Tagged: awareness

Three ways to end workplace bullying in Massachusetts this fall

Woman yelling into a bullhorn on an urban street

We just finished up a full two-year legislative session to get the anti-bullying Healthy Workplace Bill passed in Massachusetts. Some of you longtime advocates may be disappointed that a third session has gone by with no law passed. No law means more suffering, more stress, and even more suicide contemplation for workplace bullying targets.

But legislative change takes time and persistence. It takes education, awareness building, and passion. No social change happened overnight or even in just a couple years. School bullying legislation even took years to pass until the suicide of student Phoebe Prince catapulted the topic to an urgent level. (We’re looking for those stories.)

Where we’ve come
We’ve built huge momentum both inside and outside the State House:

  • Nearly 6,000 citizens to contact at each step in the two-year process
  • Almost 1/3 of the entire State Legislature as official bill sponsors in the last session, up from 1/5 of the entire State Legislature in the previous session

Screen Shot 2016-07-30 at 10.46.57 AMFive short months
We have five short months until the next legislative session in January. It’s not a time to take a breather. Just the opposite. It’s time to further build up our masses inside and outside the State House. While we’re working on the logistics of a planning meeting this fall to focus on outside the State House, we need to continue working on inside the State House in these three ways:

  1. Email tool. Here’s the easy part: all you need is about 10 seconds to email your state rep and senator using this incredibly simple tool. If you do nothing else, that’s a huge help.
  2. Legislator meetings. What would be even better is to meet with your legislators, or even just one of them, locally or at the State House. All legislators have local office hours and State House office hours. Schedule a meeting, share why you want the bill to pass, and know you’ve made a huge step toward making history. (If you can get a group of former or current colleagues or friends to go, even better.)
  3. Ripple effect. Share the email tool with colleagues and friends. The only thing simpler than using our email tool to write your legislators is to hit Share on this posting. You never know who the message will resonate with. If a friend shares with another friend, you might even take someone out of isolation or suicide contemplation. A little goes a long way.

Screen Shot 2016-07-30 at 9.57.36 AMStay tuned for information on our planning meeting. In the meantime, think about how you can help pass this bill.

And thank you for your efforts to help make workplace bullying illegal in Massachusetts. You’re already helping to make a difference in people’s lives when they learn the term “workplace bullying,” put a name to what they’re experiencing, and begin to heal.

Feeling disempowered at work? You might be a workplace bullying target

Bullying concept in workplace with angry and afraid eggs charact

Workplace bullying is repeated, health-harming mistreatment of targets by one or more perpetrators that takes one or more of the following forms:

  • Verbal abuse
  • Offensive conduct/behaviors (including nonverbal) which are threatening, humiliating, or intimidating
  • Work interference — sabotage — which prevents work from getting done.

Workplace bullying is often subtle. It is:

  • Driven by perpetrators’ need to control the targeted individual(s)
  • Initiated by bullies who choose targets, timing, place, and methods
  • Escalated to involve others who side with the bully, either voluntarily through coercion.
  • Undermining of legitimate business interests when bullies’ personal agendas take precedence over work itself
  • Domestic violence at work where the abuser is on the payroll.

A 2014 national survey by Zogby International and the Workplace Bullying Institute found that:

  • 27% of workers have experienced workplace bullying
  • 72% of employers who received complaints about workplace bullying either ignored the problem or made it worse
  • 56% of workplace bullies are supervisors

Bullies can be managers, supervisors, co-workers, or clients.

The bully’s target is usually a capable, dedicated person. 80% of targets are women.

Common bullying behaviors

  • False accusations of mistakes and errors
  • Yelling, shouting, and screaming
  • Exclusion and “the silent treatment”
  • Withholding resources and information necessary to the job
  • Behind-the-back sabotage and defamation
  • Use of put-downs, insults, and excessively harsh criticism
  • Unreasonably heavy work demands
  • Spreading rumors and gossip
  • Making offensive jokes or comments, verbally or in writing
  • Discounting achievements and stealing credit for ideas or work
  • Disciplining or threatening job loss without reason
  • Taking away work or responsibility without cause
  • Blocking requests for training, leave or promotion
  • Pestering, spying, stalking, or tampering with personal belongings and equipment

What bullying is not

  • Enforcing workplace policies and procedures
  • Evaluating or measuring performance
  • Providing constructive feedback
  • Denying training or leave requests with good reason
  • Discussing disciplinary action in private
  • Dismissing, suspending, demoting, or reprimanding with just cause

Why bullies bully

  • Sideline someone they feel is a threat (the target)
  • Further their own agenda at the expense of others
  • Deny responsibility for their own behavior
  • Mask their lack of confidence and low self-esteem

Types of harm from which targets suffer

  • Stress disorders of all types, including anxiety
  • Shock, anger, frustration, and helplessness
  • Clinical depression or suicidal thoughts
  • High blood pressure
  • Cardiovascular disease
  • Loss of sleep
  • Loss of focus, confidence, morale, and productivity
  • Eating too much or too little
  • Stomach pain
  • Headaches
  • Impaired immune systems
  • Symptoms consistent with Post Traumatic Stress Disorder
  • Destructive impact on family and personal relationships


3 major events where you can make a difference this summer and fall


For the first time in the history of the Healthy Workplace Bill in Massachusetts, we’ve been given a favorable reading out of the Joint Committee on Labor and Workforce Development with ample time (until June 2016) to get the bill through the next steps and passed into law. While one year gives us sufficient time, we by no means want to waste this opportunity to get the word out so we can get more people to contact their legislators and pass the bill into law.

Change starts with you
We’ll make history if we can get as many people as possible hitting the streets to get the word out. Here are three events we’ll flyer at (exact meetup locations to be announced):

3 signs you should join us for Flyer Day

On Wednesday, April 8, advocates across Massachusetts will download the Healthy Workplace Bill flyer, print out copies, and hit the pavement. Here are 3 signs you should join us:

You’re passionate about the bill. You want the bill to pass and will do what it takes to spread the word. You realize that we’re all volunteers, and the more we have, the more we’ll hit a tipping point with the bill.

You have a spot where you can flyer. Outside a T station, a commuter lot, a supermarket: pick a spot and either hand out flyers during rush hour or flyer cars between rush hours. If you’re not in the Boston area, flyer a supermarket or a section of the parking lot at a mall.

You have as little as 20 minutes. You don’t need to flyer all day or for even an hour, though if you have that kind of time to give, we’re appreciative. All it take is 20 minutes and a handful of flyers to get the message in the hands of even one person who will get it and spread the word to their contacts.

So join us. Let’s pass this bill.

What 2,737 means

2,737 is the number of contacts we’ve worked to build in the past two years — people both directly and indirectly affected by workplace abuse. It’s the ripple in the pond effect that happens when you’ve told one person about the bill, and he or she goes out and tells a few more people about the bill, and then those people tell more people about the bill. It’s also the number of people we’ll contact when we need a push to our legislators in the next two months.

The graph above shows how this ripple effect looks in website visits. Our daily visits have steadily increased over the past two years because you’ve helped spread the word.

The graph below shows where people in Massachusetts live who visited MAHealthyWorkplace.com. The larger circles represent a few hundred people. The Boston circle represents more than 1,000 people.

Thank you for helping us reach these big numbers, and never underestimate the ripple effect that telling one person about the bill can have.

Current Strategy

On May 30, we moved from a second reading to a third reading in the House. We now have two months — until July 31 — to complete the rest of the steps to turn the bill into law during this legislative session. What does having two months left mean for advocates? And why haven’t we had a strong push recently for contacting legislators?

Lobbyists push the Healthy Workplace Bill at the State House daily. They have strong insight into the politics that play a role into turning the bill into law. They’ll let us know the most effective strategy — a rally or push with calls and meetings with legislators, for example — and the best timing for that strategy in the next two months.

While we’re waiting for the best timing to act at the State House, we can act now to increase awareness in Massachusetts. In the next two months, we’ll continue to increase our contact lists to prepare to rally our volunteers. You can:

While bills generally take multiple two-year legislative sessions to become law, we’re hopeful that 2012 is the year that we’ll have a law in Massachusetts. We know that many bills become law at the end of the session. But we also know that we need to do everything we can now to turn the bill into law.


We’ve come a long way since the Massachusetts Healthy Workplace Advocates had their first hearing at the State House in 2010, halfway into the two-year legislative session. But we introduced the bill at the beginning of this legislative session, and with a few hundred supporters to contact, we added eleven co-sponsors to the mix. We’re overjoyed at how much progress we made between these two legislative sessions.

But since it generally takes years to pass a bill into law, we knew we were up against a several year process from the getgo. And now with the most progress we’ve made in one session under our belts, we face two months left in this legislative session. We have until July 31, 2012 to pass this bill before we have to re-introduce it next January — which means that we need everyone’s help in spreading the word about the bill. Here’s how you can help »