Alberta. I provided detailed documentation of evidence to substsiate my allegation, request for an independant investigation and emailed HR a list of employees to be interviewed. Three months later an email was sent stating” No evidence of harassment or abuse. All parties have learned from this.” I filed a FOIP Freedom Of Information Privacy to seek out report of the investigation. Results of the FOIP showed no evidence of an investigation was ever done, no witnesses were interviewed. My detailed document was not included.I forwarded the results to the United Nurses of Alberta. Nothing was done. Two weeks after retirement management filed allegations of ” unprofessional conduct” with my nursing license body CARNA College of Association ofRegistered Nurses of Alberta. I came to the realizatiolast spring my union was denying me access to the CARNA investigation reports to refute my allegations Instead my alleged union lawyer who I found out was not registered with the law society was bullying me into signing a consent release agreement admitting I was unprofessional complete courses on line & pass OR proceed with a contested Tribunal Hearing which I would lose and pay a $10,000 fine. March 2018 I finally received CARNA investigative reports. April I released representation of my union for misrepresentation denying me access to the investigative reports to refute my allegations. I was shocked to find out that the investigative reports were all redacted. It took me three days to e extrapolate the files correlated with each allegation. Clearly my union did not review the investigative reports.June 2018 I self represented my case with the Complaints Director for CARNA refuting all allegations of ” unprofessional conduct” as FALSE. Two weeks later I received a letter from CARNA my case was DISMISSED!! May 07, 2018 I filed a complaint with Workplace Health and Safety allegations of workplace harassment &abuse given a “new process” was in place as if June 1,2018 requesting an appeal of my 2014 Investigation. I submitted my personal story, correspondence with politicians including Chritina Grey and my published article. I also asked for compensation as my charter of rights had been violated. September 24,2018 I was assigned an Occupational Health and Safety Officer as per a voice message on my phone. Later I received an email from the OH&S officer informing me the following: “Between 2004 – 2013, you documented and reported your allegations of bullying and harassment to your employer and to your union which were the correct actions to take. At that time you could have also contacted the Alberta Human Rights Commission to have yours concerns further investigated. The Alberta Human Rights Act however requires the complaint” be made within one year after the alleged contravention of the Act occurs. I commend you for raising awareness on the damaging effects workplace bullying and harassment can have on a person. The new legislative requirements which came into effect June 1,2018 should have a positive impact on preventing bullying and harassment from happening in the workplace. Unfortunately Sandra OHS cannot retroactively applythis new legislation to your complaint. As you are mo longer an employee of AHS and no longer a member of UNA, I cannot proceed any further with your complaint. I will be closing your file.” I did question the involvement of Alberta Human Rights with the UNA Labour Relations Officer Lucy Anderson who talked me out of contacting them as it would make my situation worse with the CARNA investigation. I firmly believe that AHS in collaboration UNA have an underground ” workplace performance management process” in place to selectively eliminate employees of higher wages senior staff to reduce costs for their organization. It’s amazing that I was able to document my “workplace bullying trauma ” whike still until the influence of severe complex PTSD. Amazing with my relentless lobbying with politicians sharing my personal story I was successful in playing integral part in getting Alberta Givernment Bill 30: An Act to Protect the Health and Well-being of Working Albertans I do have some sense of justice no one else I Albera will ever go through what I did ever again. I have also received numerous positive responses from nurses now recovering from ” workplace bullying trauma” who have read my published article. Describing the impact of the trauma on the brain gave them insight with the harmful physical and psychological effects.

    • Sandy, I’m very sorry to read about your heartbreaking experience. I also want to salute your courage in moving toward sharing your story, including how you’ve done so in this comment. Thank you.

  4. One prevention method may be a questionnaire mandatory for all managers that would detect psychopaths, sociopaths, and narcissists and remove them at the onset. The systemic problem of women being paid less than men for equal work might be corrected by making it illegal to do so same with nepotism. These psychological workplace pollutants serve no one female or male managers or employees. Why aren’t governments doing more?

  5. Sandy, I wish I had a fraction of your courage to fight back. David, thank you and other HWP advocates for your perseverance in speaking out against workplace abuse. The employers hold all the cards and I feel it will take a miracle to make inroads on this. Much of the bullying I have observed and experienced in various workplaces have been from seasoned mean girls who are experts in the craft of selecting and pushing out targets. They spread rumors, form mobs to help ostracize and monitor the targets, and kiss up to the powers that be so the lies they tell are believed. They are rarely detected as they’ve got the confidence of the mob and management behind them and the targets are powerless and unpopular. Finally the targets leave but that’s not enough for some of these sickos. They go on to blacklist targets, all on the sly of course so it’s hard to prove. The target is left with job rejection after job rejection and a whole lot of emotional baggage. When will there be justice?

  6. “Writer Jessica Press was caught by surprise” & “… she expected a sprinkling of replies …”
    The anti-bullying movement needs all the support it can get from news media but as a journalism professor and a journalist, I wish this johnny-come-lately story had more of a bite and offered more insight or a more refreshing report to getting out the word about this pox on working people.

Leave a Reply

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in: Logo

You are commenting using your account. Log Out /  Change )

Google photo

You are commenting using your Google account. Log Out /  Change )

Twitter picture

You are commenting using your Twitter account. Log Out /  Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out /  Change )

Connecting to %s

This site uses Akismet to reduce spam. Learn how your comment data is processed.

%d bloggers like this: