Why conferences?


I’m spending an extended weekend in Los Angeles, attending and participating in the biennial “Work, Stress and Health” conference co-sponsored by the American Psychological Association, National Institute for Occupational Safety and Health, and Society for Occupational Health Psychology. This year’s conference theme is “Protecting and Promoting Total Worker Health,” and the agenda packs in four solid days of speeches, panel discussions, symposia, workshops, and poster presentations.

Despite its serious sounding title (anything with “stress” in the name tells us something, yes?), Work, Stress and Health is my favorite larger-scale conference. It’s where I learn the most from fellow participants, and it’s where I’ve had opportunities to present my work to knowledgeable, savvy colleagues.

These days I find myself less and less drawn to big conferences. To me, they’re usually too impersonal and have the feeling of being caught in an urban commuter rail station during rush hour. Work, Stress and Health, however, manages to overcome my predispositions, and here’s why:

First, it’s multidisciplinary. Although the fields of industrial/organizational psychology and occupational health psychology frame the overall conference, it draws presenters and attendees from many occupations related to employee relations. Tackling the challenges of making our workplaces healthy and productive requires input from many different perspectives, and this conference does a very good job of bringing many of them together.

Second, it’s relevant to both research and practice. Academics and graduate students form the largest cadre at the conference, but the programs typically carry significance for scholars and practitioners alike. Equally important, most people drawn to this conference bring a genuine respect for both research and practice.

Third, it’s friendly. Frequent conference goers understand the significance of that statement. Too many such gatherings are cold, stuffy, uptight assemblages, and I greet them with dread. Work, Stress and Health manages to avoid that look and feel. I actually look forward to being a part of it.

Fourth, it’s a great place to learn. Here, too, conference devotees get what I mean. Frankly, at some conferences, all you really care about is not saying something really stupid during your own presentation. The rest of the conference holds scant interest to you. By contrast, at Work, Stress and Health, there’s a lot of compelling stuff being presented, and not infrequently one has to make a choice among two or three appealing programs during the same time slot.

Finally, it connects and reconnects me with good people. This conference enables me to reconnect with valued associates and make new ones. Indeed, last night I joined long-time friends Gary & Ruth Namie (Workplace Bullying Institute), Kathy Rospenda (University of Illinois-Chicago), and Stale Einarsen (University of Bergen, Norway) for an excellent dinner and lots of story swapping at Mio Babbo’s Ristorante in Westwood Village. These folks are among the pioneers in helping us to understand workplace bullying, and I always enjoy their company.

l to r: Gary Namie, Ruth Namie, Kathy Rospenda, DY, and Stale Einarsen

l to r: Gary Namie, Ruth Namie, Kathy Rospenda, DY, and Stale Einarsen


I look forward to sharing several future posts summarizing and commenting on information and research presented at the conference.

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.).


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.

Free podcast series, No. 1: About the New Workplace Institute

I’ve launched a new podcast series that will serve as a multimedia complement to this blog. You can access the podcasts without charge from iTunes!

In podcast No. 1, “Creating Healthy Workplaces: The New Workplace Institute,” I answer these questions from Ian Menchini, Director of Electronic Marketing at Suffolk University Law School:

1. Professor, what is the New Workplace Institute and why did you create it?

2. Can you give us an example of the kind of activity you want the Institute to host or sponsor?

3. Tell us a bit about your blog, Minding the Workplace, as well as your plans for this Podcast series.

4. Will Suffolk law students have opportunities to become involved with the Institute?

We’ll be posting new podcasts roughly 3-4 times a month. Next week’s podcast will be devoted to explaining the Healthy Workplace Bill, the anti-bullying legislation I’ve written that is the basis of our law reform movement.


Many thanks to Ian Menchini at Suffolk University Law School for his instrumental assistance in creating this series.

Cincinnati conference to examine violence and bullying in healthcare workplaces, May 11-13

See you on May 11-13?

The University of Cincinnati is hosting the National Conference for Workplace Violence Prevention & Management in Healthcare Settings, scheduled for May 11-13, 2012, in Cincinnati.

Here’s how the organizers describe the conference:

This conference will cover the full spectrum of the workplace violence typology as it directly relates to incivility, bullying, verbal and physical aggression, threatening words or actions, sexual harassment, and physical assaults that occur in healthcare settings (e.g., hospitals, long term care, emergency departments, home health, pharmacies, clinics, and private practice offices).

This conference will provide an opportunity for national and world leadership to prevent work-related injuries by disseminating the current scientific research on healthcare workplace violence, analyzing what changes have been made to alleviate healthcare workplace violence and providing recommendations for minimizing workplace violence for healthcare providers and their patients.

See you there?

I’ve accepted an invitation to give a keynote address at the conference on Friday, May 11, during which I’ll be discussing legal issues relating to workplace bullying and violence.

In addition, the organizers are accepting abstracts for papers, poster sessions, and symposia. The due date is February 17. Go here for the link!

Chief organizers include Gordon Lee Gillespie, Ph.D., R.N. (principal investigator) and Donna M. Gates, Ed.D., R.N.  (co-investigator). Go here to learn about the rest of the conference committee.

Very important focus

I’m delighted that a full-blown, multidisciplinary conference is focusing on this topic. The healthcare workplace is important to everyone, and working conditions can be stressful and challenging. Physical violence, bullying, and other forms of aggression are common occurrences.

Over the years I’ve written a lot about bullying in healthcare. I’ve collected previous posts here:

4-part series on bullying in healthcare

Workplace bullying in healthcare I: The Joint Commission standards

Workplace bullying in healthcare II: Vanderbilt U program for doctors

Workplace bullying in healthcare III: A sampling of legal cases

Workplace bullying in healthcare IV: Nurses bullied and responding

Other related posts

Cheryl Dellasega’s When Nurses Hurt Nurses

Nurse writes about bullying by doctors, other doctors respond

Healthcare bloggers on workplace bullying

Nursing as a Calling: Aspirations and Realities

Alaska nurse blogs about workplace bullying experience

A Flu Tale of Intellectual Bullying?

Minding the Workplace: Changes for 2012

Thank you, everyone, for your ongoing interest in Minding the Workplace, which has attracted over 200,000 hits and a bevy of insightful comments since its launch in December 2008. During the coming year, I’ll be making some modest changes to the blog. They will include:

1. Interviews and podcasts — I’ll be doing short interviews with a wide range of people connected with the world of employment relations, and I’ll be using the podcast format to introduce more multimedia content.

2. Slightly less frequent publication — During the past three years, I’ve covered a lot of ground here, with over 700 articles entering the blogosphere. Consequently, I’ll be blogging an average of 3 times a week rather than the 4-5 times a week pace I’ve maintained since the blog’s inception.

3. More “aggregator” posts — With hundreds of blog posts here, and an abundance of relevant content by other writers available online, I’ll be doing more “aggregator” posts that assemble articles and other sources on relevant themes and topics.

What won’t change is a focus on topics such as workplace bullying, employment law and policy, psychological health at work, and related issues of economics, politics, and social justice. This blog entered the scene during the 2008 economic meltdown, and we continue to face tough times in our workplaces. I hope that Minding the Workplace will help to keep you informed and enlightened as we weather the storm.

Best wishes for a fulfilling, secure, and healthy New Year, especially to readers who have been struggling with some of very challenges discussed in these pages.

-David Yamada

Fancy internship vs. “summer job”?

Say you’re a young college student, weighing your options for the summer. Assuming you have some choice in the matter, what’s better preparation for a successful career, a summer internship with a prominent business or non-profit group, or a summer job filling shelves and running a cash register for a local supermarket?

A professor’s answer

As a university professor, my strong advice to most students would be to take the internship. Whether they are aiming for a plum job out of college, or perhaps vying for a spot in graduate or professional school, the internship will carry more weight than 10 weeks stocking shelves at the grocery store.

Indeed, it’s probably not even a close call.

But indulge me for a minute…

When I was in college some 30 years ago, most undergraduates did not expect to do a summer internship unless, perhaps, they were enrolled in a professional program such as nursing, engineering, or social work. For political science majors like me, summers typically meant doing some type of low-wage job working in a store, a factory, or the great outdoors.

I spent a couple of my summers working for a local drug store chain as a stock clerk. During an interim year between graduating from college and starting law school, I returned to the company in the midst of a terrible recession. The work involved unloading trucks, tagging merchandise and stocking shelves, and customer assistance. While I wouldn’t call the job backbreaking, at the end of a busy shift, I knew I had earned my meager wages.

I didn’t ignore the bells & whistles that might give a boost to my law school applications. I was a department editor of the college newspaper, a senator in the student government, and a volunteer for numerous political campaigns. But I understood the difference between a paying job and extracurricular activities.

What I learned

When I got to law school, I was wholly intimidated by the array of internships, fellowships, and similar opportunities that many of my classmates already sported on their resumes. I hasten to add that they didn’t flaunt these credentials; it simply was part of what they had done.

Looking back, I wish I would’ve been more appreciative of what I learned in my less glamorous minimum wage jobs. I gained a work ethic. I learned how to follow instructions and take directives. I learned how to treat a customer with respect. And I learned what it means to start at the bottom and to earn a pat on the back for the work I did.

I’m not claiming that someone can’t learn these things in an internship. And I concede that it sounds like I’m wallowing in nostalgia for a job that — in actuality — I regarded simply as a way to save money for college. But there’s something about a genuine, humble, entry-level job that teaches us some valuable lessons for the years to come.


Related post

Ross Perlin’s Intern Nation explores the internship phenomenon

The experience of being bullied at work: Insights and silos

It’s a truism, but an accurate one: Experience is a powerful teacher when it comes to understanding workplace bullying. The line between those who “get it” and those who don’t often is drawn between individuals who have personally experienced this form of abuse or watched someone close to them endure it, versus those who claim to have never encountered bullying at work as a target or bystander.

For the former group, those experiences and observations form the primary lenses — intellectual and emotional — through which we understand this topic and screen additional messages related to it.

However, we also must recognize how our own experiences and observations can serve as silos, blocking us from viewing and incorporating into our understanding new information and insights about behaviors that are endlessly complex.

Some long-time readers and frequent commenters to this blog may be wondering, is he talking about me? The answer is no, it’s not about you (really!) — at least not individually. If anything, it’s more of a personal “memo to self”!

But seriously, this point applies to all of us who have drawn valuable insights about workplace bullying from direct or close secondary exposure. The lessons of our own lives must combine with the stories of others, academic research, and informed commentary to form our deepest possible understanding of workplace bullying, what it does to people and organizations, and what we can do about it.

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