Category: Leaders

Urgent legislative action for today

Mobbing at work

Lead sponsor Rep. Ellen Story requests that we flood Chairman of Bills & Third Reading Theodore Speliotis with phone calls. Call him at 617-722-2410 BY THE END OF TODAY, FRIDAY, APRIL 1 and politely ask him to release House Bill 1771 for Third Reading.


A new way to bring attention to workplace bullying


To build awareness for workplace bullying, advocate Torii Bottomley imagined and managed the “Massachusetts: Face Workplace Bullying” art display: 14 faces of workplace bullying targets with their moving stories. (Watch Torii’s story.)

Says Torii on the Inside Out project website:

Work shouldn’t hurt! Research shows bully bosses target the MOST SUCCESSFUL employees out of envy for their skills and ethics. This abuse comes at a proven cost to every state’s economy. We call on the great state of Massachusetts, with a history of “firsts” in progressive legislature, to FACE WORKPLACE BULLYING. By passing the Massachusetts Healthy Workplace Bill, the abusers, not the state, will be economically responsible for their actions!

Torii is booking locations across Massachusetts for the art display. Email Torii at if you know of:

A free location in your area to display 14 large posters (and a contact name and email, if you have it).

A contact at any of these locations recommended on by our advocates:

  • Boston City Hall
  • Boston Public Library
  • A college anywhere in the state
  • MA DOT Outside Advertising Agency
  • State House (Nurses Hall)

What we can learn from Rosa Parks to pass anti-workplace bullying legislation

From the Huffington Post

When we think of the civil rights movement, we think of Rosa Parks’ courage and Dr. Martin Luther King Jr.’s charisma. We imagine their actions prompting change. But was history really that simple? If not, what really brought about social change?

In his Huffington Post blog post “How Change Happens: The Real Story of Mrs. Rosa Parks & The Montgomery Bus Boycott,” Paul Schmitz reveals what really happened to bring about social change during the civil rights movement:

Rosa Parks’ early years
Rosa Parks was the granddaughter of slaves “whose grandfather taught her to be brave during a wave of racial violence in 1919.” She was quiet but tough and strong-willed. When pushed, she fought back and wouldn’t back down. She married Raymond Parks in 1932. Raymond Parks was a politically active barber who stood up to racism and “was the first man Rosa deemed radical enough to marry.”

Her work with the NAACP
In 1942, E.D. Nixon registered Rosa and Raymond to vote. Nixon “increased the rolls of African American voters from 31 to more than 700.” With reluctance, Rosa Parks went to her first NAACP meeting in 1943 and stayed active with the group for more than a decade. Nixon became the first working class man to run for President of the NAACP. “She considered him the first person beside her family and Raymond who was truly committed to freedom,” says Schmitz.

While in the NAACP, Rosa Parks received leadership training from Ella Baker at events in Jacksonville, Atlanta, and Washington D.C.. Baker encouraged Parks to create an NAACP Youth Council in Montgomery. And Parks did just that. She encouraged teens to challenge segregation and write letters and took on bigger roles in the NAACP, leading marches and voter registration drives.

Parks networked, enlisting help or receiving inspiration from:

  • Fred Gray, a young attorney who Parks got involved with civil rights cases
  • Clifford and Virginia Durr, white liberals who funded Parks’ attendance at a workshop on civil rights
  • Myles Horton, the director of the school where the workshop was held
  • Septima Clark, the lead instructor who mentored Parks
  • Claudette Colvin, the 15 year-old secretary of her Youth Council who refused to move to the back of the bus and was arrested. Parks and Mrs. Durr raised money for her case.
  • Mary Louise Smith, another Youth Council member who refused to move to the back of the bus and was arrested.

The famous bus boycott
On December 1, 1955, Parks refused to give up her seat to a white person on a bus and was arrested. “The same bus driver, James Blake, had thrown Mrs. Parks off his bus in 1943 for refusing to move. She said ‘I had felt for a long time that if I was ever told to get up so a white person could sit, that I would refuse to do so,'” says Schmitz.

Parks was no accidental activist. She wasn’t simply a tired seamstress who just wanted to rest after a hard day at work. She was a civil rights leader. “She often said that the only thing she was tired of was being segregated and mistreated.”

The difference between Parks and her Youth Council members was that Parks was middle class and a respectable plaintiff to challenge segregation. After much debate, Rosa and Raymond Parks chose to step up to the challenge knowing they’d lose everything.

Mrs. Parks called Fred Gray, who she had had lunch with that day, and asked him to represent her. Mr. Gray called Jo Ann Robinson, a leader of The Women’s Political Council, a group of African American women who had been calling for a bus boycott. Ms. Robinson called E.D. Nixon, and they agreed to call a bus boycott for Monday, the day of Mrs. Parks’ arraignment. Along with another staff member and two students, she used the mimeograph machine overnight at Alabama State College to print more than 15,000 fliers…. This was especially risky since the university was funded by the segregationist state legislature. The Women’s Political Council members met her at dawn and fanned the community with the fliers Friday morning.

Bringing in Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr.
On Friday morning, E.D. Nixon called Rev. Ralph Abernathy of First Baptist Church and asked him to pull the pastors together that night for a meeting. “Rev. Abernathy suggested that he call the newest pastor in town, Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr., at Dexter Avenue Baptist Church because he had no set alliances, enemies, and had little to lose if things didn’t work out. Dr. King was reluctant at first but eventually agreed with prodding from Rev. Abernathy. About 50 pastors met Friday night with Mrs. Parks and Ms. Robinson. They agreed to support the boycott from their pulpits on Sunday and announce a mass meeting for Monday night,” says Schmitz.

A white pastor Robert Graetz became highly involved but was an outcast among whites in Montgomery. Connected with Parks, Graetz helped get Time Magazine to cover the movement.

A growing movement
On Saturday, Parks hit a setback when only five students attended an NAACP leadership training. Two days later, the empty buses and the streets filled with African American citizens walking to school and work restored her hope.

Dr. King led the movement because businessman Rufus Lewis didn’t want E.D. Nixon to lead it. So he nominated his pastor, Dr. King, arguing he was a neutral choice. “That night, 15,000 people attended a mass meeting, and new 26 year old MIA President Dr. King’s prophetic oratory inspired them to commit to the boycott. Mrs. Parks never spoke or was consulted on strategy. Sexism and a desire to make her sound more sympathetic converted the experienced activist into a ‘tired seamstress,'” says Schmitz.

Dr. King assigned Rev. Bernard Simms and Rufus Lewis to put together a transportation plan that involved 350 cars providing thousands of rides a day for twelve months. A. Phillip Randolph, leader of the Brotherhood of Sleeping Car Porters union and dean of America’s civil rights leadership, helped out. Outsider Bayard Rustin mentored Nixon, Robinson, Parks, and King on nonviolent civil disobedience throughout the campaign.

More organizers raised funds for the movement. One fundraising event brought out 16,000 people. “Rosa Parks spoke and got to meet many leaders including Eleanor Roosevelt, who wrote about Mrs. Parks in her weekly newspaper column,” says Schmitz.

The end of segregation
Because Rosa Parks’ husband was active in an effort financed by the Community Party, leaders decided Rosa Parks might be a controversial plaintiff. “So another woman who had refused to move to the back of the bus was chosen to be the lead plaintiff, Aurelia Browder. Along with Claudette Colvin, Mary Louise Smith, and one other victim Susan McDonald, the case Browder vs. Gayle went to the Supreme Court, and on November 13, 1956, they struck down segregation. On December 20, 1956, 382 days after Mrs. Parks’ courageous stand, the boycott was over, and the Montgomery buses were integrated,” explains Schmitz.

What Rosa Parks’ story teaches us about social change
Rosa Parks didn’t solely lead the Montgomery Bus Boycott. Dr. King didn’t either. So who did? From Fred Gray to Aurelia Browder, they all led social change. “In our culture, we love stories about lone heroes, the single protagonist who overcomes obstacles to achieve his or her goal makes a better movie. The true story of change, however, is always far more complex. One could add many more names to this story or analyze any other social change effort and find a similar network of leaders. It does not diminish the courage of Mrs. Parks or the prophetic vision of Dr. King to acknowledge that their leadership was part of a larger leadership narrative,” says Schmitz. “But leadership is an action everyone can take, not a position few can hold, and there are ways each of us can step up to work for change we believe in.”

Leadership is a muscle that everyone has, and it only gets stronger with exercise and practice. Everyone has different gifts and can play different roles, but we need to build collective leadership muscle if we want to create change. When the Montgomery police interrogated Claudette Colvin about who was behind the boycott, she responded “Our leaders is just we ourselves.” That should be our call to action.

Find out how you can help pass anti-workplace bullying legislation. Or create your own way.

How Rhode Island is going up against workplace bullying

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A determined and persistent Massachusetts Healthy Workplace Bill advocate, Rhode Island Healthy Workplace Bill co-coordinator Jessica Stensrud has made a strong start with introducing the Healthy Workplace Bill in Rhode Island. She’s made important connections with key organizations and met with Rhode Island legislators to introduce the bill in the State House.

Rhode Island needs a legislative sponsor
Here in Massachusetts, we’re heading into the second year of a two-year legislative session. But in Rhode Island, January marks the beginning of their legislative session. Jessica’s proactively calling legislators to get one to introduce the Healthy Workplace Bill in Rhode Island, but she needs your help.

Legislators respond to their own constituents. So if you live in Rhode Island, here’s how you can help her:

  1. Find your legislators.
  2. Email them by January 1 to ask if they will introduce the anti-workplace bullying Healthy Workplace Bill in the Rhode Island legislature. Send them a link to the language of the bill in Massachusetts:
  3. If he or she says yes, comment below so Jessica can followup.

If you work in Rhode Island but live in Massachusetts, you can let your co-workers who live in Rhode Island know about the bill and ask them to contact their legislators.

How Rhode Island’s work helps Massachusetts (and vice versa)
While passage of the Healthy Workplace Bill in any state will help all states progress with the bill, Massachusetts and Rhode Island working together helps both states progress with the bill. Since many Rhode Islanders work in Massachusetts, and many Massachusetts residents work in Rhode Island, spreading the word in either state allows residents of both states to urge their legislators to pass the bill.

If you live in either state, visit the Rhode Island Healthy Workplace Bill website to find out how you can help pass the bill.

How to stop sheepwalking at work


Seth Godin defines sheepwalking as “the outcome of hiring people who have been raised to be obedient and giving them brain-dead jobs and enough fear to keep them in line.” These are the people who don’t question their purpose at work, who color inside the lines, and are compliant with managers who lead by fear.

“The fault doesn’t lie with the employee, at least not at first,” says Godin in his book Tribes.

But what happens when you instead build or work for an organization that treats people with respect and trust? Simply put, “when you hire amazing people and give them freedom, they do amazing stuff,” explains Godin.

A simple test for sheepwalking
Godin says that a thermostat is far more valuable than a thermometer. Here’s the difference:

  • A thermometer points out when something is broken. “They criticize or point out or just whine,” says Godin.
  • A thermostat, on the other hand, changes the environment based on the outside world. “Every organization needs at least one thermostat. These are leaders who can create change in response to the outside world, and do it consistently over time,” asserts Godin. And a thermostat doesn’t have to be at the top to make change.

How to escape sheepwalking
Godin outlines a three-step process for stopping sheepwalking:

  1. Recognize the behavior as sheepwalking. Are you passionate about solving new problems and work and given the freedom, respect, and trust to do so? If not, you’re sheepwalking.
  2. Realize you can stop. If you’re a sheepwalker, you can claim the career you deserve by not walking down the same path everyone else does.
  3. Embrace passion and drive. If you teach or hire, reward passion and drive. “Great leaders embrace deviants by searching for them and catching them doing something right,” says Godin. If you’re sheepwalking, look to work at a company that exhibits company growth and believe in yourself. In a more positive environment that helps you make a difference, you’ll be more productive and happier.

“Think for a second about the people you know who are engaged, satisfied, eager to get to work. Most of them, I bet, make change. They challenge the status quo and push something forward—something they believe in. They lead,” says Godin. “You don’t have enough time to be both unhappy and mediocre. It’s not just pointless—it’s painful. Instead of wondering when your next vacation is, maybe you ought to setup a life you don’t need to escape from.”

We’re rewriting the rules

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Inspired by Professor and anti-workplace bullying Healthy Workplace Bill Author David Yamada’s blog post “Tribes for brewing ideas and engaging in positive change,” I read Tribes: We Need You to Lead Us (2008) over the holiday weekend. And I continued to feel inspired by author Seth Godin’s words.

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Key takeaways:

Organizations that kill the status quo win. Destroying the status quo makes people notice, and we have the chance to rewrite the rules before someone else does, without fear. “The riskiest thing you can do is play it safe,” says Godin.

You engage when you want something to improve. You have passion. You realize that you’re leading in this cause because of what you can do for the tribe, not because of what the tribe can do for you. “It’s the microleaders in the trenches and their enthusiastic followers who make the difference,” asserts Godin. “Few people are willing to go through the discomfort required to lead. This scarcity makes leadership valuable. In other words, if everyone could do it, they would.”

Ignore the non-engagers. All we need for a tribe is followers. Everyone else can ignore us or disagree or move on. Growth happens when “you work hard to appeal to folks who aren’t most people,” Godin says.

We’re part of something bigger. Increasing awareness about workplace bullying with the goal of passing the Healthy Workplace Bill means that we’re part of something bigger and more meaningful than our individual lives.

It’s not just a bill — it’s a movement

7K0A0597At one point in time, it was normal for women not to vote. But advocacy changed the common way of thinking. It wasn’t just a change of law. It was a movement.

While we want the Healthy Workplace Bill passed, we’re also changing the common way of thinking about employees — that employees’ mental well-being matters. We’re not just saying that a bill needs to pass. We’re moving the needle, each one of us, one by one, to say that mental health matters at work. We’ll look back on this movement and think how absurd it is that workplace bullying is allowed — just as we think not allowing women to vote was absurd.

There’s been recent talk and action from experts on the Healthy Workplace Bill to take the issue to an anti-workplace bullying movement level.

The vision
Imagine workplaces based on mutual respect. Places where people can contribute and feel valued and important. Where workplace bullying isn’t acceptable, but growth and support are. How do we get there? What might the roadmap look like?

Let’s take a look at other social ills: murder, rape, domestic violence. At first we deemed these problems to be problems, then made them illegal. We looked at how to help victims and families of victims. Then the conversation went deeper. We started asking more questions: how do murderers become murderers? What motivates a domestic abuser? How do we prevent crimes from happening in the first place? Aside from accountability through law, what tools do we need? Here is a possible next step in the road toward healthier workplaces:

Analysis of the bully AND the target. We have insights about what types of people get bullied at work: highly competent and highly ethical. Maybe even those who had a bullying parent. But what about the bully? Is it simply insecurity that causes bullying? Or psychopathic tendencies? Or family modeling? Or a combination? More research can help us understand both the target and the bully and move the conversation from mostly how to deal with a workplace bully to more on what makes a workplace bully and how to prevent it.

What are your ideas for the next step in the healthy workplace vision?