Planning an event to tell others about workplace bullying is now even easier

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Now creating events to educate others about workplace bullying is even easier. Plan an event in your area through this simple tool:

  • Flyering at commuter rail lots, outside T stations, outside hospitals, and in parking lots of companies that allow workplace bullying
  • Gathering at your home or local coffee shop
  • Get a group of teachers, nurses, or other workers to go to the State House to speak with legislators as a group
  • Running with a group at a 5k wearing “end workplace bullying” t-shirts
  • Sign-holding event
  • Support group
  • Tabling at a local event
  • Other events as you see fit

Access the brand-new event-planning tool and plan or join an event.

Find out how many people took their lives from job problems in Massachusetts

Punishment at work

The National Violent Death Reporting System (NVDRS) reports the number of suicides associated with job problems in Massachusetts per year:

2009: 79
2010: 84
2011: 53
2012: 58
2013: 48

What this data says

These stats tell us a total of 322 people took their lives from job problems over five years. And we know that workplace bullies drove at least some of these people to suicide.

A study published in the American Journal of Public Health last September revealed that bullied targets are twice as likely to have suicidal thoughts than those who were never bullied. Pioneer Heinz Leymann estimated that 10 percent of those bullied take their lives, according to the Workplace Bullying Institute (WBI) article “The very real link between workplace bullying and suicide: Twice as likely to contemplate suicide.”

Researchers defined bullying as harassment, badgering, and freezing out that:

  • Occurred repeatedly over a period of time.
  • Involved two parties in which one had a higher ranking than the other.

It happens so often that there’s now a term for it. “Bullycide” happens when the cause of suicide is attributable to the victim having been bullied.

How workplace bullying can lead any of us to suicide (“bullycide”)

Researchers also tested to see if qualities of workplace bullying targets warranted uninvited psychological assaults. They found nothing: zero data to support reason to blame the victim. In other words, targets are not simply those with exploited weakness.

In fact, evidence shows the opposite. Targets are often high performing, highly ethical employees whose competence poses a threat to their low performing, low ethical bosses. The bully’s only real motivator is to battle the target while having the upper hand – an unethical tactic used to uphold the image they long for but are unable to get through competence:

  • They abuse their power. They care about hurting, manipulating, controlling, and eliminating the target (generally after two years after the employee’s start date). They are kiss up, kick down managers who are masters of deception.
  • They deceive others into thinking the target is the problem. They use the emotional abuse they caused to convince others that the target is mentally ill, setting the stage for mobbing, in which coworkers join in to isolate the target.

A bully’s typical recipe:

  1. The bully initially repeatedly reprimands the better than average target for trivial matters and those that would be described completely differently by the target. The bully repeatedly puts the target down.
  2. The bully convinces others that the target is incompetent, so others can begin to shun the target and unwittingly participate in the emotional abuse.
  3. The bully drives the target to go to report the problem to the bully’s boss or to Human Resources and then escalates the bully behavior.
  4. The bully makes their tactics so outrageous that the target’s support system (family and friends) doesn’t believe the target and can’t offer advice. Then these family and friends become tired of hearing the target obsessively repeat issues that can’t be resolved.
  5. The target is now very much alone and increasingly vulnerable to suicide. Targets try everything and then give up hope. If not stopped, the prolonged abuse causes depression and often suicidal thoughts. “Targets who sense that they’re about to be fired and cannot cope with that eventuality are vulnerable to suicide,” adds reporter Natasha Wallace in her article  “Suicide, When Related to Workplace Bullying.”

“There is a body of research identifying bullied targets as more emotional than others. But anxious personalities are not rare in our society. Witness the prevalence of anti-depressant drugs prescribed,” says WBI.

Our false perceptions of suicide

The public often finds fault with the people who take their lives. And mental health folks rarely understand the severity of abusive conduct at work’s effect on targets’ lives, so they discount the contribution of abuse at work and instead point to family and financial matters as root cause.

But the reality is that workplace bullying can cause a target to abandon hope over time, to not see a future or alternatives. Abuse tactics are often so outrageous that no one believes the target when a bully attacks. They think the target must have done something wrong or exaggerates. Then abandonment by coworkers and impatience of family members and friends lead to utter loneliness and despair. When everything they try fails, they lose all hope. “Bullying causes severe health harm, much more acute than is experienced by those sexually harassed. Anxiety (80%); panic attacks (52%); depression (49%); PTSD diagnosis (30%); suffering intrusive thoughts/flashbacks (50%); sleep disorders (77%); hypertension (59%) to name some of the negative health consequences,” adds the WBI.

These responses are the natural. “Depression is caused by the unremitting abusive conduct. And their lives unravel if it is not stopped…. It is the nature of the human stress response. With prolonged exposure to distress, changes in the brain occur. Thanks to modern neuroscience studies of social phenomena like ostracism, stress, and bullying, we know that atrophy of key areas of the brain impair decision making. Thus, it is highly likely that a brain flooded with steroidal glucocorticoids is not capable of clear, rational thinking. Suicide is the result of the failure to imagine alternatives to one’s current reality,” adds WBI.



Write your legislators to let them know workplace bullying needs consequences.
It’s plain and simple: people are dying over workplace bullying. It needs to stop. We need a law. The time is now.

How to know if you might have PTSD after workplace bullying

Stressed business woman

Workplace bullying can often lead to post-traumatic stress disorder (PTSD). According to the Mayo Clinic, “symptoms may start within three months of a traumatic event, but sometimes symptoms may not appear until years after the event. These symptoms cause significant problems in social or work situations and in relationships.”

PTSD symptoms are generally grouped into four types:

Intrusive memories

Symptoms of intrusive memories may include:

  • Recurrent, unwanted distressing memories of the traumatic event
  • Reliving the traumatic event as if it were happening again (flashbacks)
  • Upsetting dreams about the traumatic event
  • Severe emotional distress or physical reactions to something that reminds you of the event

Avoidance

Symptoms of avoidance may include:

  • Trying to avoid thinking or talking about the traumatic event
  • Avoiding places, activities, or people that remind you of the traumatic event

Negative changes in thinking and mood

Symptoms of negative changes in thinking and mood may include:

  • Negative feelings about yourself or other people
  • Inability to experience positive emotions
  • Feeling emotionally numb
  • Lack of interest in activities you once enjoyed
  • Hopelessness about the future
  • Memory problems, including not remembering important aspects of the traumatic event
  • Difficulty maintaining close relationships

Changes in emotional reactions

Symptoms of changes in emotional reactions (also called arousal symptoms) may include:

  • Irritability, angry outbursts, or aggressive behavior
  • Always being on guard for danger
  • Overwhelming guilt or shame
  • Self-destructive behavior, such as drinking too much or driving too fast
  • Trouble concentrating
  • Trouble sleeping
  • Being easily startled or frightened

The Mayo Clinic advises to see a doctor when “you have disturbing thoughts or feelings about a traumatic event for more than a month, if they’re severe, or if you feel you’re having trouble getting your life back under control.”

Workplace bullying is allegedly rampant at tech giant Apple

How the film “Sully” brings attention to workplace bullying

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Photo from “Sully” movie trailer

We all know Sully as the pilot who safely landed all 155 U.S. Airways passengers on the Hudson River after a bird strike knocked out both engines. What most of us didn’t know is that while we celebrated Sully as a hero, the National Transportation Safety Board (NTSB) grilled Sully and First Officer Jeff Skiles about why they didn’t fly the plane back to LaGuardia or to a nearby airport in New Jersey and instead destroyed the aircraft.

Sounds like bullying? It is. Here are two ways the NTSB bullied Sully:

  1. Excessively harsh criticism. It’s one thing to conduct an investigation. It’s another thing to expect superhuman outcomes. It’s pathetic that Sully was put in a position to point out that both flight simulations landing safely at the two airports removed the 35 second human element of making quick analyses and decisions under extreme stress.
  2. Discounting achievements. Sully also pointed out that pilots aren’t trained for the specific circumstances they encountered that day. When the NTSB added 35 second buffers back into the simulations, both planes crashed. So not only did Sully and Skiles make a smart decision, but they also successfully executed a water landing with no serious injuries or fatalities. And had to defend themselves at a hearing at which the NTSB initialy arued otherwise.

How the film shows the common theme in workplace bullying

The film perfectly and simply illustrates the greedy, often selfish powers vs. the ethical and competent worker who is held to superhuman standards theme generally played out in workplace bullying cases. “We can see the insanity of reducing a human being to a computer construct in order to assign blame for the monetary loss. Targets are lied to about who they are,” said Rhode Island Healthy Workplace Bill coordinator Jessica Stensrud. “It’s all too typical of the corporate-controlled, money-focused digital world we live in. People blame others for being human instead of rewarding them. Computer tracking makes it easy to go after workers for doing their jobs and often doing them well.”

How Sully is different from other workplace bullying targets

Sully had a chance to exonerate himself by pointing out the 35 second human error discrepancy. But most workplace bullying targets don’t have that chance. They carry anger, rage, and undeserved shame with them to the detriment of their health, lifestyles, careers, and families.

 

We give kudos to director and producer Clint Eastwood for bringing attention to the idea that workers are more than a means to money. We’re human beings who should be celebrated for caring about other people instead of only valued for what we bring to boss’ wallets.

Find out exactly when to contact your state legislators about anti-workplace bullying legislation right in your inbox

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In January and throughout the two-year legislative process, we’ll look to reach you to let you know when it’s go-time to contact your legislators. And in some cases, we’ll only need to let some of you know because we’ll need to urge just your rep or senator. Or you might miss our Facebook posts and miss out on a crucial timeframe for emailing or calling your legislators.

So we ask you to sign up for our email legislative alert system. That way you won’t have to be on the lookout on Facebook to know when it’s time to contact your legislators. The message will show up in your inbox.

And we need as many contacts as possible so we can contact our legislators at key times and get this bill passed this session. So share this message.

Sign up now.

Make workplace bullying a household term

Woman with loudspeaker

To get more media coverage of workplace bullying, we need your help. Below are publications we’d like to target to run stories on workplace bullying and how it destroys lives. We ask you to email, write messages on Facebook pages, and post tweets using their Twitter handles asking them to cover the topic, to share your story, or to share facts about workplace bullying.

This list is by no means exhaustive. If you know of other publications, especially suitable non-English publications, comment on this post, and we’ll add them to this list and ask others to reach out to the publishers:

NATIONAL

60 Minutes
60m@cbsnews.com
audsvcs@cbs.com
https://www.facebook.com/60minutes/
@60minutes

AlterNet
https://www.facebook.com/AlterNetNews/
@AlterNet

The Atlantic
https://www.facebook.com/TheAtlantic/
@TheAtlantic

ATTN
https://www.facebook.com/attn/
@ATTN

Cosmopolitan
https://www.facebook.com/Cosmopolitan/
@cosmopolitan

The Daily Beast
https://www.facebook.com/thedailybeast/
@thedailybeast

The Dr. Oz Show
https://www.facebook.com/droz/
@droz

Family Circle
https://www.facebook.com/familycirclemag/
@FamilyCircleMag

Glamour
https://www.facebook.com/glamour/
@glamourmag

Good Housekeeping
https://www.facebook.com/GOODHOUSEKEEPING/
@goodhousemag

Good Morning America
https://www.facebook.com/GoodMorningAmerica/
@GMA

HuffPost Impact
https://www.facebook.com/HuffPostImpact/
@HuffPostImpact

Huffington Post Politics
https://www.facebook.com/HuffPostPolitics/
@HuffPostPol

HuffPost Women
https://www.facebook.com/HuffPostWomen/
@HuffPostWomen

The Katie Couric Show
https://www.facebook.com/katiecouric/
@katiecouric

The LA Times
https://www.facebook.com/latimes/
@latimes

Ladies’ Home Journal
https://www.facebook.com/lhjmagazine/
@LHJmagazine

Mic
https://www.facebook.com/MicMedia/
@Mic

The New York Times
https://www.facebook.com/nytimes/
@nytimes

The New Yorker
https://www.facebook.com/newyorker/
@newyorker

Newsweek
https://www.facebook.com/Newsweek/
@newsweek

Oprah Winfrey Network
https://www.facebook.com/ownTV/
@owntv

The Other 98%
https://www.facebook.com/TheOther98/
@TheOther98

PBS
https://www.facebook.com/pbs/
@pbs

POLITICO
https://www.facebook.com/politico/
@politico

Prevention
https://www.facebook.com/preventionmagazine/
@preventionmag

The Raw Story
https://www.facebook.com/TheRawStory/
@therawstory

Reader’s Digest
https://www.facebook.com/ReadersDigest/
@readersdigest

Redbook
https://www.facebook.com/REDBOOK/
@redbookmag

Salon
https://www.facebook.com/salon/
@salon

Slate
https://www.facebook.com/Slate/
@slate

The Talk
https://www.facebook.com/TheTalkCBS/
@TheTalkCBS

Time
https://www.facebook.com/time/
@TIME

The Today Show
TodayStories@nbcuni.com
https://www.facebook.com/today/
@TODAYShow

Truthout
https://www.facebook.com/Truthout.org/
@truthout

Upworthy
https://www.facebook.com/Upworthy/
@Upworthy

USA Today
https://www.facebook.com/usatoday/
@usatoday

The View
https://www.facebook.com/TheView/
@TheView

Vox
https://www.facebook.com/Vox/
@voxdotcom

Washington Post
https://www.facebook.com/washingtonpost/
@washingtonpost

Woman’s Day
https://www.facebook.com/womansdaymagazine/
@womansday

Women in the World
https://www.facebook.com/WOMENinWORLD/
@WomenintheWorld

The Young Turks
https://www.facebook.com/TheYoungTurks/
@theyoungturks

 

BOSTON

Boston Globe
https://www.facebook.com/globe/
@bostonglobe

Boston Public Radio
https://www.facebook.com/BostonPublicRadio/
@bospublicradio

Greater Boston
https://www.facebook.com/GreaterBoston/
@greaterboston

Metro Boston
https://www.facebook.com/MetroBoston/
@metrobos