Passing law to hold workplace bullies accountable starts with each of us. Here are six ways to jump in to make change for National Bullying Prevention Month:
Tell your story. Your stories help build awareness about the issue and the bill. They provide a way for people to connect with the cause on a human level. And they move people to act. If you’re willing to come forward with your story, separately email the following Boston-based reporters with it (keep it brief — to one paragraph initially — and stick to the facts of what happened and how it harmed your health and wallet) and explain that workplace anti-bullying legislation, Senate Bill 1013, is sitting in the State House but may have helped you in your case:
Jamie Ducharme (Boston Magazine): email@example.com
Jenna Russell (Boston Globe): firstname.lastname@example.org
Bella English (Boston Globe): email@example.com
Katie Johnston (Boston Globe): firstname.lastname@example.org
(If you email us your story at email@example.com, we can share it, too. And if your story gets published, email a link to us.)
Contact Attorney General Maura Healey’s office and ask her (or whoever answers the phone) to officially support the Healthy Workplace Bill, Senate Bill 1013. Her phone and email: (617) 727-2200, firstname.lastname@example.org
Make phone calls to those in Massachusetts most likely to be bullied. It’s easy, flexible, and so satisfying to tell someone who’s been bullied about the bill. We even have a brief tutorial on how it works. Email us at email@example.com if you’re interested in making phone calls. Every call helps.
Call your state legislators. The single most important action you can take is meeting with or calling your State Rep and State Senator. Since they have local office hours, you don’t have to drive into Boston. Find your legislators.
Post on social media if your State Rep and/or State Senator hasn’t yet expressed official support for the bill. Legislators want your vote, and you want them to take action on issues you care about. Look up your state legislators. If they don’t support the bill (find out who does support the bill), politely let your social circle know on social media and tag your legislators. We need to hold them accountable.
Carry fact sheets with you in case the topic comes up. Share info with people who you talk about workplace bullying with (and email this info to family, friends, and colleagues).
This session, these state legislators have not yet expressed official support for the workplace anti-bullying Healthy Workplace Bill (Senate Bill 1013, supported by 90% of the population). If your State Rep and/or Senator is on this list (find them here), call them to see if they support the bill. If they do, email us at firstname.lastname@example.org. Please share.
Rep. Aaron M. Michlewitz (D-North End, Boston)
Rep. Adrian Madaro (D-East Boston, Boston)
Rep. Alan Silvia (D-Fall River)
Rep. Angelo D’Emilia (R-Bridgewater)
Rep. Angelo Scaccia (D-Readville, Hyde Park, Boston)
Rep. Antonio Cabral (D-New Bedford)
Rep. Bradford Hill (R-Ipswich)
Rep. Bradley Jones, Jr. (R-North Reading)
Rep. Brian Murray (D-Milford)
Rep. Bud Williams (D-Springfield)
Rep. Carlos Gonzalez (D-Springfield)
Rep. Carmine Gentile (D-Sudbury)
Rep. Carole Fiola (D-Fall River)
Rep. Carolyn Dykema (D-Holliston)
Rep. Christine Barber (D-Somerville)
Rep. Christopher Markey (D-Dartmouth)
Rep. Chynah Tyler (D-Roxbury, Boston)
Rep. Colleen Garry (D-Dracut)
Rep. Cory Atkins (D-Concord)
Rep. Dan Cahill (D-Lynn)
Rep. Dan Cullinane (D-Dorchester, Boston)
Rep. Dan Ryan (D-Charlestown, Boston)
Rep. Daniel Hunt (D-Savin Hill, Dorchester, Boston)
Rep. Dave Rogers (D-Cambridge)
Rep. David DeCoste (R-Norwell)
Rep. David Linsky (D-Natick)
Rep. David Muradian (R-Grafton)
Rep. David Nangle (D-Lowell)
Rep. Denise Garlick (D-Needham)
Rep. Donald Wong (R-Saugus)
Rep. Edward F. Coppinger (D-West Roxbury, Boston)
Rep. Elizabeth Poirier (R-North Attleborough)
Rep. Evandro Carvalho (D-Uphams Corner, Dorchester, Boston)
Rep. F. Jay Barrows (R-Mansfield)
Rep. Frank A. Moran (D-Lawrence)
Rep. Geoff Diehl (R-Whitman)
Rep. Gerry Cassidy (D-Brockton)
Rep. Hannah Kane (R-Shrewsbury)
Rep. Harold Naughton, Jr. (D-Clinton)
Rep. Jack Patrick Lewis (D-Ashland)
Rep. James Cantwell (D-Marshfield)
Rep. James J. Dwyer (D-Woburn)
Rep. James J. Lyons, Jr. (R-Andover)
Rep. James Kelcourse (R-Amesbury)
Rep. James Miceli (D-Wilmington)
Rep. James Murphy (D-Weymouth)
Rep. Jay Livingstone (D-Back Bay, Boston)
Rep. Jay R. Kaufman (D-Lexington)
Rep. Jeffrey N. Roy (D-Franklin)
Rep. Jeffrey Sanchez (D-Jamaica Plain, Boston)
Rep. Jennifer Benson (D-Lunenburg)
Rep. Jerry Parisella (D-Beverly)
Rep. Joan Meschino (D-Hull)
Rep. Joe McGonagle (D-Everett)
Rep. John H. Rogers (D-Norwood)
Rep. John J. Lawn (D-Watertown)
Rep. Jose Tosado (D-Springfield)
Rep. Joseph D. McKenna (R-Webster)
Rep. Joseph Wagner (D-Chicopee)
Rep. Josh S. Cutler (D-Duxbury)
Rep. Juana Matias (D-Lawrence)
Rep. Kate Campanale (R-Leicester)
Rep. Kate Hogan (D-Stow)
Rep. Kay Khan (D-Newton)
Rep. Keiko Orrall (R-Lakeville)
Rep. Ken Gordon (D-Bedford)
Rep. Kimberly Ferguson (R-Holden)
Rep. Leonard Mirra (R-West Newbury)
Rep. Linda Dean Campbell (D-Methuen)
Rep. Liz Malia (D-Jamaica Plain, Boston)
Rep. Marc Lombardo (R-Billerica)
Rep. Marjorie Decker (D-Cambridge)
Rep. Mark Cusack (D-Braintree)
Rep. Mary Keefe (D-Worcester)
Rep. Matt Muratore (R-Plymouth)
Rep. Michael Day (D-Stoneham)
Rep. Michael Finn (D-West Springfield)
Rep. Michael Moran (D-Brighton, Boston)
Rep. Michelle DuBois (D-Brockton)
Rep. Mike Connolly (D-Cambridge)
Rep. Natalie Higgins (D-Leominster)
Rep. Nicholas Boldyga (R-Southwick)
Rep. Nick Collins (D-South Boston, Boston)
Rep. Patricia Haddad (D-Somerset)
Rep. Paul Donato (D-Medford)
Rep. Paul Frost (R-Auburn)
Rep. Paul Heroux (D-Attleboro)
Rep. Paul Mark (D-Peru)
Rep. Paul Schmid (D-Westport)
Rep. Paul Tucker (D-Salem)
Rep. Peter Durant (R-Spencer)
Rep. Peter Kocot (D-Northampton)
Rep. Rady Mom (D-Lowell)
Rep. Randy Hunt (R-Sandwich)
Rep. Robert DeLeo (D-Winthrop)
Rep. Robert Koczera (D-New Bedford)
Rep. Ronald Mariano (D-Quincy)
Rep. Sarah Peake (D-Provincetown)
Rep. Sean Garballey (D-Arlington)
Rep. Shaunna O’Connell (R-Taunton)
Rep. Shawn Dooley (R-Norfolk)
Rep. Sheila Harrington (R-Groton)
Rep. Stephan Hay (D-Fitchburg)
Rep. Stephen Kulik (D-Worthington)
Rep. Steve Howitt (R-Seekonk)
Rep. Susan Williams Gifford (R-Wareham)
Rep. Susannah Whipps Lee (Unenrolled-Athol)
Rep. Theodore C. Speliotis (D-Danvers)
Rep. Thomas Calter (D-Kingston)
Rep. Thomas Golden, Jr. (D-Lowell)
Rep. Thomas Petrolati (D-Ludlow)
Rep. Thomas Stanley (D-Waltham)
Rep. Thomas Walsh (D-Peabody)
Rep. Tim Whelan (R-Brewster)
Rep. Todd Smola (R-Palmer)
Rep. Tricia Farley-Bouvier (D-Pittsfield)
Rep. William C. Galvin (D-Canton)
Rep. William Driscoll Jr. (D-Milton)
Rep. William L. Crocker, Jr. (R-Barnstable)
Rep. William M. Straus (D-Mattapoisett)
Rep. William Smitty Pignatelli (D-Lenox)
Senator Adam G. Hinds (D-Berkshire, Hampshire, Franklin, and Hampden)
Senator Anne Gobi (D-Worcester, Hampden, Hampshire and Middlesex)
Senator Bruce Tarr (R-1st Essex and Middlesex)
Senator Cindy Friedman (D-4th Middlesex)
Senator Cynthia Stone Creem (D-1st Middlesex and Norfolk)
Senator Donald Humason, Jr. (R-2nd Hampden and Hampshire)
Senator Eileen Donoghue (D-1st Middlesex)
Senator Eric Lesser (D-1st Hampden and Hampshire)
Senator Harriette Chandler (D-1st Worcester)
Senator James T. Welch (D-Hampden)
Senator Jason Lewis (D-5th Middlesex)
Senator John Keenan (D-Norfolk and Plymouth)
Senator Joseph A. Boncore (D-1st Suffolk and Middlesex)
Senator Julian Cyr (D-Cape and Islands)
Senator Karen Spilka (D-2nd Middlesex and Norfolk)
Senator Kathleen O’Connor Ives (D-1st Essex)
Senator Linda Dorcena Forry (D-1st Suffolk)
Senator Marc Pacheco (D-1st Plymouth and Bristol)
Senator Mark Montigny (D-2nd Bristol and Plymouth)
Senator Michael F. Rush (D-Norfolk and Suffolk)
Senator Michael J. Barrett (D-3rd Middlesex)
Senator Michael Rodrigues (D-1st Bristol and Plymouth)
Senator Patricia D. Jehlen (D-2nd Middlesex)
Senator Patrick O’Connor (R-Plymouth and Norfolk)
Senator Richard Ross (R-Norfolk, Bristol and Middlesex)
Senator Ryan Fattman (R-Worcester and Norfolk)
Senator Sal DiDomenico (D-Middlesex and Suffolk)
Senator Sonia Chang-Diaz (D-2nd Suffolk)
Senator Stanley Rosenberg (D-Hampshire and Franklin and Worcester)
Senator Vinny deMacedo (R-Plymouth and Barnstable)
Senator Walter Timilty (D-Norfolk, Bristol and Plymouth)
We’ve reported before on suicides from workplace bullying. We’ve learned of another one:
Graham Gentles was driven to suicide after a walk of shame in California
Graham Gentles was a 22-year-old in Pasadena who died from suicide on July 18, 2014 after Target store management allegedly accused him of stealing, handcuffed him, and paraded him through the store in front of both customers and coworkers. Gentles jumped to his death from the top of a hotel just three days later.
During the abusive humiliation and shame tactic, it is alleged that “police forcefully grabbed him, emptied his pockets, and pulled his hat off,” explains ABC7. Meanwhile, a shocked and confused Gentles had no idea why police were arresting him. Police took Gentles into custody, released him the same day, and never charged him. Gentles told his mother he never stole anything.
Allegedly, an argument between Gentles and a coworker at a bar outside of work hours may have prompted the incident. The coworker made the allegations of theft after the argument.
If you live outside of Massachusetts, visit HealthyWorkplaceBill.org for information on how to make workplace bullying illegal in your state.
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:
- Look at the Senate Session schedule and choose either type of session.
- 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 email@example.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.gov, Patricia.Jehlen@masenate.gov, Sal.DiDomenico@masenate.gov, John.Keenan@masenate.gov, Patrick.OConnor@masenate.gov, Paul.Brodeur@mahouse.gov, Tricia.Farley-Bouvier@mahouse.gov, John.Rogers@mahouse.gov, Liz.Malia@mahouse.gov, Aaron.Vega@mahouse.gov, Christine.Barber@mahouse.gov, Steven.Ultrino@mahouse.gov, Gerard.Cassidy@mahouse.gov, Juana.Matias@mahouse.gov, firstname.lastname@example.org, Keiko.Orrall@mahouse.gov
Often jealous of their targets, workplace bullies treat targets like they’re nuts. “People who find themselves trapped in a bullying scenario can attest to the crazymaking, irrational nature of the mistreatment. Much of the harm caused by the abusive conduct stems from the shattering of targets’ beliefs about fairness. First, they are typically the high performers who unknowingly trigger the envy of perpetrators. Targets are aware of their work skill at a deep personal ontological level. Perpetrators come into their lives who determined to reject the agreed upon perceptions of the targets’ skills,” says the Workplace Bullying Institute (WBI).
How workplace bullies get away with their toxic behaviors
Here’s how others come to believe the target is the problem, not the bullying, according to WBI:
- Abuse of power. “Perpetrators often use their formal (by organizational rank) or informal power to state the obviously opposite perception about technically skilled targets. Though this defies reality, they convince organizational allies to believe them and not targets,” says WBI. “In simplest form, it becomes a ‘he said, he said’ deadlock.”
- Manipulation. “Most bullies who are bosses rely on support from higher up to add weight to their side. The shrewdest perpetrators use ingratiation over many years to convince their executive sponsors (their enablers) that they, the bullies, are indispensable,” explains WBI. “Further, if and when they are described as abusive or destructive by one or more targets in the future, the executive will defend her or his ‘indispensable’ perp by ignoring the target’s portrayal of a friend and colleague.”
- Mobbing. In situations where targets have multiple perpetrators and who are coworkers, several individuals who provide accounts of alleged bullying incidents simply outnumber the target. Mobs also deprive the target “of the chance to have her or his story corroborated by coworkers. Though few coworkers ever step up to offer support to targets, some do. When coworkers are the bullies, the potential source of support is lost. Gullible investigators (typically working inside the organization for another department) will have their judgment swayed by many against one and believe the tale that many tell even if those versions are not true,” says WBI.
“Conditions are not favorable when targets report the facts about what they have experienced at the hands of the favored perpetrator. After all, targets do bring negative news about people who typically outrank them,” adds WBI.
When targets aren’t believed
Studies show it’s honesty and integrity that often put a bullseye on a targets’ backs. “Such moral individuals are primed to experience letdowns and disappointments when organizations given equal or more credence to abusers and their supporters. The feeling is betrayal and injustice. There is a profound unfairness when lies routinely trump the truth,” explains WBI. Feeling injusticed often goes with feeling powerless.
In a 2014 poll, WBI found that “91 percent of targets are not believed when they describe their bullying experiences.” Like many cases of domestic violence and sexual harassment, we’re not believing recipients of abuse, despite the fact that perpetrators are more motivated to lie through performance appraisals over time.
“Exposing one’s vulnerability, shame, and humiliation (i.e. being emotionally wounded, depressed, spending weekends in bed, strained relationships with spouses or partners) is not the material on which lies are built. In some cases, disbelief of targets is couched in the benign sounding line ‘there are two sides to every story.’ At other times, the target is straightforwardly accused of lying. In 18 percent of cases, the disbelief is based on the notion that the conduct described is too outrageous to be believed,” says WBI.
“Perpetrators hiding behind closed doors think ahead. They want deniability. And when a power imbalance is present, the manager is the one believed while the target is not. To not be believed is an insult. It impugns the integrity of the person not believed. Insult added to the stress-related health injuries from suffering abuse at work,” explains WBI.
“It’s not my responsibility to fix it” was the general consensus among workplace bullying targets’ and witnesses’ perceptions of their employers’ attitudes toward workplace bullying according to a 2012 Workplace Bullying Institute (WBI) poll.
“Employers abdicate responsibility to act in 88.4 percent of cases,” says WBI. “Telling individuals to ‘work it out between yourselves’ forces target-victims to solve a problem they neither invited nor deserved. Sadly, in 2012, American employers still believe they are not responsible for work conditions that encourage worker-on-worker violence or for fostering toxic work environments that sustain bullies.”
Wait… what? Employers aren’t responsible for their own work conditions? They aren’t responsible for creating their own work cultures and for holding those who can’t abide by that healthy culture accountable? Sounds like a major abuse of power to take the easy way out and do nothing, even if it’s at the expense of their bottom lines.
- 85 percent of nurses have been verbally abused by a fellow nurse.
- 1 in 3 nurses quit because of bullying.
- It’s bullying, not the wage, that is the major cause of the global nursing shortage (the Bureau of Labor Statistics projects that by 2022, there will be a shortfall of 1.05 million nurses).
- Many hospital units don’t give nurses time to eat, take a walk, or even go to the bathroom.
– Claudia Sanborn, author of The Yellow Sick Road
Where she believes bullying comes from
Sanborn attributes workplace bullying to bullies’:
- Need for power
- Poor self-esteem
- Poor leadership training
- Learned behavior in their own family
- Lack of rules or consequences
- Lack of funding. “Funds are cut back in medicine, so nurses have more patients. They then take their stresses out on other nurses to survive. Nurses resort to politics so they don’t have to care for the more demanding patients,” explains Sanborn.
- Fear of becoming the next target or losing their jobs
Why she wrote the book
How we change the culture
- Speak up. Sanborn spoke at a nurse rally in DC in May about her book. She’s networked with other leaders. She’s had book signings. She spreads the word on Facebook. She’s trying to get on talk shows like Dr. Phil. “I am semi-retired now and can’t be blackballed. I can’t be fired or laid off,” explains Sanborn of her ability to speak up.
- Get involved. “Be involved in legislation and get laws passed to make workplace bullying illegal.”
- Get support. “Join unions and have them fight for you.”