Category: Advocating

Phonebank to make workplace bullying illegal

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Using voter data to reach out face-to-face or on the phone is the most effective way to get people to act. So we researched towns where sick leave passed most overwhelmingly in the 2014 gubernatorial election to identify those towns where voters would most likely contact their state legislators about workplace anti-bullying law (in yellow above). We’ll call voters in these areas so we can turn those yellow towns gray (where we currently have a state rep and/or state senator as a co-sponsor).

In this training, we’ll walk through:

  • The why behind the strategy
  • Who to call to urge to call their state legislators
  • What to say using a script you can customize

The goal: to get those state legislators for those yellow towns to support the workplace anti-bullying Healthy Workplace Bill to get enough of a backing in the State House to pass the bill.

When: Wednesday, June 21, 7-8pm
Where: Community Room at Morse Institute Library, 14 E. Central Street, Natick, MA

(If you can’t make that night or if Natick is too far away for you, comment on the event with where and what weeknights might work for you in general. If we have enough interest, we’ll schedule either another location or an online training.)

Sign up »

Broadway’s “Sweat” addresses workplace culture — and says we need to take care of each other

Sweat

The New York Times calls Lynn Nottage’s Broadway hit “Sweat” “the first work from a major American playwright to summon, with empathy and without judgment, the nationwide anxiety that helped put Donald J. Trump in the White House.” But the play that won Nottage the Pulitzer Prize also addresses the culture under which workplace bullying festers.

“Sweat” tells the story of factory workers in a poor Pennsylvania city and their struggle to stay afloat financially while their steel factory declines. In Nottage’s heartbreaking story set almost entirely in a bar, characters clearly relay their distinct points of view with both compassion and rage. Each character represents an overarching issue — class, race, or immigration — while she fights for her hard-earned piece of the pie.

The show ends with a major insight about our culture: when one character experiences a life transformation due to an event, one character says “it’s nice that you take care of him.” And the other character responds “that’s how it oughta be.”

It’s not just workers in declining factories who experience fighting for a piece of the pie. It’s workers in workplaces throughout the nation who claw at each other (often in the form of workplace bullying) in competitive cutthroat cultures modeled at the top of organizations. Rather than collaborate for the collective success of the organization, workplace bullies fight for power, using abuse to push down workers whose competence and work ethic threaten their position and bringing down the organization’s potential. Studies support that managers who treat their employees like humans get better results.

If we want healthy workplaces, we need to start taking care of each other. That’s how it oughta be.

We’re ramping up efforts and getting strategic to end workplace bullying

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According to grassroots campaign strategists at a recent weekend-long Mass Alliance workshop we attended, using voter data to reach out face-to-face or on the phone is the most effective way to get people to act.

So we researched towns where sick leave passed most overwhelmingly in the 2014 gubernatorial election to identify those towns where constituents would most likely contact their state legislators about workplace anti-bullying law (in yellow above). We’re working on obtaining voter files to target voters in these areas via door-to-door and phone so we can turn those yellow towns gray (where we currently have a state rep and/or state senator as a co-sponsor).

We need as many people as possible to at least make phone calls to urge people to contact their state legislators. If you’d like to sign up to attend a training for phonebanking and going door-to-door in your area, email info@mahealthyworkplace.com, and we’ll touch base when we have a training location setup.

(If you’re willing to investigate the email addresses of school teachers in the yellow towns above [minus Boston], also email info@mahealthyworkplace.com and claim a town, then email a list of email addresses to the same address in the next month.)

Workplace bullying targets: you are badasses

Badass

Changing your life means figuring out what self-sabotaging beliefs and behaviors you have and instead creating a life you love. In the #1 New York Times Bestseller You Are A Badass, Life Coach Jen Sincero takes us on a journey through how to get rid of the garbage and how to say yes to the good life.

At the end of the day, …it’s about you believing you’re worthy of being loved and seen for who you really are.

Sincero explains:

When we agree to let ourselves down in favor of supporting the bad behavior of others, it often stems from the same impulse: We’re unwilling to make other people more uncomfortable than they just made us. Not terribly studly in the old self-love department, is it? By making them uncomfortable I mean declining to participate in their drama, by the way, not by being equally abusive back.

These insights don’t mean your reaction is to blame for your situation. Instead, you can make changes to get the sludge out of your life — for good.

Get the book (you won’t regret it) »

You heard the song about workplace bullying. Now watch the video.


With music on VH1, Oxygen, and Bravo, Musician Cheryl “Shellee Shae” Williams produced, wrote, and sang “Standing Ovation” to speak out against workplace bullying. Now she performs in the music video that tells the story of two workplace bullying targets who receive ridicule from bullies for their strong work ethics.

“I pitched stories of actual workplace bullied targets (some I know and others whose stories I’ve only heard), explaining the end goal of passing workplace legislation, to New York-based production team TOM ON THE WALL. Its founders — Chuy Gutierrez, Christian Ritter, J. Ian Sample, and Jorge Chapa — work with artists, directors, and creators on scripts, web series, commercials, videos, and short- and feature-length films. Their team wrote, directed, and conceptualized the theater vibe after hearing the song,” explains Williams. “They get a standing ovation for their tremendous work and for giving their time to help with such an important fight for change.”

“We’ll bring an end to workplace bullying when we focus on the problem,” says Williams.

A big thank you to Williams and TOM ON THE WALL for their inspiring work.

 

Be strategic: flyer before a Senate Session

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Now that the hearing in front of the Joint Committee on Labor and Workforce Development is over, we’re getting ready for next steps. Normally at this stage of the process, we’d be just past the third of eight steps, and next we’d land in the House. But this session, we’re hoping to jump to the Senate before the House to build support to end workplace bullying.

Here’s where you come in. Some of you live close enough to Boston and can make it to the State House in the morning without a problem. If you’re one of those people and have morning availability, we’re looking to you to help. Senators have both formal and informal sessions. We’re asking you to:

  1. Look at the Senate Session schedule and choose either type of session.
  2. Stand outside the Senate chamber around an hour or less before a session you choose and hand out these flyers to educate State Senators on workplace bullying and to put a face to the cause as they’re walking into the chamber. You don’t have to ask which ones are Senators. You can hand flyers out to aides or simply interested people. There are 40 State Senators, so bring around that many flyer copies or more for maximum impact.

You could hand out flyers every Senate Session, just once, or somewhere in between. Any time you’re willing to give will be a huge help in telling legislators that ending workplace bullying is still a priority and that there are actual, real people behind this cause looking to end the abuse.

It’s up to each of us in this all-volunteer group to do what we can to further this cause to end the suffering, so we thank you in advance if you decide to make the trek and reach out to legislators. If you do, we ask you to send us photos at info@mahealthyworkplace.com to help inspire others to take action.

In the meantime, feel free to write members of the Joint Committee on Labor and Workforce Development to thank them for listening to our testimony and urge them to read Senate Bill 1013 favorably out of committee:

Jason.Lewis@masenate.govPatricia.Jehlen@masenate.govSal.DiDomenico@masenate.govJohn.Keenan@masenate.govPatrick.OConnor@masenate.govPaul.Brodeur@mahouse.govTricia.Farley-Bouvier@mahouse.govJohn.Rogers@mahouse.govLiz.Malia@mahouse.govAaron.Vega@mahouse.govChristine.Barber@mahouse.govSteven.Ultrino@mahouse.govGerard.Cassidy@mahouse.govJuana.Matias@mahouse.govjoseph.mckenna@mahouse.govKeiko.Orrall@mahouse.gov

How one organization changed its culture to reduce workplace bullying and increase trust, fairness, and respect

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If you think workplace bullying is a bigger issue than managers often suspect, you’re right. Research supports that workplace bullying simply often goes unreported but it’s still happening. In their Employee Rights and Employee Policy Journal article, Researchers Loraleigh Keashly and Joel H. Neuman said a study of the VA healthcare system, the VA Project, showed a gap between those who experienced workplace bullying and those who reported it their experience to a supervisor. “Of the people identified as being exposed to bullying behavior (36 percent of the total sample), 53 reported their experience to a supervisor. An even smaller proportion (15 percent) filed a formal grievance.”

Possible reasons for not reporting bulling behavior at work:

  • Lack of awareness of what one is experiencing
  • Feeling each bullying incident is minor in isolation
  • Fear of being deemed “overly sensitive” or unable to adapt to the work culture
  • Feeling the organization isn’t supportive of employee concerns
  • Seeing others have been ignored for reporting bullying or had their complaints minimized and chalked up to a personality conflict, blamed, or retaliated against
  • The organization promotes a climate of fear

What organizations can do to address workplace bullying

So if workplace bullying is likely more prevalent in your workplace than data supports, what can your management team do? Keashly and Neuman point to a five-step plan that’s been proven to work:

  1. Collect data on the culture to know where to focus attention.
  2. Involve active participation at every level of the organization.
  3. Change the conversation in the organization in terms of content and process.
  4. Create a supportive atmosphere.
  5. Continuously monitor, evaluate, and adjust with every new implementation and new data collection.

A case study: the VA Project

Keashly and Neuman go back to the VA Project as an example of changing a work culture to reduce the number of workplace bullying incidents. The organization first gathered a group of employees — employees, leaders, union officials, and researchers — to inquire about the focal issues of stress and aggression. (They did not use expert consultants or programs.) This group used an “action-research cycle” in which they addressed actions as they occurred to understand context rather than evaluate after the fact.

Implementation

Setup

This phase required two crucial elements:

  1. Data to drive the process.
  2. Active participation from key stakeholders.

At each facility, management created joint management-labor groups, comprised of those who demonstrated leaderships skills, had credibility with employees, those who acted on ideas, and those who committed to learning — from various levels of the organizational hierarchy. These groups created their own action items.

Made up of academic partners and organizational personnel (management, union leadership, and employees), a core project team guided the overall project. This team gathered data on processes and practices, performance measures, and changes in these variables over time through employee surveys and HR data. The project team then trained the actions teams on how to collect and interpret data. Action teams implemented a Workplace Aggression Research Questionnaire. The goal: to track aggressive behaviors and determine their root causes — all in a timely manner.

Action teams shared both organizational-wide and facility-specific data with employees to analyze root cause. Then they tested root cause hypotheses through additional data collection. The result: action items to fix root cause, with zero guidance from the core project team.

When it comes to changing thoughts and behaviors to create a culture of fair treatment, respect, and valuing employees, the process is as important as the result. “Within the VA project, the ‘fix’ that we were looking for turned out to be the process that we were using to find the fix,” said Keashly and Neuman. In other words, the implementation phase helped move the culture to one of support, encouragement, action, and reflection.

Within the VA project, the “fix” that we were looking for turned out to be the process that we were using to find the fix.

Tools

During the process, team members asked their fellow team members to back up assumptions with data. Specifically, team members:

  • Encouraged each other to question hostile attributions when an unexpected or unpleasant situation occurred. Stopping to question motives without data on others’ motives encouraged employees to manage their aggression.
  • Used a “left-hand-column” exercise to document what another employee actually said vs. how they felt or what they thought based on what the employee said. The result: people shared their honest feelings on a more regular basis. Honest communication supports a culture of valuing, respect, and fairness.
  • Implemented a “stop-reflect-and-dialogue” approach. Periodically, team members stopped to reflect in silence about activities and their effectiveness during meetings. Then using a “talking stick,” each member shared their reflections without interruption, resulting in more carefully thought out comments and more active listening without trying to formulate a rebuttal or finding an opportunity to jump into the conversation.

Results

Data from surveying supported that the culture improved:

  • Less aggression. Hostile behaviors (swearing, gestures, yelling, kicking, hitting, threatening, and pushing, for example) improved.
  • Continued engagement and application. After three years of the project, all eleven remained engaged, with fewer disciplinary actions and more frequent application of skills to solve work-related problems and improve meeting quality.
  • Continued excitement. “If this were not enough, the success of the project — and the excitement of the people involved — is spreading within the VA,” said Keashly and Neuman.

Researchers concluded that reducing workplace bullying involves a Collaborative Social Space (CSS) — a safe space for engaging in open and honest inquiry that fosters trust, security, and quality interaction. Higher trust means less conflict and aggression. Ultimately, the atmosphere becomes one where trust and fair treatment are the norm, and bullying is inappropriate.

Reducing workplace bullying involves a Collaborative Social Space (CSS) — a safe space for engaging in open and honest inquiry that fosters trust, security, and quality interaction.

Keashly and Neuman look to organizational justice theory to explain how to sustain a CSS:

  • Distributive justice means what people invest has an equal ratio to the outcome. Outlining inputs and outcomes from the getgo creates a mutual understanding and reduces the likelihood of injustice and disappointment.
  • Procedural justice means fairness in the process. A process should involve suppressed bias, consistent allocations, accurate information, correctable steps, and inclusion of all recipient concerns and should be based on “the prevailing moral and ethical standards.” Procedural justice involves both procedures (inclusion in decision-making, for example) and interactional (sensitivity, politeness, and consideration).

“We believe that the VA Project is an example of an innovative, data-driven, and collaborative approach for reducing aggression at work,” said Keashly and Neuman.