Tuesday, July 30, 2013

Bullying in the Workplace

Did you know that up to a third of U.S. workers may have experienced workplace bullying? Workplace bullying ranges from being singled out for subtle manipulative behaviors (like someone habitually "forgetting" to give you messages or deliberately delaying getting back to you with information you need) to outright verbal abuse and practical jokes. Workplace bullying often goes unnoticed by those in charge and usually results in lower productivity, a tense or even toxic work environment, and higher employee turnover.

Recently I heard from a reader requesting more information about bullying in the workplace. I've gathered together some resources including websites and books that I found to be helpful. If you've found other resources to be useful to you, please share them in the comments below.
  • Site - Workplace Bullying Institute: FAQs for individuals who think they may be experiencing bullying at work. This comprehensive site also includes resources for employers, managers, and counselors as well as advocacy information.
  • Site - Kickbully.com: Are you being bullied in the workplace? This site offers specific suggestions for understanding workplace bullies and manipulators as well as how to effectively deal with them. Includes what to say and when to say it.
  • Article - Grown-up Bullying (Workplace Bullying Institute): Excerpt from a Counseling Today article featuring WBI counselor Jessi Eden Brown “In the U.S., there are deep connections between one’s career and his or her identity,” she points out. “Work-related stress is a common topic of discussion in the counseling relationship. With nearly half of all working Americans reporting direct experience or witnessing bullying in the workplace, it cannot be overstated how important it is for counselors in all settings to be aware of this phenomenon.”
  • Article - When the Boss is the Bully (Psychology Today): "They verbally abuse you, humiliate you in front of others. Maybe it's because power hovers in the air, but offices tend to bring out the bully in people. We offer strategies for handling such bad bosses."
  • Article - What makes someone a potential workplace bullying target (Minding the Workplace): "Potential workplace bullying targets usually stick out in some way to potential aggressors. By some characteristic or behavior, they unwittingly trip a wire that unleashes abusive behaviors." Be sure to browse the other articles on this site as well.
  • Article - When good things happen to bad people: Disturbing news about workplace bullies  (TIME Magazine): Article highlighting the findings of a recent study on workplace bullying. "But many if not most are allowed to keep abusing colleagues because their bosses aren’t aware of their behavior, either because it goes unreported (many victims are too frightened or embarrassed to draw attention to their plight) or because the bullies are good at masking their behavior and/or fooling their superiors."
  • Site - The Healthy Workplace Bill: Find out more about the grassroots movement to enact state laws promoting bully-free Healthy Workplaces. "Current discrimination and harassment laws rarely address bullying concerns. Bullying is four times more prevalent than illegal discrimination, but is still legal in the U.S. People deserve more protection against arbitrary cruelty that has nothing to do with work."
  • Article - Six Ways You're the Workplace Bully Without Even Realizing It: With a reported 54 million victims of workplace bullying, somebody has to be doing the bullying. Perhaps some or all of us have at one time or another inadvertently gossiped, been sarcastic, or engaged in passive-aggressive manipulative behavior that may have been perceived by others as hurtful or bullying. 
  • The Bully at Work by Gary Namie and Ruth Namie - This book by the founders of the Workplace Bullying Institute is the go-to resource for understanding what workplace bullies do, how to find allies and stand up to the bullies, and when to leave a workplace because of bullying. (View at Amazon>)
  • Toxic Co-workers: How to Deal with Dysfunctional People on the Job by Alan A. Cavaiola PhD: Specific advice on how to deal with all kinds of dysfunctional co-workers (including bullies). (View at Amazon>)
  • Mean Girls at Work: How to Stay Professional When Things Get Personal by Katherine Crowley and Kathi Elster: This book is full of specific strategies, examples, real-life stories and techniques for dealing with the mean girls at work as well as not becoming one yourself. (View at Amazon>)
  • The Bully-Free Workplace: Stop Jerks, Weasels, and Snakes From Killing Your Organization by Gary Namie and Ruth Namie: A guidebook for employers and managers who want to recognize and prevent bullying in their organizations. (View at Amazon>)

Wednesday, July 24, 2013

Instant Writer

Today as I was checking out in the grocery line, the young lady who bagged my groceries, a senior in high-school, asked me if I was a writer, noting that I wore a t-shirt that read:  “Instant Writer, just add coffee”.  She, too, has a vision of becoming a successful writer of children’s books. The first words out of my mouth to her:  “Get a good-paying day job.”  She smiled and replied that a lot of people had told her that; I instantly regretted my trite response. I came back with, I hope, words of encouragement. “Most importantly,” I said to her, “you are the next great writer on the horizon.”

Statistically, maybe, five percent of writers will publish, and of that percentage, a very small number will be on the bestsellers’ lists; and of that number, even fewer will earn enough from their work to live above poverty wages. If one can hurdle the deterrents to writing--rejection, dejection, abnegation--the writer then has a long mile to go to getting into print, and even further to the finish line of being recognized. There is no such thing as instant success. If you choose be a writer, then know that you are in it for the long distance marathon. It is more like a triathlon. First you have to write, then submit, and if all the planets align and the sun shines on the second Tuesday of third month of the lunar eclipse, an editor might chose to read your manuscript; then, if all conditions are met with the powers that be, you might get your manuscript into print. Now the really tricky part is having an audience other than your family, that embraces you, recognizes your talent and is willing to reward you for it.

Not every entrant into a race finishes. Some fall, get back up and go on. Others quit and find something else more suitable to do with their time. Some will decide to stay on a treadmill instead of joining in the fray. A few run with the pack and find satisfaction in the doing of it. And, then there are those who hit the runners’ high and commit to a lifelong passion of running towards the finish line.

I cannot think of one example of a writer sprinting over the finish line with a huge publishing contract as first prize.  So why do so many writers persist in a career with so little instant gratification?

One driving motivation, I believe, is being heard. It is, in my opinion, one of the innate forces of our very being, as compelling as the need for water, food and procreation. Revolutions, constitutions and lives have been impacted by the written word. Writing is in its very essence our lifeline to community, to linking ourselves to others through shared experiences, ideas and ideals. We exist, but we are alive, absolved, deified, vilified and acknowledged through the written word. My running shoes are well-worn and a little smelly, and there are times I just hop on the treadmill for exercise; but, like an addict, I am chasing that writers’ high and have hopes that the next piece of writing will be my best, the next novel will be better than the last one, and a whole bunch of people will cheer for me as I cross the finish line.

Thursday, July 18, 2013

Women Becoming a Self

For a long time, I have wanted to re-read Kate Chopin’s The Awakening. I remember first reading it in college in the seventies and being saddened that a woman so vital and talented could be so repressed by a society that deemed women to be property of their husbands.

The feminist in me cheered Edna on in her endeavors to be free and realize her self-worth and sexual liberation. Fifty years later, the woman in me is saddened that Edna could only find herself and her freedom through drowning.

Though dated, having been published in 1899, that story and the others in the collection about women becoming a Self, overcoming limitations and fears, resonates with me today. I can’t know what the toll was for Kate Chopin to create the scenario in The Awakening, but I am forever thankful that she did.

Friday, July 12, 2013

Oh, Brother, or Sister!

Recently, in just one week's time, I came across several articles on sibling relationships, and the effects of bullying of one sibling by another. The first article* I read was sent to me by my brother and recaps a study by the University of New Hampshire. I quote from the University of New Hampshire Media :
The study, among the first to look at sibling aggression across a wide age and geographic range, is unique in its size and scope. Tucker and her co-authors from UNH’s Crimes against Children Research Center – center director and professor of sociology David Finkelhor, professor of sociology Heather Turner, and researcher Anne Shattuck – analyzed data from the center’s  National Survey of Children’s Exposure to Violence (NatSCEV), a national sample of 3,599 children, ages one month through 17.

The study showed that aggressive behavior of one sibling towards another is as emotionally damaging as being bullied by a peer--those children who reported physical, verbal or emotional abuse or aggressive behavior such as seizing and/or destroying property of the child, suffered mental distress and experienced bouts of depression, anxiety and anger. Corinna Tucker, study lead author, associate professor of family studies at the University of New Hampshire deemed it significant that sibling and peer bullying were equally harmful to the mental health of children and adolescents.

I am surprised that what seems so evident to me has taken so long to become ‘legitimized’ by a study on the deleterious effects of being bullied by siblings. I say it is about time!

Another article appeared in the Sunday, June 23, 2013 issue of Parade magazine, “The Science of Siblings:  Oh, Brother!” and the impact, both positive and negative, that sisters and brothers have on their siblings, from babyhood to adulthood. Doesn’t it make sense that the ones you spend formative years with would be the ones who influence you the most? Is it not a no-brainer that if you treat someone with respect and kindness rather than with abuse, that person has an idea how one should be treated and how one should treat others? As is, an abused child is a traumatized person, and all manners of defensive behavior are necessary just for daily survival if the perpetuator lives in the same house. And that child grows to be an adult burdened by the dysfunctional behavior of being either victim or bully.

Bullies are not weeds that pop up in a rose bed--a bully is nurtured by implicit approval of his parents and peers. I have long advocated for the abused child victimized by a sibling through physical intimidation, assault and mental cruelty. All too often the bullying is dismissed as “part of the childhood experience.” What part of bullying would be beneficial to a child?  By the time the person reaches adulthood, he has suffered a variety of pains, the least of which is anxiety, or depression and most likely, anger and physical torment. This kind of baggage really does weigh a person down, stunting creative and emotional health, as well as one’s physical and mental health. And patterns of abuse are repeated throughout relationships, both as a victim and as a bully.
I make a “big deal” out of this because I want to emphasize how important it is for the parents and caregivers to stop aggressive behavior in the cradle, in the home, on the playground and in schools. It is imperative for the well-being of our children, who become the adults that vote, teach, bear offspring and pass on both genetically and learned behaviors. This is a wake-up call for parents, caregivers and educators!
*(the link: http://www.foxnews.com/health/2013/06/17/sibling-bullying-is-under-recognized-study-finds/#ixzz2XAfGwHhw)

Monday, July 8, 2013

Bullies AND Victims Could Improve Their Problem Solving Skills

Found this excellent article by Dr. Michele Borba with specific suggestions on how to work with children on conflict resolution and problem solving to help them not become bullies or victims. The article includes specific suggestions and techniques.

Teaching Problem Solving to Reduce Bullying
by Michele Borba

How to teach kids problem solving skills. Why doing so can predict and prevent bullying

“Let’s flip a coin to decide.”
“Everybody breathe a minute, then we can take turns.”
“Why don’t we just both think of another choice?”

Parents and teachers have always recognized the benefits of kids learning to work together to solve their problems. After all, using those problem-solving skills is one of the best ways to help kids and teens alike curb sibling wars, friendship tiffs, teammate squabbles, playground battles as well as handle the social jungle.

Problem solving is also a key habit to boost our children’s resilience, self-esteem, peacemaking, social skills, as well as character.

New research by the American Psychological Association reveals another huge plus to teaching kids problem solving: Teaching kids how to solve problems may prevent bullying and reduce children’s chances of being victimized.

Tuesday, July 2, 2013

Karen Klein Passes Along the Kindness

Do you remember Karen Klein, the NY bus monitor who was bullied by four teenage boys last year? The camera phone video of her ordeal went viral on YouTube and thousands of people expressed disbelief and outrage at the treatment she received. Others expressed outrage at the outpouring of monetary support that Mrs. Klein received from 32,000 people around the world.

Mrs. Klein has not spent the last year sitting on her laurels. She's retired from her job, taken a vacation, helped her family, and used a portion of the money she received to start the Karen Klein Anti-Bullying Foundation to support various anti-bullying activities around the world.

Yahoo News: Bullied NY bus monitor teaches kindness year later
GREECE, N.Y. (AP) — No new carpet or furniture for the home she's lived in for 46 years. No fancy car in the driveway.

After being gifted a life-changing sum following a school bus bullying episode seen around the world a year ago, former bus monitor Karen Klein says she really hasn't changed all that much.

Sure, the "Today" show mug she drinks coffee from reminds her of the widespread media attention her story brought, and the occasional stranger wants to snap her picture.

She's also retired, something the 69-year-old widow couldn't afford before.

But Klein, who drove a school bus for 20 years before spending three years as a monitor, remains as unassuming as she was before learning firsthand how the kindness of strangers can trump the cruelty of four adolescent boys.

Read the entire article here>>