3 Questions for Elizabeth Gingerich, business law professor and editor, Journal of Values-Based Leadership

Elizabeth Gingerich, Valparaiso University

Elizabeth Gingerich joined Valparaiso University’s College of Business Administration as a business law professor after a substantial legal career advising and representing corporate clients. In addition to her teaching responsibilities, she serves as the editor-in-chief of the College’s Journal of Values-Based Leadershipwhich promotes “ethical and moral leadership and behavior by serving as a forum for ideas and the sharing of ‘best practices.'”

I was introduced to Elizabeth in 2008, when the JVBL published my article, “Workplace Bullying and Ethical Leadership.” Since then, I’ve periodically visited the journal’s website to review current and past issues, available online without charge (latest issue here; back issues here). Elizabeth kindly agreed to be interviewed about her work and that of the JVBL:

1. Before entering academe, you had an extensive career as a business lawyer providing legal advice to corporations. How does that experience inform your teaching and work in shaping the journal’s content?

When I began teaching in 2001, I had already practiced law for nearly 20 years and thought I was done.  After a month, however, I became somewhat unsettled with my isolated status and knew I had to step back in – at least part-time.  The academic world helps in the courtroom and the continued practice of law keeps one sharp in the classroom. The tricky part is striking a healthy balance.

I personally would not want to be taught by someone who did not have real world experience.  Thus, as laws change and cases are decided that especially affect my business clients, I take that new knowledge, analyze it, and usually add it to my lectures.

The combination of learning, applying, analyzing, and finally teaching has given me a wider perspective of global business and its ethical and legal implications.  The combination of continuous learning and teaching what I am practicing also places me in a favorable position to conduct interviews of notable business leaders for the JVBL.

2. Valparaiso University embraces its Lutheran heritage. How do questions of faith inform or engage the mission of the journal?

The overall mission of the journal is to disseminate articles and case studies which demonstrate either the practice of and/or the need to adopt business strategies that go beyond the sole pursuit of the bottom line.  Principled decision-making ostensibly requires consideration of stakeholders’ needs, the implementation of socially responsible practices, and the adoption of sound environmental stewardship policies.

Many of the JVBL’s interviewees have included the influence of faith and religious training in formulating and implementing their respective business practices.  I have termed this “benevolent capitalism.”

3. Readers of this blog tend to be very interested in workplace issues. What does the term “values-based leadership” mean for employment relations?

Lack of an alienating hierarchy. Appreciation of all employees’ efforts.  Seeking advice as to the direction of the company from all workers.  Rewarding those who participate accordingly.

With respect to the interviews I have conducted for the JVBL, unionization and other forms of collective bargaining are simply not needed where this meaningful and continuous feedback and interaction firmly exist. Some of the more prominent examples include Interface Global (Atlanta), Whole Foods (Austin), Lands’ End (before it was sold to Sears), and Playpumps International (Johannesburg, S.A.).

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Starting in 2012, “3 Questions” is a regular feature presenting short interviews with notable individuals whose work and activities overlap with major themes of this blog. Go here to access all interviews in the series.

3 Questions for Dan King, Founder, Career Planning and Management, Inc.

Dan King

Career counseling isn’t just for young folks attending colleges and universities. In fact, adults facing a job hunt or contemplating a career shift may be in even greater need of individualized coaching and advice.

Dan King, a Boston-based career consultant (and member of the New Workplace Institute advisory committee), provides such assistance. His firm, Career Planning and Management, Inc., has been serving individuals and organizations since 1987.

Dan kindly agreed to be interviewed for our “3 Questions” feature, and here’s what he had to share with us:

1.       Dan, how did you get into the field of career counseling?

David, I’d love to tell you that I was one of those people who always knew what he wanted to be when he grew up.  But I wasn’t.  I graduated college with a liberal arts degree and a few vague notions about career success.  Like most 21 year-old newly-minted grads, I was eager to earn some real money, acquire possessions, and of course, still have ample time for an active social life.

By age 32, after several unfulfilling jobs, I was disheartened and discouraged by the path my career had taken.  I had allowed my career to just “happen by accident” and knew I needed to be more strategic about my future.  I started reading everything I could about careers and vocation, which ultimately led to the decision to pursue a graduate degree in Counseling Psychology, concentrating in Career Development.  I wanted to help others avoid the same pitfalls of poor career planning that I had made – and that’s what I’ve been doing for over 25 years now.

2.       What are the backgrounds of your typical clients, and what services can you offer them?

My clients are primarily “mid-career professionals,” with some experience behind them and full careers ahead of them.  They range in age from mid-30’s to late-50’s and come from many backgrounds, including business, education, healthcare, law, non-profits and more.

Frequently they’re looking to improve their worklives, to pursue meaningful work that more closely aligns with their interests, skills and values.  Other times, they need help organizing an effective job search plan, including the more tactical details of resume development, interview coaching, networking skills and salary negotiation.  And sometimes they just need to speak with an objective outsider who can serve as a sounding board and trusted advisor.  Many of my client engagements have evolved into on-going relationships that have lasted throughout the development cycle of their careers.

3.       Many readers discover this blog because they’ve dealt with bullying and harassment on the job.  They may be unemployed, and their self-confidence has taken a hit.  What can an independent career counselor do for them?

I’m glad you asked this question.  A good career counselor will wear many hats – as coach, mentor, devil’s advocate, teacher, cheerleader, crying towel, therapist and sometimes drill sergeant.

When I’m seeing a client, I understand that they may not be at their full-functioning best.  They’re burdened by the stress of transition – and symptoms can show up as fear, anger, shame, or a sense of worthlessness.  It’s not uncommon for a client to exhibit behavior typical of an abusive relationship with an authority figure.  And anyone who has experienced unexpected job loss knows firsthand the rollercoaster of emotions that follow.

By providing a safe non-judgmental climate built on trust and understanding, an effective career counselor can help their clients give voice to their feelings, rebuild their self-esteem, and project the confidence necessary to achieve a meaningful and satisfying worklife.

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Starting in 2012, “3 Questions” is a regular feature presenting short interviews with notable individuals whose work and activities overlap with major themes of this blog. Go here to access all interviews in the series.

3 Questions for Andrea Weckerle, founder of CiviliNation

Andrea Weckerle

Andrea Weckerle is the founding president of CiviliNation, a non-profit education and advocacy organization dedicated to advancing civility in our online discourse. She brings her varied skill set as an attorney, dispute resolution specialist, and communications consultant to bear on the challenges we face in creating online communities that are robust, democratic, and free of harassment and character defamation.

I posed several questions to Andrea about her work and CiviliNation, and here’s what she had to say:

1. Andrea, please tell us why you founded CiviliNation.

Years ago when I became active online and started blogging, which was before the time of social networking sites, I felt like I’d won the lottery. I was able to meet people from all over the world, from different fields and industries, and come together to talk and share ideas, debate the important issues of the day, and collaborate in a way that previously had only been possible in face-to-face meetings.

But right away I also noticed that there were always some individuals who undermined what was going on, whose sole purpose seemed to be to wreak havoc and attack others online, seemingly for fun. I came across the work of Dr. John Suler of Ryder University where he discussed the Online Disinhibition Effect, which basically involves people saying and doing things online they wouldn’t ordinarily say or do in everyday interactions.

Over the next several years, I was hearing about, and meeting increasingly, more people who were the targets of online attacks – both well-known and everyday folks – and I started wondering why no one was working to put a stop to this. Fortunately there are excellent groups dealing with cyberbullying of children and teenagers, but I couldn’t find anyone specifically focused on the needs of the adult population. So one day, after once again talking about how “someone needs to address the problem of adult hostility,” CiviliNation was born.

2. How does CiviliNation’s overall agenda intersect with concerns about civility and dignity in the workplace?

More than at any other time in history it is now possible to quickly and easily learn things about one’s colleagues, clients and competitors that in the past would have taken a considerable amount of time and effort to discover; increasingly more hiring decisions are taking into consideration someone’s online behavior and online reputation (the latter being something that ill-meaning people can seriously and easily damage); and with the increased use of technology in the workplace, it’s become much easier to attack, harass and bully someone at work.

CiviliNation believes that people have a fundamental right to be free of unwarranted attacks and harassment in the workplace, and we strongly oppose the extent to which technology is being misused to degrade, harass and attack others.

3. What role does law and public policy reform play in advancing CiviliNation’s broader objectives?

Applying pre-Internet rules of engagement to a world comprised of communication that’s instantaneous, global, and non-retractable is problematic. Furthermore, the application of laws is challenging in and of itself – while what may be permissible in one state or country may be impermissible in another, the Internet and what we do online aren’t jurisdictionally bound. Nevertheless, we shouldn’t let these issues dissuade us from expecting the legal system to provide appropriate recourse for victims and to hold transgressors fully accountable for their actions.

That having been said, we cannot rely on the legal system to create norms of behavior. We need individuals and the communities they belong to, both online and off, to step forward and model a positive online environment that supports and fosters freedom of expression via passionate debate and spirited dissent, while at the same time safeguarding the right of others to engage online without fear of physical, reputational or psychological attacks.

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Starting in 2012, “3 Questions for…” is a regular feature presenting short interviews with notable individuals whose work and activities overlap with major themes of this blog.

3 Questions for Kevin Kennemer, founder of The People Group

Kevin Kennemer

Kevin Kennemer is founder of The People Group, an Oklahoma-based organizational consulting firm “founded on the premise that positive people practices are primarily the missing component of average performing companies.” Kevin also is a long-time friend of this blog and an emerging leader in calling for workplaces that are both humane and productive.

Over the years I’ve mentioned and linked many of Kevin’s blog posts and commentaries. I’m delighted that he kindly agreed to take a few questions about his work:

1.  Kevin, please tell us about why you created The People Group and describe its mission.

In December 2007, I left one of the largest privately-owned energy companies in the U.S. to start The People Group.  As the former chief human resource officer of this large energy concern, my department, along with many other fellow leaders and employees, helped create a best in class work environment. Unfortunately, we also had a few executive bossholes who were as toxic as a Cyanide cocktail.

After fighting for months to enlighten the CEO of the growing presence of toxic leadership, I was asked to move on. Seven months after my departure, the renowned mid-stream energy company filed for bankruptcy.

The positive and negative experience of this trying time allowed me to see how to create and destroy a great company.  Just like positive people practices create great companies, toxic leaders will eventually destroy an organization.

The People Group focuses on the best practices in culture formation. Great workplaces have a positive impact on employees, their families, business owners, and society.

2.  What are your plans for The People Group in 2012?

Continue working to create National awareness of the positive business benefits of creating positive company cultures, by 1) speaking to groups about the business necessity of creating great workplaces, 2) working diligently to acquire new clients to help make our message a reality on the ground at various workplaces, and 3) continue writing The Chief People Officer Blog and serving as an official blogger for SHRM’s Next Blog.

3.  How can we get businesses to take workplace bullying more seriously?

Although I would like to imagine that all human beings, including CEO’s, would want to build a team of employees without bullies, I realize this not the reality. Businesses are in business to make money. However, bullies cost companies a great deal of money by lowering productivity, increasing turnover, reducing the positive energy inside their department and simply sucking the life out of those around them.

The best way to reduce or eliminate bullying in the workplace is to show CEO’s the financial advantages of eliminating bullies and their toxic behavior. Enlightened self-interest is the best way to move this mountain.

If the CEO is a bully herself, there is not much hope for that company and I would recommend employees find a different place to earn a living.

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Starting in 2012, “3 Questions for…” is a regular feature presenting short interviews with notable individuals whose work and activities overlap with major themes of this blog.

3 Questions for Margaret Heffernan, CEO and author of Willful Blindness

Margaret Heffernan

In Willful Blindness: Why We Ignore the Obvious at Our Peril (2011), entrepreneur, CEO, and author Margaret Heffernan examines how individuals and organizations become blind to obvious risks, sufferings, and failures. A Financial Times 2011 Business Book of the Year finalistWillful Blindness ultimately reminds us that ignoring what’s right in front of us sometimes comes at a terrible cost.

I recently asked Margaret about the public reception to her book, its lessons for employers, and her plans for 2012:

1. What is your overall reaction to reviewer and reader responses to Willful Blindness?

The response has been fascinating. Many readers feel liberated by its message, insofar as the book explains many of their experiences which, before, they found baffling. It seems to make a lot of sense of otherwise nonsensical behaviors. I’ve met a lot of whistleblowers through the book and their endorsement has been heartening.

What I think has been more challenging is that, in the many public talks I’ve given, most people seem to imagine that they, uniquely, aren’t blind. They are, if you like, blind to their own biases and to institutional obstructions that ensure that we all suffer from willful blindness some of the time. To read the book and imagine you are the exception is, I think, wrong – which is why I included a section on my own blindness. I don’t think anyone is exempt, alas.

2. What are the most valuable lessons of Willful Blindness for employers concerning their workers?

There is always far more knowledge inside an organization than employers know how to capture. That is the central lesson. If leaders understood the causes of their own blindness better, and recognized that this constitutes a significant business risk, then they have the capacity to get a great deal more information, insight and understanding from their workforce. It’s an interesting fact that investment in people delivers a far higher return than investment in technology – and yet technology is somehow more appealing.

The workforce represents a vastly under-utilized asset in most companies. When there are problems in a business, it is almost never the case that they are unknown, unknowable or invisible. Someone somewhere knows about it. The leadership challenge is to create an environment in which this information can and will find its way to the top.

3. What are your main projects and priorities for 2012?

My main priority is to find a way to become more productive since I now have so much work to do it’s hard not to panic!

I’m working on a new book. I’m finishing a new play commissioned by the BBC. I’m blogging for CBSMoneywatch, for Inc.com and for various other outlets around the world. I’m teaching and speaking at conferences around the world. It’s a lot!

And I probably need to get better at saying ‘no’. But I feel quite strongly that I’m lucky to have the opportunities I have and it would be stupid not to appreciate them. I also find that much of my best material comes from people who email me because of my writing and that creates a virtuous circle where I have more to say.

I’m very struck that so many writers make it very hard to contact them. I understand why but this seems to me to create the conditions in which one is writing, essentially, in a bubble. I try very hard not to do that. I’m very committed to the idea that, when I talk to people (or write for them), I am learning too.

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Go here to access Margaret Heffernan’s website. And go here to access my short review of Willful Blindness.

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Starting in 2012, “3 Questions for…” is a regular feature presenting short interviews with notable individuals whose work and activities overlap with major themes of this blog.

3 Questions for Dr. Gary Namie, Workplace Bullying Institute

Gary Namie, Ph.D.

This year, I’m adding a new feature to the blog, “3 Questions for…,” a regular series of brief interviews with notable individuals whose work and activities overlap with major themes of this blog.

For the first interview, I asked Dr. Gary Namie, co-founder with Dr. Ruth Namie of the Workplace Bullying Institute, for a quick rundown of WBI’s activities and what’s needed to enact the Healthy Workplace Bill, workplace anti-bullying legislation I drafted that WBI supports through its legislative campaign.

What were the most noteworthy developments for WBI during 2011?

• “Staff additions: Sean Lunsford, in-house consultant, and Daniel Christensen, the comforting voice callers to WBI first hear “
• “Publication by Wiley of the Namies’ third book, this one for employers — The Bully-Free Workplace: Stop Jerks, Weasels & Snakes from Killing Your Organization”
• “First Workplace Bullying University delivered solely to Union officers, co-taught by Greg Sorozan, NAGE national officer”
• “Matt Spencer, Ed.D., assisted with our Workplace Bullying in Schools client projects throughout the country”
• “Produced training DVDs for employers (1 for managers, 1 for staff)”
• “Produced a DVD for bullied individuals chock full of advice from the team of WBI experts”
• “Redesigned & modernized our family of 7 principal websites, thanks to technical prowess of staff”
What’s in the works for WBI in 2012?
• “Devise ways to get more help to bullied targets that reflect the unique WBI perspective”
• “Instructional webinars for individuals”
• “An online version of WB University training for professionals for those who cannot attend the live classes”
• “An expanded social media presence”
What are the main challenges to getting the Healthy Workplace Bill enacted into law?
• “Attacks by biz writers & lobbyists that misrepresent the content of the actual bill”
• “Convincing good employers that they have nothing to fear from the bill”
• “Identifying endorsing groups”
• “Growing the network of dedicated volunteer State Coordinators to blanket all states”
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Expanded comments
Gary supplemented the summary above with a longer version posted to the WBI website, here.
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