A sorrowful and profoundly disturbing week in America

(screenshot from CNN.com)

Here in the U.S., the past week has been one of the most sorrowful in our modern history. As we continue to grapple with the coronavirus pandemic, many of us are reeling from the killing of George Floyd, an African American man suspected of the minor offense of passing a counterfeit bill, by police officers in Minneapolis, Minnesota. This latest instance of deadly brutality directed at Black people by white police officers has become international news, so I need not go into detail about it. (Go here if you need a summary).

The police killing of Mr. Floyd quickly went viral because it was recorded on cellphone cameras. The images of (now fired) police officer Derek Chauvin with his knee (and full body weight) on Floyd’s neck for some 9 minutes as he gasped for air have become etched in our consciousness. Around the nation and now the world, protests are ensuing. Most are peaceful, but some have become violent, accompanied by looting.

Sadly, we are bereft of the national leadership we need to help us cope with this tragedy and address the underlying systemic problems. Mainly via angry, ranting tweets and a stunning public appearance yesterday that smacked of authoritarianism and carried echoes of imposing martial law, the responses by president Donald Trump have largely fanned the flames of division and done little, if anything, to heal the anguish and unrest.

***

Of course, these abusive behaviors and wrongheaded responses are variations on a basic theme that many know all too well.

Police brutality is an abuse of state-sanctioned power, pure and simple. In the U.S., it is directed disproportionately toward Black people. As explained neatly by the Encyclopedia Brittanica:

Notwithstanding the variety among groups that have been subjected to police brutality in the United States, the great majority of victims have been African American. In the estimation of most experts, a key factor explaining the predominance of African Americans among victims of police brutality is antiblack racism among members of mostly white police departments. Similar prejudices are thought to have played a role in police brutality committed against other historically oppressed or marginalized groups.

As for the killing of George Floyd, the only participant in custody at this writing — Derek Chauvin (currently charged with 3rd degree murder and manslaughter) — had 18 prior complaints filed against him, with only two of them resulting in mild reprimands. This record suggests a dynamic that we see in workplace bullying and sexual harassment situations all too often, namely, one of continually sweeping reports under the rug. Thus, it is fair to question the roles of the police department, police union, prosecuting attorneys, and fellow officers in allowing this man to stay on the force until he finally crossed a line and committed an alleged homicide.

As for Donald Trump, in addition to building a long record of antipathy toward African Americans specifically and people of color generally, he consistently demonstrates a malignant, casual cruelty suggestive of a significant personality disorder. As badly as we need a national leader to help us respond to all this, it’s probably folly to hope for what he is fully incapable of providing. Indeed, I have shared my observations about him before (e.g., here, here, and here), and they continue to deepen with frightening clarity.

***

I confess that all of this weighs heavily on me in part because of the work I do. As long-time readers know, bullying and abuse of power have been focal points of my scholarly, public education, and advocacy work for over two decades. And although my emphasis has been on workplace behaviors, this work has yielded greater understanding of like forms of mistreatment and abuse in other settings. As such, events of the past week are pushing buttons.

I further admit that the logical and emotional sides of my brain are in full-on competition with each other right now, in ways that make it harder to stay on task and become a more effective part of needed solutions. I do know that we must step back, assess, and ask how we recover from this. Surely we’ve got our work cut out for us. If we cannot emerge from 2020 with the promise of a very different America, then I fear that we may never recover.

Let’s make 2020 a year of working on solutions and responses

 

For those of us who are committed to making human dignity a framing characteristic of modern society, let’s make 2020 a year of working on solutions and responses.

Over the years, I’ve witnessed an unsurprising but nonetheless troubling trend about traffic to this blog. On balance, pieces that discuss the hurt, pain, and injustice of workplace bullying, mobbing, and harassment get higher readership stats than those that discuss systemic solutions, law reform, and possible paths toward individual healing & recovery.

This appears to be a twist on internet clickbait patterns generally, whereby online readers are drawn to negative topics that validate and fuel outrage. Let’s face it: Sometimes we’re more likely to curse the darkness than to light a candle. Especially if you’ve been a target of workplace abuse, it’s perfectly natural to react in such a manner.

But lighting that candle towards effective solutions and responses must be our primary objective. And therein lies the hard work before us. In terms of what that means, I can speak only for myself.

Of course, I remain steadfastly committed to enacting the anti-bullying Healthy Workplace Bill. As I wrote earlier this year (link here), we’re on a gradual but inevitable march toward enacting workplace anti-bullying laws in the U.S. It’s taking a long time to do this, particularly in the face of corporate opposition, but we are making genuine progress.

Overall, I’ll be continuing work on several fronts that encourages our legal systems, places of employment, and other political and civic institutions to embrace human dignity as a primary framing value. I will be emphasizing this theme as part of my service on three non-profit boards, in particular: The International Society for Therapeutic Jurisprudence, Human Dignity and Humiliation Studies, and Americans for Democratic Education Fund.

I’m also excited about a new course I’m offering at my law school during the coming semester. It’s called the Law and Psychology Lab, and it will incorporate heavy doses of therapeutic jurisprudence, encouraging law students to examine how laws can support psychologically healthy outcomes in legal disputes and transactions. In addition to developing projects on topics of individual interest, the students will work on a larger, co-created group project with a specific theme, which for this initial offering will be bullying, abuse, and trauma along the lifespan. We will be making some of the results of our work publicly available.

Here’s to a 2020 full of positive change. Let’s all be a part of it.

Freedom from Workplace Bullies Week 2019: All in a week’s work

This is Freedom From Workplace Bullies Week, and here in Massachusetts, we’ve got some promising news to report: The Massachusetts Healthy Workplace Bill (Senate No. 1072, Sen. Paul Feeney, lead sponsor) has been reported favorably out of the Joint Committee on Labor and Workforce Development and is now before the Senate Committee on Ways and Means. Put simply, we’ve made an important step forward in the process of eventually enacting this bill. Thank you again to all of the advocates who are contacting their state legislators and helping to make this happen!

Later today, I’ll be hosting an event at Suffolk University Law School, “A Conversation about Workplace Bullying with Dr. Gary Namie,” featuring the foremost North American authority on workplace bullying. Gary and I will be discussing the past, present, and future of the ongoing movement to prevent, stop, and respond to workplace bullying, mobbing, and abuse.

This weekend, Gary will be facilitating a special edition of his world-class Workplace Bullying University intensive seminar for union leaders and activists, hosted by NAGE-SEIU, one of the major public sector labor unions that has been a primary supporter of the Healthy Workplace Bill.

And yesterday, I had the honor of giving the keynote address for the Boston Bar Association’s annual employment law conference. My talk was titled “Dignity at Work and Workplace Bullying: Roles for Employment and Labor Lawyers?” Although not formally part of the Freedom Week events, this gave me a welcomed opportunity to talk about workplace bullying to a group of Boston area labor and employment attorneys. In addition to discussing how lawyers representing both management and workers can address bullying at work in their practices, I presented the basics of the Healthy Workplace Bill and what its implications would be for employment litigation.

Tackling work abuse is an ongoing commitment that is shared with many other readers of this blog. So when I say that this is all in a week’s work, I know that many of you can relate. 

 

 

 

 

 

Working notes as summer beckons

Briefing MA legislators, staffers, and interns on the Healthy Workplace Bill

Dear readers, with summer now officially here in Boston, I’m working away at various projects, initiatives, and events. In addition to writing a law review article, here is a sampling of what has been keeping me busy and drawing my attention during recent months and heading into summer:

Legislative briefing on MA Healthy Workplace Bill

Last Tuesday, we had a very successful briefing session on the Massachusetts Healthy Workplace Bill (Senate No. 1072, link here), with a full room of legislators, legislative staffers, and interns joining us at the State House. Jim Redmond, legislative agent for SEIU-NAGE, facilitated the briefing. Our lead sponsor, Senator Paul Feeney, spoke about the need for the HWB, and I gave a short presentation about the legal and policy mechanics that have informed my drafting of the bill. We had time for Q&A, which included added remarks by former SEIU president Greg Sorozan, a key leader behind labor efforts to address workplace bullying.

This coming Tuesday, June 25, the legislature’s Joint Committee on Labor and Workforce Development will hold a hearing on labor-related bills, including public testimony on the HWB (go here for info). We’ll be there in full force for that, as well.

Medium highlights the Healthy Workplace Bill campaign

We continue to advocate for workplace anti-bullying legislation on a national basis. Recently, for a piece in Medium titled “How to Outlaw the Office Bully” (link here), I shared this observation with writer Leigh Ann Carey:

“We are benefitting from a ripple effect from the #MeToo movement,” Yamada says. “The media headlines start with sexual harassment, but as you read deeper into the story you find out there’s a lot of generic bullying. These behaviors don’t occur in a vacuum. They hang together. Shouldn’t we be free of all this stuff by now?”

A Rome conference

A recurring educational highlight for me is the biennial International Congress on Law and Mental Health, sponsored by the International Academy for Law and Mental Health (IALMH). Thanks to the good graces of the IALMH, our International Society for Therapeutic Jurisprudence organizes a dedicated stream of panels specifically on therapeutic jurisprudence topics. The conference is a welcomed opportunity to share some of my own work and to attend panels featuring colleagues from around the world.

The next International Congress is scheduled for this July in Rome. I’ve organized two panels for the conference, both of which I’ll share more details later:

  • A panel on “Bullying, Mobbing, and Harassment: Psychological Trauma and Civil Litigation.” I’ll be talking about the concept of “trauma points” in employment litigation, highlighting (1) the many points at which a plaintiff in an employment lawsuit must retell the narrative of an abusive work situation, leading to re-traumatization; and (2) the traumatizing nature of litigation itself, as a legal process. I’ll be building my talk around a prototypical racial harassment claim, drawn from real-life cases. 
  • A panel on “Legislative Scholarship, Design, Advocacy, and Outcomes.” I’ll be examining how therapeutic jurisprudence principles should be applied to the development of public policy, referencing — among other things — the U.S. push for workplace anti-bullying legislation.

I’ve included in my travel schedule a few extra days for sightseeing, as I’ve never been to Rome and look forward to exploring it. But seriously, the conference is a draw in and of itself, as every time I come away from it enriched by the research, insights, and ideas offered by so many of my colleagues. It’s an intellectual treat, with real-world applications.

Blog planning

I’ve never been very systematic about planning entries to MTW, but I’d like to become a bit more focused in the future. Also, with some 1,700 pieces posted here since late 2008, and a lot of other folks entering the social media fray on topics such as workplace bullying, I’d like to spend more time updating past pieces and sharing relevant commentaries from other sites. This summer I’ll be implementing a monthly blogging schedule that looks something like this:

  • A new and original post about workplace bullying, mobbing, and abuse;
  • A post that collects and shares my revisions of, and updates to, some of the 1,700+ articles previously posted here;
  • A post that collects and links to a variety of articles and resources relevant to work, workers, and workplaces, as well as broader, related topics of psychology, economics, and public affairs;
  • A post on miscellaneous topics relevant to this blog.

I’m also going to consider ways in which educators might better access and use the material that I’ve posted here. This idea was planted by a review of this blog discussed below.

Finally, I’m posting more content to my new Facebook Page, especially links to interesting pieces and to relevant past blog posts. If you’re on Facebook, you may receive new postings by “liking” or “following” this link.

MTW receives positive review from educational resources site

MERLOT.org, a popular educational resources site devoted to sharing online materials that can be used for classroom purposes, has given Minding the Workplace a very positive peer review (link here). This is especially gratifying in view of the fact that MTW has not been necessarily designed for classroom use. Nevertheless, the reviewer saw the potential usefulness of MTW for classroom purposes. Here’s a snippet of that review:

The blog underscores workplace issues of enormous contemporary significance (e.g., diversity, bullying, toxic cultures) and provides a perspective that can deepen students’ understanding. The author of the blog is an expert in the subjects that the blog addresses. The blog is exceedingly well-written, well-informed, and professionally presented. Entries link out to a variety of newspapers and periodicals. The blog contains links to key organizations and scholarly articles that address workplace bullying, employee dignity, and employment law. 

The reviewer concluded that MTW is an “excellent resource for faculty and students who have an academic or professional interest in issues and challenges related to workplace culture.”

Join me on Facebook!

Dear readers, if you’re on Facebook, please consider “liking” my new Page for the New Workplace Institute and this blog! Go here for the link, and simply “Like” the Page.

I tend to be very deliberate about adopting new technologies and social media platforms. For example, despite many suggestions, I’ve avoided setting up a Twitter account. There’s something about that platform that bothers me, so I’ve stayed away.

By contrast, I spend a fair amount of time on Facebook. Nevertheless, I’ve held off on creating a Page for the blog. Instead, I’ve simply shared blog posts to my personal page and other places.

However, I finally broke down when I realized that a dedicated Page on Facebook would help me share more of the work I’ve been doing, post additional info that doesn’t make it into the blog, and foster greater dialogue with readers and followers. If you’re a Facebook user, I hope you’ll join me at my new Page.

Minding the Workplace is 10 years old!

Ten years ago this month, I launched this blog. Some 1.1 million page views, 1750+ subscribers, and 1650+ articles later, Minding the Workplace has become a popular source of commentary on work, workers, and workplaces. Thank you, dear readers, for being an integral part of this ongoing journey.

MTW has been a steady platform for pieces about workplace bullying, mobbing, and abuse. I am especially grateful for comments and notes from readers, sharing how this blog has helped them to understand and process their own difficult experiences in the workplace. When I started this blog in 2008, I didn’t anticipate how it could serve that clarifying and validating purpose.

Over the years, MTW has been included in several lists of leading blogs on bullying, organizational psychology, and workplace relations. MTW blog posts are now popping up as sources in academic and professional books and journal articles, which suggests that it has reached a welcomed level of credibility with colleagues in relevant fields. Also, although the main purpose of the blog is to build understanding and perspective for the longer term, on occasion it has contributed to the development of significant breaking news stories.

In sum, this has been, and continues to be, a deeply satisfying and meaningful part of my work. In the process — and I see this when I compare my blogging “voice” of years ago to that of today — I believe that I have grown personally through my writing.

The past year has been an especially busy one, and during this time I’ve reduced my posting frequency. However, I expect to be publishing at least two posts a week during 2019. The need for understanding and changing our workplaces has hardly diminished, and I look forward to contributing to that conversation during the months and years ahead.

Notes on law, psychology, and therapeutic jurisprudence

Image courtesy of clipart panda.com

Dear readers, I’m pulling together a few items related to law and psychology: 

Trauma and mental disability law online course

I’m taking an online continuing education course, Trauma and Mental Disability Law, taught by Michael Perlin and Heather Ellis Cucolo, two leading experts in mental health law and fellow trustees of the International Society for Therapeutic Jurisprudence. It’s a 10-week course designed for anyone who is interested in learning more about how psychological trauma and the law intersect. Michael and Heather are mixing a webinar format with slides and assigned readings, and it can be accessed at any time convenient to the enrollee. They estimate a time investment of about 2 hours per week. The course just started this week, so there’s still time to sign up!

International Society for Therapeutic Jurisprudence

If you’re interested in how the law can advance psychological health (rather than the other way around), please consider joining the International Society for Therapeutic Jurisprudence (ISTJ). We officially launched the ISTJ this year, and we’ve got several hundred members from around the world. It’s not just for lawyers, either. Many of our members are trained in other academic and professional disciplines, such as psychology and social work. Membership dues are a very reasonable $25/year (free for students), and if you join now, your membership will be good through 2019. I’m serving as the first board chair of the ISTJ, and I’m happy to attest that this is a wonderful, intelligent, and caring group of scholars, practitioners, and students.

When policymaking stokes anger, fear, and trauma

Recent events have underscored my conviction that we need to be much more attentive to how policymaking processes (i.e., actions by legislatures, elected executives, and administrative agencies) can stoke fear, anxiety, and trauma among the populace. On that note, I’ve posted an author’s pre-publication draft of a forthcoming journal article, “On Anger, Shock, Fear, and Trauma: Therapeutic Jurisprudence as a Response to Dignity Denials in Public Policy,” to be published in the International Journal of Law and Psychiatry. You may freely download a copy here.

Summer work is mostly about writing

My writing workspaces are not nearly as ornate! (Isabella Stewart Gardner Museum, Boston; photo by DY)

With spring semester final exams and papers graded, another academic summer begins. I understand that because I don’t teach in the summer, many folks assume that I have “summers off.” In reality, much of this time is devoted to writing. I deeply appreciate the opportunity to focus on serious scholarly projects. 

Among other things, I’m writing a new law review article about therapeutic jurisprudence, and it will complement my work as board chair of our new International Society for Therapeutic Jurisprudence. In this piece I’m attempting to make the case that American law should be framed by human dignity and psychological well-being. This article is a broad outgrowth of my longtime research and advocacy work on workplace bullying.

One of the biggest perks of working in this mode is that I’m not tied down to my office. I like to work at home or in the Boston Public Library. I’ve also been traveling a lot, and my laptop goes with me, typically joined by small piles of notes and article printouts. I can even get work done on airplanes, if the passenger seating space is sufficient. (For me, JetBlue is generally the best in that regard. By comparison, flying coach on an American Airlines 737 triggers claustrophobia and prompts even greater empathy for chickens confined to battery cages.)

Of course, long gone are the days when the summer seemed endless. It goes quickly, and soon another school year beckons. And in Boston, the seasons change, too. Before we know it, the leaves will be turning color as the cycle continues.

P.S. By the way, I just revised and beefed-up one of this blog’s most popular posts, “Gaslighting at work.” Especially because the term has entered our popular and civic culture more prominently in recent years, you may find it of interest.

The Boston Public Library is a pretty cool place to work. (Bates Hall reading room; photo by DY)

Year’s end contemplations

Holiday lights on the Boston Common

Dear readers, I thought I’d offer this late December posting with several reflections and looks ahead. Wherever this holiday season finds you in location or spirits, I wish for you a good and healthy 2018. And thank you for your readership of this little blog.

Commitment

As the year comes to a close, I am more convinced than ever that preventing, stopping, and responding to all forms of interpersonal abuse is one of the most important objectives we can pursue, individually and as a society. My original base of understanding this assertion has been the world of work, where bullying and mobbing behaviors wreak havoc on psyches, livelihoods, and careers.

This worldview has been enhanced by my association with groups such as Human Dignity and Humiliation Studies and the therapeutic jurisprudence network — the latter soon to publicly debut the new International Society for Therapeutic Jurisprudence. Through these groups, scholars, practitioners, activists, and artists are striving to build a world that positively embraces human dignity as a primary good. My friends and colleagues from these communities, as well as others I’ve met along life’s course, have helped me to understand how abuse occurs in so many other settings, including within families, relationships, and institutions of all kinds.

We’ve got our work cut out for us, but is there a better societal goal than the advancement of human dignity?

Writings

Maureen Duffy & David C. Yamada, eds., Workplace Bullying and Mobbing in the United States (ABC-CLIO, 2018) –Publication of our two-volume book set has been slightly pushed back until late January. Featuring over two dozen contributors (including a Foreword by Dr. Gary Namie of the Workplace Bullying Institute) and clocking in at some 600 pages, the project deliberately takes a U.S. focus in order to consider the unique aspects of American employment relations. We’ve done our best to deliver a resource useful for scholars and practitioners alike, and we can’t wait to see the published version!

David C. Yamada, “Homecoming at Middle Age,” The Cresset (2017) — In the fall of 2016, I returned to my undergraduate alma mater, Valparaiso University in northwest Indiana, to participate in homecoming activities and to spend a few extra weeks on campus as a visiting scholar, working on the book project above. The extended visit marked the 35th year since my college graduation, and it prompted a flood of collegiate memories and reflections on how events of that time — personal, national, and global — remain relevant today. I gathered some of them in an essay just published in The Cresset, the university’s “review of literature, the arts, and current affairs.”

Coming soon…

The International Society for Therapeutic Jurisprudence (ISTJ) is a new, non-profit, membership-based learned association devoted to advancing therapeutic jurisprudence, an interdisciplinary school of philosophy and practice that examines the therapeutic and anti-therapeutic properties of laws and public policies, legal and dispute resolution systems, and legal institutions. Our opening event was a founding meeting in July 2017 at the International Congress on Law and Mental Health, held in Prague, Czech Republic. Several dozen people from around the world filled a meeting room to discuss plans for this new organization, and the combined energies created a palpable sense of enthusiasm and engagement.

Since then we have been filing our articles of incorporation and application for tax-exempt charitable status, as well as assembling our website with the ability to accept membership dues and featuring a forum page in which members can post information and commentary. As the initial board chairperson of the ISTJ, I am excited about the possibilities to come for this organization and its founding members.

Thanks a million — and lots more to come!

I’m doing a quick little celebration here. Sometime over the past hour or so, this modest little blog recorded its one millionth “page view,” or “hit.” When I started Minding the Workplace some nine years ago, I had no idea whether it would endure or attract any interest. But thanks to you, my readers, what began as an opportunity to share some of my work and observations  — mainly about workplace bullying and abuse — has grown into a more broad-ranging source of commentary about the experience of work and related topics.

Because of a packed schedule, I admit that I’m sort of gliding into this first million. During the past six months I’ve been extremely busy on matters that overlap with many topics raised on this blog. They include co-editing (with Dr. Maureen Duffy) a forthcoming two-volume book set, Workplace Bullying and Mobbing in the United States and serving as the founding board chairperson of a new non-profit organization, the International Society for Therapeutic Jurisprudence, launched over the summer and going operational online in January. These initiatives, along with a sea of other writing and organizational commitments, have caused me to post less frequently here.

That will change next year, as I plan to resume a more frequent blogging schedule. Among other things, I’m going to be drawing regularly from Workplace Bullying and Mobbing in the United States and our more than two dozen contributors to offer snippets of commentary, research, and insight on work abuse. There’s so much in these two volumes that will be worth summarizing and discussing.

Of course, the world of work will continue to supply an ongoing stream of topics to write about, including cutting-edge research by scholars, compelling commentary by journalists and fellow bloggers, and real-life events and trends that demand our close attention.

I look forward to sharing this with you during the months and years to come!

 

%d bloggers like this: