From the archives: Some overlooked nuggets

(image courtesy of 1001freedownloads.com)

(image courtesy of 1001freedownloads.com)

Minding the Workplace now covers some eight years of blogging, including nearly 1,500 articles posted. Many of these pieces have staying power thanks to Internet search engines; articles from years ago continue to attract page views as a result. But some pieces don’t get many search “hits,” even if they’re still relevant. I’ve gathered ten of these articles from the middle years of this blog (2011-2014). None rank among the 250 most-read posts, but I believe they’re worth reading. I hope you’ll agree!

Selective praise as a form of workplace marginalization (2014) — “Have you ever worked in an organization where some people receive lavish praise from higher ups for the most modest of achievements, while others do remarkable things but receive, at best, an obligatory nod from the folks in charge?”

Understanding the Holocaust (and why I’m writing about it in a blog about workplaces) (2014) — “Allusions to the Holocaust, Nazis, Hitler, and the like must be offered carefully. This includes discussions involving employee relations. Even terrible workplaces are not concentration camps. But I respectfully suggest that these comparisons are important and useful when severe workplace bullying and abuse are under examination.”

Workplace gossip: From intelligence gathering to targeted bullying (2014) — “Spreading malicious gossip is among the most frequent bullying tactics used, especially by those who demonstrate psychopathic qualities. Calculatedly and without conscience, they plant the seeds in casual conversations and e-mails: Oh, you know what I heard? Guess what so-and-so told me. You can’t share this with anyone, but….”

Words rarely heard: “Boss, I think you need to get some help” (2013) — “The hierarchical nature of our workplaces often means that managers, supervisors, and executives who engage in bullying and other aggressive behaviors will not be referred to counseling or mental health services, and their suffering co-workers will continue to pay the price. Let’s take a look at why this is so.”

On creating organizational culture: What if your boss simply doesn’t care? (2013) — “We talk about good leaders who strive to create healthy organizational cultures, the places where people want to work. We talk about bad leaders who crack the whip, bully, and treat others as expendable parts. But what about bosses who don’t think much at all about the quality of work life within their organizations?”

Professional schools as incubators for workplace bullying (2012) — “It has long been my belief that the seeds of workplace bullying are planted in professional schools that prepare people to enter occupations such as law and medicine.”

Are some workplaces “bullying clusters”? (2012) — “Are bullying and related behaviors concentrated within a smaller number of toxic workplaces? . . . The concept of a cancer cluster has led me think about whether we can designate specific workplaces as “bullying clusters.” If we can, is there value in doing so?”

Can workplace incivility ever be healthy? (2011) — “Those of us who study workplaces generally assume that incivility is a bad thing. After all, an interaction involving incivility can ruin a work day, especially if it comes from your boss. At times, incivility can elevate into active disrespect and even bullying. . . . However, there are times when incivility may be an understandable consequence of a disagreement or difference of opinion. Such exchanges — often marked by the use of otherwise rude, harsh, or offensive words — can clear the air, hopefully paving the way toward a healthy resolution.”

How lousy organizations treat institutional history (2011) — “How do lousy organizations treat their own institutional history? In other words, how do they treat their past, recent or otherwise?”

Loyalty, “betrayal,” and workplace bullying: Does insider status matter? (2011) — “Suppose an employee openly disagrees with a position taken by her boss. Does her status as an insider or outsider impact the likelihood of being bullied by the boss? In other words, is a boss more likely to bully a “disloyal” subordinate who is part of his inner circle or favored group versus one who is not?”

A poem for our times

Hymn for Harmony

Gently bring each newborn stranger
To a better world than this;
Let the babe be free from danger,
Surroundings free from prejudice.
Denounce the clouds of war, suspicion,
Shades of envy’s animus;
Free from frauds and superstition
Our minds held free of Erebus.
Turn our terroristic talent
Apart from hate’s tendentious view;
Invigorate the good and gallant
In every human heart and hue.
Religion’s gods do all require
In every breast humility;
Contributors to wisdom’s choir
As part of world-wide harmony.

-C.A. Marshall Jr.

***

Note: Long-time readers know that this blog is pretty short on poetry and other creative works. However, Chet Marshall, a Major Gifts Officer at Valparaiso University, my undergraduate alma mater, recently shared with me this poem by his late father. Chet’s friendly and gracious support has helped me to reconnect with VU in a very welcomed way. I thought that his father’s poem is a wonderful response to so many of the headlines that are dominating our national and international news. 

The Orlando nightclub massacre and our American realities

Cropped screenshot from the Orlando Sentinel website

Screenshot from the Orlando Sentinel website

Our latest American tragedy is a mass shooting with fifty fatalities and over fifty casualties, the result of a one-man rampage at the Pulse nightclub in Orlando, Florida. The unfolding facts suggest that the attacker, a native-born American citizen, was motivated by both an affinity for ISIS and a hatred of gays.

Already many pundits, politicians, and spin doctors are trying to attribute this to a single cause, but I hope we are too smart to fall for their lines. Yes, this is about a significant, ongoing terrorist threat posed by ISIS. Yes, this is about the fact that our LGBT brothers and sisters remain specially vulnerable to acts of hatred and violence. And yes, these shootings were perpetrated by someone who had previously drawn the attention of the FBI, yet was able to walk into a store and buy assault weapons. It all matters, and it all should be a part of America’s national discussion.

Although large-scale shootings may be a distinctly American form of violence, terrorism is not. We share with many of our fellow citizens of the world the experience of terrorist attacks. This is likely to remain our global reality for the foreseeable future.

The Orlando massacre occurs in the midst of an ugly, petty, vulgar presidential campaign. Our economy is shaky, a lot of people are struggling to make ends meet, and climate change poses a terrible threat to our planet and its people. At times, it feels like we’re coming apart at the seams. Previous generations have faced times equally or more dire, however, so it’s up to us to step up and help turn things around. It won’t be easy, but we have no other acceptable choice.

Grading exams and papers: A brief stay in the No-Fun Zone

photo-407

There are lots and lots of things that I appreciate about an academic career, but grading exams and papers is not among them! This is the slow slog of the job for me, especially with finals and term papers calling out to be marked. During post-finals grading period, virtually anything except what I’m supposed to be doing becomes fascinating by comparison: Looking out the window, listening to birds chirping, trying to recall the third-string quarterback on the 1985 Chicago Bears (Mike Tomczak), you name it.

And so it is this week, when procrastination habits usually conquered roar back with a vengeance.

I need to get back to my grading (or at least thinking about grading), but in the meantime I’m happy to share a few recent items with you:

WGBH segment on the Healthy Workplace Bill

Craig LeMoult, a reporter for WGBH news radio (an NPR station in Boston), did a story “Is It Time To Outlaw Workplace Bullying in Massachusetts?,” which included our advocacy efforts to enact the anti-bullying Healthy Workplace Bill. I was among those interviewed for the segment, and here’s a snippet:

“Most severely bullied employees do not have a direct line of legal recourse for that type of abuse,” said David Yamada, a professor at Suffolk University Law School who studies the issue.

. . . Yamada has written legislation to stop that kind of thing. It’s called the Healthy Workplace Bill, and it would allow victims to bring a civil claim against their employer and an individual bully. Yamada points out the bill would also give the employer the chance to avoid a penalty.

CommonWealth Magazine on unpaid internships

Colman Herman, a writer for CommonWealth Magazine, did a piece on the legality of unpaid internships for Massachusetts employers, “Unpaid internships — hard work, questionable legality.” Here’s part of what I had to say:

“There are a lot of students who simply can’t afford to work for free for such a long period of time,” says Yamada, the Suffolk law professor, “because they have to make some money — to pay their bills, to pay their tuition, to pay their expenses, and to put a roof over their head. So they have to pass up valuable internship opportunities. It doesn’t seem to me that asking for the minimum wage in return for entry-level performance is asking a lot.”

An honor from Valparaiso University

The Alumni Association of Valparaiso University, my undergraduate alma mater, has informed me that I am a 2016 recipient of Alumni Achievement Award, given to “alumni who have demonstrated outstanding achievement in their chosen career or area of professional life.” I will be traveling to VU’s Homecoming weekend this fall in northwest Indiana to receive the award and to participate in a program in which recipients discuss their work and how their college education and experience contributed to their lives. I am very grateful for this award and look forward to the Homecoming activities.

Friday morning musical contemplation

Reading through the news this morning, well, call it corny or trite, but this song came to mind. I’ve pasted in the Jackie DeShannon version above, and here are the lyrics, courtesy of Google Play:

What the world needs now is love, sweet love
It’s the only thing that there’s just too little of
What the world needs now is love, sweet love
No, not just for some but for everyone

Lord, we don’t need another mountain
There are mountains and hillsides enough to climb
There are oceans and rivers enough to cross
Enough to last ’till the end of time

What the world needs now is love, sweet love
It’s the only thing that there’s just too little of
What the world needs now is love, sweet love
No, not just for some but for everyone

Lord, we don’t need another meadow
There are cornfields and wheat fields enough to grow
There are sunbeams and moonbeams enough to shine
Oh, listen, lord, if you want to know

What the world needs now is love, sweet love
It’s the only thing that there’s just too little of
What the world needs now is love, sweet love
No, not just for some, oh, but just for ever, every, everyone

What the world needs now is love, sweet love (oh, is love)
What the world needs now is love, sweet love (oh, is love)
What the world needs now is love, sweet love (oh, is love)

Work in progress: A quick look ahead to 2015

I'm not a big holiday decorator -- here's is this year's "tree"

OK, so I’m not a big holiday decorator

Thank you…

…for your continued readership! I look forward to a seventh year of writing blog posts and publishing your comments. For better and for worse, the world of work gives us plenty to talk about. And so it will be in 2015.

When I started this blog in December 2008, I didn’t fully appreciate how it could become such an engaging way to share information, ideas, and opinions. But now, with 1,000+ subscribers, some 580,000+ page views, and several thousand posted comments, I’m grateful that Minding the Workplace can contribute to our conversation on work, workers, and workplaces.

We’ve still got a lot of work to do in order to create and grow workplaces that embrace worker dignity. Here’s to a New Year of progress on those fronts.

******

Forward on the Healthy Workplace Bill

With the 2015-16 state legislative sessions approaching, our advocates are preparing to resubmit and support the Healthy Workplace Bill in states across the nation. With two states, California and Tennessee, enacting workplace bullying legislation this year (albeit in very watered-down form), and other cities and municipalities approving workplace anti-bullying ordinances for public workers that draw language from our legislation, we’re steadily moving toward the day when more workers will have legal protections against this form of mistreatment. It is proving to be a hard slog at times, with opposition arising as our efforts gain support, but we continue to make progress.

 ******

New side gig

During 2015, I’ll be launching a part-time “side gig” initiative that offers coaching, consulting, and programming on workplace bullying, career transitions, and fostering dignity at work, as well as assorted publications covering the same. I’ll also be developing more free content and referral information for those in search of guidance and resources. I’m excited about putting some structure around activities that I’ve provided informally for many years. I’ll be rolling this out gradually, as time and energy permit. These services and materials will be offered on a separate website, with details to come!

At the same time, I’ll be keeping my day (and often evening) job as a law professor, and as a scholar and advocate I’ll remain steadfastly committed to advancing worker dignity. And as I indicated above, I’ll be adding lots of posts to this blog during the year to come and beyond!

Summertime and the livin’ is busy

Although it’s a mistaken belief that most professors have “summers off,” the welcomed flexibility of the job is especially present during this time of the year. For those of us with active programs of scholarship, the summer months typically yield the biggest chunks of concentrated time to engage in research and writing.

I’m working on a couple of writing projects this summer, including a law review article that expands upon my ideas about the linkages between theory, research, and social action, informed considerably by my ongoing work on workplace bullying, worker dignity, and unpaid internships. I’ve also got several out-of-town speaking appearances.

In addition, I’m completing an in-depth training course in personal and organizational coaching, the benefits of which will complement the work I’ve been doing on employee relations from a law & policy angle. I’ll have more to say about this during the months to come.

Consequently, I may be blogging slightly less often this summer, perhaps one or two times a week rather than the two to four posts that are my norm.

A post with “Summertime” in the title is an easy excuse to serve up that George Gershwin classic, so here’s an incredible Ella Fitzgerald rendition that’s worth a few soothing minutes of your day.

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