Sharing insights about workplace bullying and mobbing in SafeHarbor, Part II

In my last post, I wrote about my visits to SafeHarbor (link here), the online site created by Dr. Gary Namie, co-founder of the Workplace Bullying Institute, to serve as “a community dedicated to the people affected by workplace bullying and those devoted to helping them.” I also shared some past blog pieces that I’ve posted for SafeHarbor members.

Creating safe online spaces surrounding difficult and sometimes painful topics is a challenge, and the success of SafeHarbor so far has been the generation of a spirit of support, understanding, and kindness. Gentle is the word I would use to describe the online voices of those serving as facilitators and discussion leaders. This does not preclude respectful differences of opinion. But it does set a peaceful vibe that runs counter to the experiences that brought many to the site.

Here are more past blog articles that I’ve posted to SafeHarbor:

  • Workplace bullying and mobbing in academe: The hell of heaven? (2009, rev. 2014) (link here)
  • How harmful thought patterns about workplace bullying and mobbing may accelerate the aging process (2019) (link here)
  • When a prominent employee is fired for creating “an abusive work environment” (2018) (link here)
  • We understand human dignity only if we also comprehend humiliation and abuse (2015) (link here)
  • Workplace mistreatment: The importance of cross-situational empathy (2015) (link here)
  • Shame-based organizations: When workplaces resemble dysfunctional families (2015) (link here)
  • “Jerks at work” vs. workplace soul stalkers (2017) (link here)
  • “Master and servant”: The roots of American employment law (2013) (link here)
  • Life lessons from Dr. Edith Eger, Auschwitz survivor (2018) (link here)
  • What separates the “best” workplace abusers from the rest? (2015, rev. 2019) (link here)

Sharing insights about workplace bullying and mobbing in SafeHarbor, Part I

During the past few months, I’ve become a regular visitor and contributor to SafeHarbor (link here), the online site created last year by Dr. Gary Namie, co-founder of the Workplace Bullying Institute, to serve as “a community dedicated to the people affected by workplace bullying and those devoted to helping them.” Especially for those who are experiencing or recovering from bullying or mobbing at work, I give this site my fulsome recommendation.

SafeHarbor has quickly grown into a respectful and supportive patch of the internet, with several hundred people becoming members. I have been impressed and downright touched by the depth of humanity demonstrated over and again by SafeHarbor participants. 

I’m going to say more about SafeHarbor in subsequent blog posts. For now, I’m also going to start sharing some of the pieces that I’ve posted for folks there, based on the tenor and subject matter of conversations that are occurring. Here’s the first round:

  • Viktor Frankl on finding meaning in the face of great adversity (2016) (link here)
  • Helping targets of workplace bullying: The need for an integrated counseling approach (2010, rev. 2021) (link here)
  • When a promotion leads to a body snatching (2015) (link here)
  • Professional schools as incubators for workplace bullying (2012; rev. 2019) (link here)
  • Ruminating, problem solving, and coping in the midst of work abuse (2018) (link here)
  • Workplace bullying: Acknowledging grief (2017) (link here)
  • Captain Ahab of “Moby-Dick”: Workplace trauma sufferer, bullying boss, or both? (2020) (link here)
  • Triple jeopardy: Workplace bullying at midlife (2013) (link here)
  • Applying Psychological First Aid to workplace bullying and mobbing (2019) (link here)
  • Lessons from “Spotlight” for combating interpersonal abuse (2017  ) (link here)
  • On following evil orders at work (2019) (link here)
  • “Should I stay or should I go?” Career insights from Seth Godin and The Clash (2011) (link here)

Ho Ho No: A holiday bevy of bullying and bad boss stories

Well folks, ’tis the season. For workplace bullies and toxic bosses, I mean. This year’s top Scrooge may well be Vishal Garg, CEO of Better.com, who used a Zoom call last week to lay off the 900 workers who were summoned to be on the call. As reported by Samantha Lock for the Guardian (link here):

The chief executive of a US mortgage company has drawn criticism after he reportedly fired 900 employees on a Zoom call.

“I come to you with not great news,” Vishal Garg, CEO of Better.com, is heard saying at the beginning of the video call made on Wednesday last week. Footage of the call was widely circulated on social media.

“If you’re on this call, you are part of the unlucky group being laid off. Your employment here is terminated effective immediately,” Garg continued, citing changes in the market, “efficiency” and “productivity” as the reasons behind the mass termination.

Word of the layoffs-by-Zoom went viral, and public reaction was harsh. As reported by Emma Goldberg for the New York Times (link here):

Better.com’s mercurial chief executive, Vishal Garg, faced swift backlash for his decision to fire more than 900 employees on a Zoom call last week. The mortgage lender’s board announced in a memo sent to staff on Friday that Mr. Garg was “taking time off” after the “very regrettable events.”

Goldberg goes on to interview one of the laid off workers about the experience of being on the Zoom call:

Christian Chapman, 41, a former underwriting trainer at Better.com, said he was used to preparing for company meetings by making sure his children weren’t around, because Mr. Garg tended to use foul language. But last Wednesday, when he received an unexpected invitation to the company call with Mr. Garg, he got a sense of foreboding because the chief executive looked so solemn.

As Mr. Garg impassively delivered the news, Mr. Chapman said his “gut dropped to the floor,” and he tried to message teammates to ask what was happening but his computer access was shut off almost immediately.

…On Thursday, the company increased his termination package from one to two months of pay. He also received a Christmas package containing a trophy, certificate and company T-shirt (which his wife offered to burn).

***

Vishal Garg is but one among many examples of awful workplace behavior. For more, BuzzFeed has done roundups of stories about workplace bullies and horrific bosses:

  • 15 Toxic Workplace Bullies Who Should Be Banned From Working With Other Humans (BuzzFeed, via Yahoo! Life) (link here)
  • 19 Horrific Bosses in 2021 That Made People Say, “Screw It — I’m Working From Home Forever (BuzzFeed, via Yahoo! Life) (link here)

“Members Who Inspire” profile in ABA Journal

The latest issue of the ABA Journal, the membership magazine of the American Bar Association, includes a generous profile of my work on workplace bullying and on therapeutic jurisprudence, as the latest in its “Members Who Inspire” series. You may access an online version of the article by Amanda Robert, “David Yamada is fighting to end workplace bullying,” by going here.

In addition, the ABA Journal invited me to contribute a short sidebar advice piece for legal employers on how to address workplace bullying. You may access “6 ways to fight workplace bullying in legal spaces” here.

I am grateful for Amanda Robert’s feature article and laudatory comments in the piece from Dr. Gary Namie (co-founder of the Workplace Bullying Institute) and Prof. David Wexler (co-founder of the field of therapeutic jurisprudence), two long-time dear colleagues whose pioneering work has inspired mine.

If you’re seeking resources on workplace bullying, then check out the updated “Need Help?” page

Dear readers, I’ve revised and updated my “Need Help?” resources page (link here) for folks who are dealing with workplace bullying, mobbing, and abuse situations. Although the bulk of the listings are for workers who are experiencing bullying at work (and those who are supporting them), I’ve also added a short section for employers who wish to address these behaviors.

I hope these listings are helpful. Please feel free to share this page with others who might benefit from it.

Why Workplace Bullying University?

After a brief hiatus, Dr. Gary Namie, co-founder of the Workplace Bullying Institute, will be offering a new session of Workplace Bullying University (link here) — an immersive and interactive graduate-level program on the dynamics of workplace bullying — during the weekends of January 8-9 and January 22-23, 2022. The session will be offered exclusively by Zoom.

As both a graduate of, and past participant in, this program, I can attest that it is a singularly valuable educational experience for anyone who wishes to do workplace anti-bullying work as part of their professional practices or as dedicated volunteer service. Here is a snippet of how the program is described:

The only research-driven, comprehensive curriculum on the topic in the world. Digital content – program slides, ancillary videos and audio files, and an extensive collection of peer-reviewed scientific journal articles and book chapters – to enrich the take-home learning experience. Think of it as a graduate school seminar with lively interaction with all of your questions answered

This is not an inexpensive program, and it’s a considerable investment of time and attention as well. But if you’re a steady reader of this blog, then you may have seen previous entries discussing the importance of gaining specialized knowledge about workplace bullying if one wants to get deeply involved in this work. Furthermore, although being bullied at work certainly yields understandings and insights about this phenomenon, it is unwise to do anti-bullying work while assuming that one’s own experience is necessarily a universal one. After all, workplace abuse comes in many different shapes and sizes.

In sum, Workplace Bullying University provides the broader, deeper, research-based foundation for doing work in this realm. It delivers a wealth of content, insight, and informed conversation, led by the leading North American expert on the topic.

If you’re wondering whether this program is for you, then these two past blog articles may be helpful:

  • “How can I make a living doing workplace anti-bullying work? (2019) (link here)
  • Workplace Bullying University, “All Star” edition (2019) (link here)

Trending on workplace bullying (Fall 2021)

(image courtesy of clipart-library.com)

Hello dear readers, this morning I took a quick look at my blog stats, wondering what older posts about workplace bullying and related topics have been attracting attention during the fall. Here’s what came up, excluding posts that I have re-shared more recently:

Institutional gaslighting of whistleblowers (2018) (link here)

On the dynamics of “puppet master” bullying at work (2018) (link here)

Gaslighting at work (2017, rev. 2018) (link here)

Workplace bullying, psychological trauma, and the challenge of storytelling (2016) (link here)

Workplace bullying, blackballing, and the eliminationist instinct (2015) (link here)

Workplace bullying as crazy making abuse (2014) (link here)

When superficial civility supports workplace abusers (and their enablers) (2014) (link here)

Bullying of volunteers (2013) (link here)

Dealing with “gatekeepers” at work: Beware of Dr. No (2011, rev. 2020) (link here

When the bullying comes from a board member (2011, rev. 2017) (link here)

Workplace bullying in the non-profit sector (2011, rev. 2016) (link here)

Is emotional detachment an antidote for a nasty workplace? (2010, rev. 2016) (link here)

Freedom From Workplace Bullies Week 2021: “All the Pieces Matter”

For years, the Workplace Bullying Institute has been sponsoring Freedom From Workplace Bullies Week (link here), which provides us with an opportunity to reflect upon and grow a larger movement addressing workplace bullying, mobbing, and abuse. In attempting to capture the ongoing challenge before us, I found myself drawn to the title of a book about one of my favorite television series, All the Pieces Matter: The Inside Story of The Wire (2018), by Jonathan Abrams.

I’ll have more to say about The Wire and that book below, but for now let’s zero in on its title: All the Pieces Matter. Exactly. This work continues to be informed by intersecting systems of employment relations, mental health counseling, and law and public policy, to name a few.

In our co-edited book set, Workplace Bullying and Mobbing in the United States (2019), Dr. Maureen Duffy and I included a final chapter attempting to frame a broad agenda for addressing these forms of interpersonal abuse over the long haul. We identified these core areas as focal points:

  • Encouraging organizational prevention and responses;
  • Building a cadre of trauma-informed mental health counselors and coaches who understand bullying and mobbing;
  • Enacting and implementing laws and public policies designed to address abuse at work;
  • Changing workplace standards to embrace values-driven cultures;
  • Working towards a more “dignitarian” society inside and outside of our workplaces.

In other words, we’re talking about various systems, which leads me…

…Back to The Wire and All the Pieces Matter

The Wire is a drama series set in Baltimore that ran on HBO from 2002 to 2008. Starting with an initial focus on policing and the drug trade that threads throughout the series, it then takes deep looks into blue-collar work at the city’s docks, public education, urban politics, and the media. Overall, The Wire is driven by characters and their stories, all of which interact with powerful, interwoven systems that are hugely resistant to change.

With intricate storylines that develop slowly and require a viewer’s close attention to follow, The Wire attracted mixed reviews at first, and it never drew a large audience. However, by the end of its run, it had become recognized as one of the best dramas ever. Since then, The Wire has been the rare television program whose afterlife has accorded it the status of a classic.

At the center of The Wire is its brilliant creator, David Simon, who envisioned the series as a form of dramatic social commentary that raises questions about effecting change. While reading All the Pieces Matter, I found some of his quotes very relevant to the core subject matter of this blog. Let me explain.

Bullying and mobbing are, of course, the sum of individual behaviors. In addition, they are enabled, protected, and sometimes encouraged by systems (or cultures, if you will) that reflect certain values and power dynamics. In All the Pieces Matter, David Simon said this about the challenges of reforming systems:

The things that reform systems are trauma. Great trauma. Nobody gives up status quo without being pushed to the wall. I believe that politically. The great reformations of society are the result of undue excess and undue cruelty. The reason you have collective bargaining in America and it became powerful is that workers were pushed to the starvation point. The reason that you have the civil rights we do is that people were hanging from trees.

Simon expressed optimism that individuals can change, while sharing significant doubts that systems can self-reform. Rather, he said, systemic change requires outside pressure and awareness of trauma that cut through inhumanity or indifference.

So that’s how David Simon, The Wire, and All the Pieces Matter help to inform my perspectives on how we address interpersonal abuse at work. We are talking about systems that are very resistant to change. Some of the most powerful stakeholders actually benefit from the status quo of allowing abuse to go unchecked. Accordingly, citing the trauma and destruction of bullying and mobbing at work, it’s up to us to articulate a continuing, compelling, and responsibly bold call for systemic changes and positive evolutions. 

When workplace bullies try to turn the tables

(Image courtesy of clipart-library.com)

Some workplace aggressors are expert at turning tables against their targets, claiming victimhood even as they continue to abuse. Here is a collection of past articles discussing these tactics, the underlying organizational dynamics, and possible responses.

Workplace bullies claim victim status: Avoiding the judo flip (2013) (link here) — One of the most popular posts on this blog, suggesting ways to prevent bullies from claiming victimhood.

Workplace bullying, DARVO, and aggressors claiming victim status (2019) (link here) — Applying Dr. Jennifer Freyd’s pathbreaking work on DARVO (Deny, Attack, Reverse Victim and Offender) to workplace bullying.

The bullied and the button pushers (2014) (link here) — Button pushers are experts at triggering targets to lash out, followed by their claims of victimization.

When superficial civility supports workplace abusers (and their enablers) (2014) (link here) — Expert button pushers can use organizational embraces of superficial civility to accuse targets of unfair criticism.

Workplace bullying as crazy making abuse (2014) (link here) — A quick summary of tactics associated with table turning.

MTW revisions (September 2021)

Dear readers, during recent months, I’ve revised and updated several popular blog entries. and I’m happy to share the links with you today:

Workplace bullying and mobbing: Recommended book list (orig. 2018, rev. 2021) (link here)

On peer support groups for those who have experienced workplace bullying and mobbing (orig. 2019, rev. 2021) (link here)

What is academic tenure? (orig. 2011, rev. 2016 and 2021) (link here

The costs of suffering in silence about bad work situations (orig. 2011, rev. 2021) (link here)

A brief history of the emergence of the U.S. workplace bullying movement (orig. 2010, rev. 2021) (link here)

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