Displays (literally) of progress for the workplace anti-bullying movement

Deb Falzoi and Torii Bottomley holding sign near the MA State House

Deb Falzoi and Torii Bottomley holding sign outside the MA State House (photo: MA Healthy Workplace Advocates)

Hey, it’s about time that we made a big display about ending workplace bullying!

Recently I wrote about Massachusetts: Face Workplace Bullying, an artistic photo display designed to raise public awareness about workplace bullying and to voice support for the Healthy Workplace Bill (House No. 1771, currently before the MA legislature). The display features photographs of 14 individuals who have been targets of workplace bullying, along with their names and statements about the circumstances surrounding their experiences. It made its official debut on the 4th floor of the Massachusetts State House.

Last Friday, advocates met at the State House to commemorate the display’s two-week run and to take it down, packing it for its next port of call. Later that afternoon, Torii Bottomley and Deb Falzoi, staunch supporters of the Healthy Workplace Bill and participants in the Face Workplace Bullying project, took to the street outside the State House to display their homebrewed sign “End Workplace Bullying.”

The photo display in the State House and the big sign outside are just what we need to shine a public light on workplace bullying and the damage it causes. In order for the Healthy Workplace Bill to become law, we need more advocates to be out front with this messaging.

I have been privy to communications between the individuals who allowed their images and stories to be included in the Face Workplace Bullying display, and they have invoked terms such as healing and empowering to describe how they feel being a part of it. I think their brave actions are making a huge statement: Enough of the silence and shame surrounding this form of interpersonal abuse. We need our legislators to pass the Healthy Workplace Bill. Let’s get on with it.

Interviews and documentary footage in the State House

Media interest and documentary footage in the State House (photo: MA Healthy Workplace Advocates)

Courageous, artistic workplace anti-bullying advocacy at MA State House

Photo from the Inside Out Project

(photo courtesy of Massachusetts: Face Workplace Bullying)

Massachusetts: Face Workplace Bullying is an artistic photo display spearheaded by educator and workplace bullying target Torii Bottomley to raise public awareness about workplace bullying and to voice support for the Healthy Workplace Bill (House No. 1771, currently before the MA legislature). It is making its official debut on the 4th floor of the Massachusetts State House, and it will be up throughout the week until Friday, April 22.

The display features photographs of 14 individuals who have been targets of workplace bullying, along with their names and statements about the circumstances surrounding their experiences.

Here is the project statement:

Work shouldn’t hurt! Research shows bully bosses target the MOST SUCCESSFUL employees out of envy for their skills and ethics. This abuse comes at a proven cost to every state’s economy. We call on the great state of Massachusetts, with a history of “firsts” in progressive legislature, to FACE WORKPLACE BULLYING. By passing the Massachusetts Healthy Workplace Bill, the abusers, not the state, will be economically responsible for their actions!

Above all, this is what moral courage is all about. Fourteen individuals have stepped forward to put very human faces on this movement. Not happy, smiley faces either. Rather, stern, serious, angry, and pained faces of people who are calling for change. They’re trying to tell us something, yes? I am proud to acknowledge and salute them.

(photo courtesy of the INSIDE OUT Project)

(photo courtesy of Massachusetts: Face Workplace Bullying )

 

Workplace bullying: Faces of change

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Massachusetts workplace anti-bullying advocate Torii Bottomley is leading an artistic project designed to introduce the faces of workplace bullying targets to a broader public. Called “Face Workplace Bullying,” it portrays 14 individuals who have experienced workplace bullying during their work lives.

Massachusetts Healthy Workplace Advocates calls this “A new way to bring attention to workplace bullying” and provides details about how others can contact Torii and get involved.

In a quiet but significant way, these photographs represent a transition: Courageous people who have transformed from being targets of workplace bullying to becoming advocates for change. As I wrote several years ago in connection with the Healthy Workplace Bill:

Especially for targets of this abuse, the decision to become an advocate for law reform often requires courage and fortitude. Meaningful social change is often effected by those who have experienced injustice and mistreatment. In this sense, the decision to go from “victim” to advocate can be an empowering one, a personal statement that one will harness a terrible experience to help others.

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Freedom from Workplace Bullies Week 2015: Working with change agents

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I spent a good chunk of today and yesterday hosting a workshop on workplace bullying at Suffolk University Law School here in Boston. The goal of the workshop was to give feedback, advice, and suggestions to a group of individuals who are devoting time and energy to responding to workplace bullying through public education initiatives, publications, and law reform advocacy. Although I had high hopes for the gathering based on the list of participants, I wasn’t quite sure what the collective chemistry would produce.

I am pleased to report that it was a very stimulating, intense, and moving experience, infused with genuine fellowship and even moments of humor. We covered a lot of ground during our conversations, and the interactions and exchange among our participants made for an honest and gently respectful learning environment.

Serving as discussants were Eunice Aviles, Torii Bottomley, Deb Falzoi, Denise Bartholomew Gilligan, Henry Jung, and Greg Sorozan, all of whom brought plenty of experience and wisdom to our discussion. We also were joined by Katie Fedigan, who helped her father Jay with some of the filming.

For several participants, being a part of this gathering called upon them to dig deep into wells of courage, for their own experiences of being bullying targets were part of our conversations. We specially thank them for their contributions to our understanding.

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Related post

This workshop only bolstered my enthusiasm for smaller, in-person gatherings that encourage genuine dialogue and exchange. For more on that, see my earlier post from this month, “The power of face-to-face dialogue for change agents.”

Freedom from Workplace Bullies Week 2015: Entering the mainstream

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Observances such as Freedom from Workplace Bullies Week serve as an invitation for reflection and assessment. Recently, a written feature about my work concerning workplace bullying published on my University’s website referred to my “two-decade battle against bullying on the job.” The writers took a slight liberty there; my fateful initial contact with Drs. Gary and Ruth Namie of the Workplace Bullying Institute was made in 1998, so I’m not quite at the 20-year mark. But even 17 years is a long time, and during this stretch I’ve seen a term that once barely appeared on the radar screen of American employee relations now entering its mainstream.

Indeed, we are moving past the point of having to spend 10-15 minutes simply explaining what workplace bullying is and how much harm it can inflict. Instead, we can devote greater attention to preventing, stopping, and responding to abusive behaviors at work, while connecting bullying to other forms of worker mistreatment.

Along those lines, some readers may have noticed an editorial shift on this blog concerning workplace bullying-related commentary, whereby I’ve been devoting more time to discussing potential new understandings, responses, connections, outreach, and solutions. I imagine that evolution will continue.

Similarly, here in Boston we’ll be observing Freedom Week with a workshop at which we’ll be giving feedback, advice, and suggestions to a group of individuals who are devoting time and energy to responding to workplace bullying through public education initiatives, publications, and law reform advocacy. It will be a wonderful opportunity to explore this topic in a small-group setting that promotes conversation, shared insights, and fellowship.

I give a short personal history of my involvement in the workplace anti-bullying movement, and some of the accompanying lessons I’ve learned about legal and social activism, in my forthcoming law review article, “Intellectual Activism and the Practice of Public Interest Law” (Southern California Review of Law and Social Justice), a draft of which may be downloaded without charge. I hope that readers who want to learn more will find it interesting.

Working Notes: Progress for HWB in Massachusetts (and more!)

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MA Healthy Workplace Bill moves to “Third Reading”

After being reported favorably out of the Joint Committee on Labor and Workforce Development, the Massachusetts Healthy Workplace Bill has been moved to a procedural stage called “Third Reading,” which means it is now eligible for a full vote by the House of Representatives. As reported by Deb Falzoi on the Facebook page of the Massachusetts Healthy Workplace Advocates:

BREAKING NEWS: The Healthy Workplace Bill, HB 1771, has been ordered to a Third Reading in the House. This step is the furthest point the bill has gone in Massachusetts in previous sessions, but this session we’ve reached it much earlier in the session. Progress!

Without a doubt this is good news and increases the likelihood for a favorable result during the 2015-16 Massachusetts legislative session.

MA Mental Health Legal Advisors Committee recommends support of Healthy Workplace Bill

The Massachusetts Mental Health Legal Advisors Committee, an office appointed by the state’s Supreme Judicial Court “to enhance and protect the rights of persons with mental health concerns in key areas most closely related to their ability to live full and independent lives free of discrimination,” has submitted written testimony in support of the Healthy Workplace Bill. MHLAC senior attorney Susan Fendell, stated in her testimony that “(t)his bill, if passed into law, will profoundly improve people’s daily lives by creating positive and consequently more productive work environments.”

Attorney Fendell’s testimony shared the story of a client with a learning disability who was subjected to severe physical and verbal abuse by a new supervisor. The client filed a disability discrimination claim, but because he was not able to show that the mistreatment was grounded in his disability, he did not prevail. MHLAC offered this story as an example of the gap that needs to be filled by the Healthy Workplace Bill.

MHLAC’s welcomed statement of support highlights the potential power of the Healthy Workplace Bill to safeguard the mental health of all citizens.

Recognition by Americans for Democratic Action

Recently I was informed that Americans for Democratic Action, the veteran progressive political and policy advocacy organization, will be honoring me with the Winn Newman Lifetime Achievement Award at its annual banquet on September 16, in Washington D.C. The award recognizes my work in support of the workplace anti-bullying movement and other workers’ rights initiatives.

I’ll be sharing honors that night with U.S. Senator Sherrod Brown and U.S. Representative Rosa Delauro, two outstanding members of Congress. I’ll have a few minutes to offer remarks, during which I’ll definitely be talking about the Healthy Workplace Bill and our ongoing efforts to prevent and stop bullying at work.

I served on ADA’s national board for many years and served as its chair for a term. I am very grateful for this honor and look forward to the banquet.

(For a personal story about meeting one of my intellectual heroes, ADA co-founder John Kenneth Galbraith, go here.)

Voices heard: Massachusetts Healthy Workplace Bill gets committee approval

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Advocacy can make a difference: The Massachusetts Healthy Workplace Bill (House No. 1771; Rep. Ellen Story and Sen. Jennifer Flanagan, co-sponsors) has been reported favorably by the legislature’s Joint Committee on Labor and Workforce Development. This necessary and important step, which occurred on the heels of last week’s committee hearing at which numerous HWB supporters stayed until the early evening to testify, puts us closer to eventual floor votes by the House and Senate and final signature by the Governor.

This is the third straight legislative session in which the HWB has been favorably reported by this committee, so what’s different this time? Legislative sessions run two years, the current one covering 2015-16. This is by far the earliest the HWB has been moved favorably out of the committee. Previously, the HWB received committee approvals in the second half of the respective sessions, making it harder to move the bill forward within the limited time remaining.

Our voices are being heard. At last week’s public hearing, it was evident that even though it was late in the day, committee co-chairs Sen. Daniel Wolf and Rep. John Scibak were attentive and sympathetic to the personal accounts of bullying and abuse shared by workers who testified.

The next steps for the HWB within the Massachusetts legislative labyrinth have not been settled, but this is a very positive development. I’ll be providing updates here, and those who want to actively support the bill can check out some of the links below.

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Massachusetts Healthy Workplace Advocates

To learn more about advocacy efforts in support of the Healthy Workplace Bill in Massachusetts, go to the campaign’s website or Facebook page.

For more about the national campaign to enact the Healthy Workplace Bill, go here.

 

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