Tagged: healthy workplace bill

A new way to let your legislators know that workplace bullying can drive targets to suicide

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When we launched our tool to let you easily send a letter to your legislators about the anti-workplace bullying Healthy Workplace Bill, we built templates around costs to businesses and your own story. Now we introduce a third template that lets your legislators understand the link between workplace bullying and suicide (“bullycide”).

Based on our recent blog posts showing the clear connection between workplace bullying and suicide, the template links to the research, explains the connection, and tells three stories of ethical, competent workplace bullying targets who took their lives after the downward spiral from workplace bullying.

Send your legislators the message that workplace bullying can lead to suicide.

Make bully-free workplaces the norm

Demonstration

Change begins with you. Change comes from you seeing a need and figuring out what you can do to improve the situation rather than waiting for someone else to do it, dictating to someone else to do it, or waiting for direction.

Our philosophy in this grassroots effort is simple: you’re in or you’ve come out of a place of disempowerment, and healing will help you take back the power. Healing can come from action, from knowing and proving what you’re capable of, from using your skills to make your ideas happen, from getting back to that competent and ethical employee you still are and deserve to be and not allowing an insecure bully to define you.

And great leadership to help make those ideas happen is about inspiring, not controlling. It’s about asking, not feeling entitled to dictate like a bully boss. It’s about empowering, not belittling or diminishing from insecurity. It’s about doing, not just telling or thinking. It’s about walking the walk with the philosophy that we need less masculine ways of working together, filled with petty competition for power and catering to egos that often slow or block progress, and more feminine ways of working together, through empowerment, collaboration, and nurturing that move the needle and change the culture.

With the goal in mind of steering the ship, we presented at our grassroots get-together what we’ve done, what strategy might work, and what we can do to get us there:

What we’ve done

We began this journey knowing that legislation generally takes years to pass. In Massachusetts, we’ve come a long way since 2010, when our group first introduced the anti-workplace bullying Healthy Workplace Bill in the State House (it’d been introduced before, but not with a group backing):

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  • We’ve gone from 13 sponsors in our first full two-year session to 39 in the second to 58 in the third. That’s nearly 1/3 of the entire State Legislature.
  • We’ve built a base of 6,000 contacts (through Facebook, Twitter, our online petition, and our email alert system) we can reach out to at key points in the legislative process.
  • We have 20 organizations on board, including the Massachusetts Teachers Association.
  • We gained media attention and opposition, telling us that we have an audience.

We’re being heard. And we know what’s gotten us there. In addition to plain old hard work, we’re lucky enough here in Massachusetts to have our state capital in the most populated city to give advocates easy access to our legislators. We also have three bill co-coordinators who cover the bases: the model bill author David Yamada here in Massachusetts (even in Boston right near the State House), NAGE local 282 president Greg Sorozan contributing insight and persuasion from inside the State House through his lobbyists, and marketer Deb Falzoi providing strategy and skills.

In Rhode Island, coordinator Jessica Stensrud hit the ground running with getting a sponsor and bill number in her first session as coordinator. She’s making strong connections with progressive organizations in Rhode Island and building the masses in both Massachusetts and Rhode Island to further anti-workplace bullying efforts.

What strategy might work

In Massachusetts, the process to pass a bill into law goes like this: bills go through a committee, then move to the House, then Senate, then can go back to House or the Governor’s desk for signing (or get stopped at any point in the process – and most do). The anti-workplace bullying Healthy Workplace Bill goes through the Joint Committee on Labor and Workforce Development, and we had about a year left in the last session when the bill received a favorable reading from the committee. That’s the most time we’ve ever had left in the session at that point. We had more hope than ever that the bill would pass. Then the bill moved into the House for the major step, the Third Reading, a floor vote. The bill never made it to the floor vote, but we made the most progress we’ve ever made.

So we looked at how school bullying got passed. Like the anti-workplace bullying Healthy Workplace Bill, the bill sat on legislators’ desks for years until a student suicide put urgency behind the issue. We’re looking for suicide from workplace bullying stories in Massachusetts to help legislators understand that workers are dying over this issue, and legislators have the power to take a stand against it. With stories, we can also help the media understand the urgency behind this topic. If you’re aware of a suicide from workplace bullying story in Massachusetts, email info@mahealthyworkplace.com.

What we can do to get us there

While we believe that suicide stories may help put the urgency behind this bill we all deserve, we know that building awareness of workplace bullying and the bill will help us reach more people who may be aware of these stories. Building our contact lists will help us stay connected with supporters, who can then reach out to others, creating a ripple effect.

Here’s what advocates have done so far to build our base:

  • Created online tools. Built a websiteFacebook page, Twitter account, YouTube channel, blogonline petition, and email alert system to help advocates share content and capture data.
  • Created videos and shared those videos with public access channels as Public Service Announcements (PSAs).
  • Showed support at State House hearings by testifying and attending.
  • Flyered at commuter rail lots, outside T stations, outside hospitals, and in parking lots of companies that allow workplace bullying.
  • Produced an art display called “Massachusetts: Face Workplace Bullying” to educate and inspire (developed by advocate Torii Bottomley) and displayed at the State House and Worcester’s Union Station.
  • Tabled at local events.
  • Courageously shared their stories, both in writing for the website and on film.
  • Reached out to organizations including unions, college and university student groups, and social justice groups for their official endorsement and possible lobbying.
  • Submitted letters to the editor and commented on online articles.
  • Talked at Democratic Town Committee meetings and reached out to both Democratic and Republican Town Committees.
  • Hosted workshops.
  • Ran in 5k races wearing “end workplace bullying” t-shirts.
  • Held protests outside the state executive offices at One Ashburton Place, in Harvard Square, and in Davis Square.
  • Created an easy tool to write to legislators in an incredibly simple way thanks to the separate suggestions of two advocates.
  • Accessed the ability to blog on the Huffington Post.
  • Connected with the IBEW union, who runs the digital billboard on I-93, about posting a message about the bill.
  • Started Facebook live videos featuring video blogger Ty Weeks.

Building off these ideas, advocates brainstormed last night ways they could further contribute to the conversation and elevate the attention to workplace bullying in Massachusetts and Rhode Island:

  • Hold a major event about workplace bullying, including a skit to show what workplace bullying is.
  • Investigate citizen action groups in Massachusetts and Rhode Island to get their support or create one.
  • Survey workers about their experiences.
  • Contact radio stations about giving attention to workplace bullying.
  • Find designers, photographers, and videographers to help create viral social media campaigns and/or art displays.
  • Create viral videos using your own smartphone, and get people to create their own in the same style.
  • Reach out to event planners about planning workplace bullying-related events.
  • Fundraise for other organizations that can provide services for workplace bullying targets.
  • Contact organizations about what they can do to help, including official endorsement.
  • Blog to create more shareable content, more likes, and more people to reach to write their legislators.
  • Create a parade float.
  • Work with a college dance troupe to have a flash mob at a high-profile location in Boston.
  • Pick a location, date, and time for a protest and ask our group to publicize it for additional volunteers.
  • Contact suicide organizations for workplace bullying-related suicide stories.
  • Get a group of people to run in a road race wearing “end workplace bullying” t-shirts.
  • Make contacts for speaking at meetings and/or hosting workshops.
  • Identify celebrities who could serve as spokespeople.
  • Get a group of teachers, nurses, or other workers to go to the State House to speak with legislators as a group.

We’re creating an online tool for you to submit your own simple events to make empowering yourself even easier: protests, educational gatherings, brainstorming and planning meetings, running groups at road races, and groups to go to the State House, for example. Stay tuned.

We’ll pass this bill through the power of action. You have our support to run with an idea and even get our help. Do not wait for our permission, blessing, or someone else to take action. You have that power.

All we ask is that you share your action with us so you can help us inspire others and we can thank you for helping make history.

How workplace bullying harms workers

Casual businesswoman resting head on desk

Workplace bullying is health-endangering: targets suffer from anxiety disorders, hypertension, increased risk of heart disease, digestive problems, clinical depression, and post-traumatic stress disorder-related symptoms.

Physical Harm

Stressors, aspects of the work environment and behavior of people working there, can generate stress. Stress is the biological human response. It is physiological and real, not just imagined. Low-level stress may be necessary to compel people to act. However, severe stress which prevents rational, controlled action is negative.
Physical health indicators of and problems from stress »

Mental Harm

Bullying is often called psychological harassment or violence. What makes it psychological is bullying’s impact on the person’s mental health and sense of well-being. The personalized, focused nature of the assault destabilizes and disassembles the target’s identity, ego strength, and ability to rebound from the assaults. The longer the exposure to stressors like bullying, the more severe the psychological impact. When stress goes unabated, it compromises both a target’s physical and mental health.
Mental injuries, including suicide »

Social Harm

Humans are social animals. We routinely rely on others to make us feel human and connected. Bullying disrupts groups of co-workers. Sometimes bullies play divide ‘n conquer games ordering colleagues to not help or communicate with the target. More common is the group’s tendency to informally separate themselves from the target. Resentment for exposing peers to the target’s misery evolves into estrangement and eventual abandonment. Co-workers don’t want to be near the target lest they become the next prey.

There is research showing that witnesses suffer from bullying, too. When the bully is a co-worker, the principal weapon is to withhold approval of human contact and validation. Targets begin to doubt their sanity. Family and friends remain supportive for targets longer than co-workers.

If the bullying does not stop and the target does not stop obsessing, spouses can tire of the vicarious misery and leave the emotionally draining relationship.

(from the Workplace Bullying Institute)

What workplace bullying really is – and how you can stop it

Punishment at work

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

Roughly 27% of workers — more than one million in Massachusetts — will experience workplace bullying during their work lives.

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

How you can help

So when will legislators say enough is enough?

We’ll change the rules when enough of us take a stand. School bullying legislation sat on desks until the tragic suicide of Phoebe Prince forced attention on the issue. Our goal is to help legislators understand that workplace bullying can and does cause great workers to take their lives. Read about three highly competent, ethical workers who took their lives from workplace bullying.

Share your stories
If you know of an employee who committed suicide from workplace bullying, email info@mahealthyworkplace.com.

Change the rules
If you live in Massachusetts, write to your legislators and demand that employers be held accountable for workplace bullying through legislation.

If you live outside Massachusetts, find out how to help end workplace bullying in your state.

What Labor Day means to those with bully bosses

FlagWaving

Labor Day marks the unofficial end of summer. But for those in the labor movement, the day represents justice for employees.

How Labor Day came to be

In her article “How Labor Day got its violent start,” USA Today reporter Susan Miller describes the holiday as a violent and pivotal moment in U.S. labor history. In the late 1800s, U.S. employees often worked 12 hour workdays under dangerous work conditions for little pay. Based on these poor work conditions, workers formed the nation’s first labor unions, which organized protests and strikes for better hours and pay.

In 1882, 10,000 New York City workers from New York’s Central Labor Union marched from City Hall to Union Square without pay, marking the first unofficial Labor Day parade. State governments recognized the day through legislation in the years that followed.

Twelve years later, in 1894, workers took an even bigger stand. A Chicago strike involving 250,000 workers in 25 states created a transportation catastrophe across the U.S.:

The community, located on the Southside of Chicago, was designed as a “company town” in which most of the factory workers who built Pullman cars [railroad sleeping cars] lived. When wage cuts hit, 4,000 workers staged a strike that pitted the American Railway Union vs. the Pullman Company and the federal government. The strike and boycott against trains triggered a nationwide transportation nightmare for freight and passenger traffic.

At its peak, the strike involved about 250,000 workers in more than 25 states. Riots broke out in many cities; President Grover Cleveland called in Army troops to break the strikers; more than a dozen people were killed in the unrest.

After the turbulence, Congress, at the urging of Cleveland in an overture to the labor movement, passed an act on June 28, 1894, making the first Monday in September “Labor Day.” It was now a legal holiday.

We’re still fighting

In the U.S., we’re still lacking healthy workplace conditions. We live in a country where bosses can bully their employees: harm the health of their subordinates through repeated mistreatment (false accusations, sabotage, and taking away responsibility without cause, for example) and get away with it – even though it demotivates employees and hurts organizations’ bottom lines.

So workplace bullying targets still fight for dignity and respect. We deserve to work for bosses who promote a sense of belonging, fair treatment, and empowerment.

Change the rules

If you live in Massachusetts, write to your legislators and demand that employers be held accountable for workplace bullying through legislation.

If you live outside Massachusetts, find out how to help end workplace bullying in your state.

Help create the biggest anti-workplace bullying campaign anyone has ever seen

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Make history by helping create the biggest anti-workplace bullying campaign known to man. We’re getting ready for a gigantic push this fall with the end goal of passing historic anti-workplace bullying legislation in Massachusetts next session. Join us for the Workplace Bullying Advocacy Planning Meeting to add your own event to the list. Ideas include:

  • Art displays
  • Flash mob at high profile location in Boston
  • Live Facebook talks
  • Organizing groups of people to go to the State House
  • Protests
  • Research of suicide stories
  • Road races wearing “end workplace bullying” t-shirts
  • Social media campaigns using design, photography, or video

If you can’t make it to the meeting but have an advocacy effort you’d like to plan, email us at info@mahealthyworkplace.com. (Or just plan it and let us know about it so we can help spread the word.)

Take back the power and help make history.

Yet another study links workplace bullying to suicides. When is enough enough?

Tired woman in the office

We reported earlier this year that a Norwegian study 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).

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.

Now researchers in Australia report similar findings. In June 2016, Australian researchers determined that workplace bullying or harassment was associated with 1.54 greater odds of suicide ideation.


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

Findings show that none of us have a thick enough skin to be exempt from the workplace bullying-suicide connection. Not only did researchers find nothing to support the idea that targets are not those with a weakness that brings on psychological assaults, but evidence shows that 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.

Normally having competence and ethics would help someone sleep at night. But with these traits, a workplace bullying target can find themselves on a slippery slope to bullycide – and it can happen to any of us.

  • 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. Bullying can also produce confusion, emotional numbness, and the fight-or-flight reaction normally associated with traumatic stress.
  • These responses are 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.

“Ending the distress allows the person to recover. The brain literally ‘heals’ thanks to its property of plasticity. Restored gray matter volume brings back lost cognitive abilities — better decision making, optimism, a visualized future,” says WBI.


How you can help

So when will legislators say enough is enough? How many more competent, ethical workers will lose their lives from workplace abuse before we address this epidemic trough law?

We’ll change the rules when enough of us take a stand. School bullying legislation sat on desks until the tragic suicide of Phoebe Prince forced attention on the issue. Our goal is to help legislators understand that workplace bullying can and does cause great workers to take their lives. Read about three highly competent, ethical workers who took their lives from workplace bullying.

Share your stories
If you know of an employee who died from suicide from workplace bullying, email info@mahealthyworkplace.com.

Change the rules
If you live in Massachusetts, write to your legislators and demand that employers be held accountable for workplace bullying through legislation.

If you live outside Massachusetts, find out how to help end workplace bullying in your state.