Tuesday, October 18, 2011

Freedom Week: The Time to Break Silence About Workplace Bullying


Bullying at work is a dirty little secret. Though it occurs with epidemic frequency (experienced by 35% of all adult Americans), it is a silent epidemic because it is too rarely discussed. Why the silence?

- personal shame by targets (who would brag about being humiliated?)
- coworkers frozen by bullies into not helping their bullied colleagues
- executives covering up for bullies they sponsor/support
- bullying is the American style of managing

Over time, fear paralyzes us all. Overcoming the inertia of inaction is difficult. We know.

But the most successful personal change plans are the ones triggered by events that suggest karma is working — a sign from above, a coincidental omen. That event becomes the excuse, the rationale, for doing something out of the ordinary.

WBI’s Freedom from Workplace Bullies Week is the reason to change how you are dealing with your bullying situation.

- City and County executives can formally recognize Freedom Week by proclamation. At the start of Freedom Week 2011, over 30 municipalities have issued such proclamations. Visit the gallery of proclamations.

- Bullied individuals and their families can take stock of the extent of the psychological injuries sustained from bullying. It sneaks up on everyone. High blood pressure goes undetected until the family physician asks what is stressful in your life. Use Freedom Week as the excuse to schedule an appointment to have your blood checked and to look for the onset of stress-related diseases. Ignoring your personal health is not a good idea. Bullying can kill. Please give your health as high a priority as keeping the salary to keep a roof over your head. If you die, no salary will have been worth it. Family members: please give your bullied partner or spouse the support she or he requires. They can build up credits that can be repaid when the bullying situation ends. Read the book The Bully At Work.

- Managers and executives need to calculate the financial losses attributable to preventable bullying. Bullies are actually too expensive to retain. However, the truth is that you are too loyal to bullies who have conned you over the years. When you acknowledge that “Bob” is a jerk, you are admitting the problem. But when you consider Bob indispensable, regardless of costs to the organization or his effect on others, you are condemning everyone to a living hell. Balance the needs of the business (profit making or budget balancing) with the narcissistic needs of Bob. Do the math. Talk to your Risk Manager. Bob is a liability. Stay friends if you must, but cut Bob loose for the sake of many. Honor your fiduciary responsibility to the organization. Bob will live on (elsewhere). Read the book The Bully-Free Workplace.

- Insurers and attorneys should warn your employer clients to prevent and correct costly bullying for their own self-interest and cost savings. Whether or not the employer has employment practices liability insurance (EPLI), bullying is costly. Premiums rise when liability increases. Bullies pose increasingly costly risks. Attorneys: you have been writing in recent years how your clients need to squelch bullying even though no specific laws exist. Continue this advice. Use Freedom Week to bolster that message. Visit The Work Doctor website to assure clients that something can be done about bullying.

- State lawmakers should enact legislation to curb bullying in the workplace. The Healthy Workplace Legislative Campaign has been around since 2003. It exists to help sympathetic lawmakers of all political parties to address health-harming abusive conduct at work (no need to call it workplace bullying). The Healthy Workplace Bill (HWB) has been introduced in 21 states. In 2011, the HWB is alive in 11 states, including Massachusetts and New York. During Freedom Week, Wisconsin state Rep. Kelda Roys and Sen. Spencer Coggs are introducing the HWB in both legislative chambers.

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