The growing problem of workplace bullying

Phyllis Guest
Taking Notes

Bullying isn’t just confined to teens; adults in the workplace are targeted, too

I recently met a remarkable woman who has a lot to say about a kind of adult bullying that hits straights as well as LGBTS, that hurts men as well as women, that harms older and less connected workers the most, and that is so pervasive it’s called “The Silent Epidemic.”

Esque Walker, who lives in Corsicana and drove up to Dallas recently to give a Saturday morning presentation on workplace bullying, has an undergraduate degree in health information management, a masters in healthcare/health information management and a doctorate in public policy and administration.

She also has a score of certifications and areas of expertise.

She has been working diligently for the passage of the Texas Healthy Workplace Bill, authored by Dr. David Yamada of the Workplace Bullying Institute. It’s hard going, as you can imagine.

So far, Dr. Walker has been unable to even get a meeting with Gov. Rick Perry. Perhaps he is too busy campaigning. More likely, if his many aides have put her name and credentials before him, he has retreated into his good-hairyness.

Remember: He scraped through Texas A&M with Ds; she has a Ph.D.

But the governor is not the only impediment to getting this bill in place. So far, Dr. Walker and her associates have spoken with a great many Texas state senators and representatives. Not one has agreed to sponsor the bill.

Dr. Walker was herself the target of workplace bullying some years ago. But instead of simply taking the abuse — as most women and many men have done over the years — she aligned herself with others who understood the issues involved.

So, what are the issues?

To begin, Dr. Walker asserts that adult bullying is based on the bully’s need for power and control. It’s closely linked with competitiveness; the bully may resent the target’s appearance, education, personality or any number of facets of the other person’s being. He or she definitely does not want the target to advance.

So how do you know you are targeted, assuming the bully does not actually taunt or threaten you, as happens so often to children and teens?

You start with power disparity; the bully may have a higher status, longer tenure or perhaps corporate protectors to give him or her a sense of strength.

Then you look at four other criteria: repetition, duration, intensity and escalation.

Workplace bullying, says Dr. Walker, usually plays out in a predictable way. First, the bully criticizes you or gets someone above you in the pecking order to do so. Next, the bully involves others, usually four to six people who may see you as a threat or just want to curry favor with the boss.

Then, no matter what you do, it is not enough or not good enough, and coworkers are not allowed to “help” you. Eventually you are fired — after being told, “You are not a team player.”
Here’s how it looks by the numbers:

• 62 percent of bullies are men (who may bully other men, straight women or, of course, LGBTs).

• 58 percent of targets are women.

• 18 percent of adult suicides in the European Union are attributed to workplace bullying.

• An estimated 1 million Texans are bullied at work every year.

As the economy has worsened, pushing out older workers has become the norm; counselors report the escalation, although putting a number to the pain is virtually impossible.
So what to do if you are the target?

First, document everything, with specifics of person, time, place and comment or event. Second, do not go to your organization’s human resources person or department; HR works for the company and could care less about you.

The Equal Employment Opportunity Commission or your union representative — if applicable — can help; the latter may be especially important in education and medicine, where power disparities and bullying are common.

The Workplace Bullying Institute (WorkPlaceBullying.org) publishes a newsletter and other materials that can offer insight plus specifics. The Dallas Public Library has books by Gary Namie and Ruth Namie, Ph.D.’s known for their groundbreaking research and writing on workplace “jerks, weasels and snakes.”

And of course Out & Equal has done and continues doing great work on behalf of our community.

Final thoughts: The worst that can happen is that Texas will continue to allow vast amounts of cruelty in offices, factories, fields and stores. The best that could happen is that our next Legislature will pass the Healthy Workplace Bill, recognizing the problem, mandating anti-bullying education, and allowing victims to sue.

Meanwhile, if a workplace bully is making you frightened and depressed, find a counselor in whom you can confide. And don’t wait ’til tomorrow. Do it today.

Phyllis Guest is a longtime activist on political and LGBT issues and is a member of Stonewall Democrats of Dallas.

This article appeared in the Dallas Voice print edition November 18, 2011.

—  Michael Stephens

Openly gay candidate for Arlington City Council says ‘basic issues’ key in 5-way race

Chris Hightower

Chris Hightower says sexual orientation hasn’t been a significant issue so far

TAMMYE NASH | Senior Editor
nash@dallasvoice.com

ARLINGTON — When Chris Hightower first started talking to family and friends about running for the District 5 seat on the Arlington City Council, the response he got, he said this week, was, “It’s time.”

“That just turned out to be the theme I was getting from everyone: ‘It’s time,’” Hightower said.

Hightower, who grew up in District 5, is the son of Paula Hightower Pierson, who represented District 5 on the City Council from 1989 to 1997, and then served in the Texas House of Representatives from 2008 to 2010.

If he wins the District 5 seat, Hightower will become the first openly gay person on the Arlington council.

Thanks to his mother’s life in government and the civic service arena, Hightower said, “I have always had civic service in my blood. I’ve thought about running for public office before, but this time, I just decided to do it. I’m not getting any younger, and I decided it was time to step up. Like everyone said to me, it’s time.

“We are a very close family, and when one person in the family is doing something, the whole family is there to support them. I would not have run for the council while my mother was still in the House. I wouldn’t have wanted to take away from her efforts. But since she lost re-election last year, I decided the time was right to run for the council. And she supports me completely,” Hightower said.

Hightower is one of four candidates challenging eight-year incumbent Lana Wolff for the District 5 seat. Also on the ballot with Hightower and Wolff are Terry Meza, Christopher McCain and Julie M. Douglas.

With five people in the race, most poll watchers expect a runoff. Apparently Wolff is among them, Hightower said, noting that the incumbent has, so far, done little campaigning.

“She expects there will be a runoff and that she will be in it, and she is saving her efforts for the runoff,” he said. “But my plan is to win outright in the general election, to avoid a runoff altogether.”

And if campaign contributions are any indication, Hightower is on his way. He said this week he expects his campaign contributions so far to significantly exceed the other candidates’ when financial statements are reported to the City Secretary’s Office this week.

So far, Hightower said, only only one person — not one of the candidates — has tried to make Hightower’s sexual orientation an issue in the race. But Hightower said he doesn’t believe the gay-baiting tactics have gotten much traction.

However, Hightower added, if he does find himself facing Wolff in a runoff, he expects the incumbent to try and make his sexual orientation a campaign issue. But he doesn’t think it will hold much sway over voters then, either.

“There are only 1,800 registered voters in District 5. This is a small, intimate community with a small town mentality. It’s not about what you are, but who you are and do people know you,” Hightower said. “The people in this district know me. When I am out walking the district, I am door-knocking my old teachers, my neighbors. I ran into my old elementary school principal. They know me; they know my family.”

When it comes to the issue of his sexual orientation, Hightower seems to be taking a page out of the playbook of the national Gay and Lesbian Victory Fund — which has endorsed him in the race — and is employing a strategy that paid off for other groundbreaking LGBT candidates in Texas, like Fort Worth Councilman Joel Burns and Houston Mayor Annise Parker.

Although he has never tried to keep his sexual orientation secret, Hightower hasn’t let it become the focus of his campaign, either, focusing instead on what he sees as the basic, core issues that affect all Arlington citizens.

“I have been out my whole life. But is that an issue in this race? I shouldn’t think so,” Hightower said. “This campaign is about city issues, about the streets that need repairs, public safety issues. It’s not about personal things. That’s how I see it, and that’s how I think the voters see it, too.

“I’m not running for City Council with a gay agenda of some kind. I am running on the issues all the citizens care about,” he said.

For the past 10 years in Arlington, “it’s been all about the Cowboys and building the stadium here. That’s not a bad thing. That stadium and the Cowboys and the Super Bowl this year have done great things for our city,” Hightower said. “But now it’s time to get back to the basics. Now it’s time to focusing on fixing the streets, on code enforcement, on public safety.

“When those things are in place, people want to live here and businesses want to move here. That’s where we will get the development we need to continue to grow.”

Hightower said he sees the University of Texas at Arlington as the city’s greatest resource, and that “finding a way to engage those students in our city and make them want to stay here and open businesses and raise their families” will be integral to Arlington’s future.

“UT-A has a great engineering program, a great nursing program, a great social work program. It has many, many fantastic programs. But what’s key is the engineering programs, the technology programs. With those, you’re talking about jobs, high-paying jobs. That’s the economic engine that will really drive Arlington into the future,” he said.

Hightower said that the success of the American League Champion Texas Rangers baseball team, the new Cowboys Stadium and this year’s Super Bowl has meant that Arlington has been “fairly lucky” through the recent recession, and so is not facing the severe budget crunch other area cities now face.

Still, he added, the city has to beginning working to “get [pensions and benefits] under control” by honoring existing contracts while at the same time “doing a better job of negotiating new contracts on the front end.”

The city also has to “crank it up a notch and do a better job” of attracting new businesses and industries to the city, Hightower said. “Right now, the council’s concept is writing checks to one business at a time, to try and get them to move here. We need a comprehensive approach that makes the city more attractive to all kinds of new businesses.”

Hightower also acknowledged that the Arlington council will eventually have to address what he called the “hotly-contested” issue of mass transit.

“People don’t have an answer yet, but we do all understand that we don’t live in a microcosm. You may live in Arlington, but work in Dallas or Fort Worth, and you need to have a way to get there,” he said. “We have to have some sort of regional transit system, and not just a municipal system.”

Hightower said that while various city programs that receive federal funds already include nondiscrimination policies that include LGBT protections, there is not citywide ordinance protecting LGBTs from discrimination.

While such an ordinance is not a No. 1 priority for him at this time, Hightower said he believes it will happen eventually.

“I do believe that the people of Arlington of fair-minded people, overall, who would frown on any kind of discrimination. And I believe that kind of [nondiscrimination] ordinance will be a natural fit here,” he said.

—  John Wright

NOM Charitable Organization Violates Tax-Exempt Status by Campaigning for Senate Candidate

 

Today Human Rights Campaign and the Courage Campaign called on the National Organization for Marriage, or NOM, to explain why its tax-exempt charitable organization, the Ruth Institute – a project of NOM’s Marriage Education Fund – is violating federal laws by intervening on behalf of a candidate for elected office.

This past Monday, Ruth Institute President Jennifer Roback Morse spoke on behalf of her organization at a campaign stop of the “Vota Tus Valores” bus tour, a NOM-backed independent expenditure in support of California Republican U.S. Senate candidate Carly Fiorina in San Diego.  At the campaign event Morse talked about the role of the Ruth Institute, held up the organization’s signage and closed her remarks by saying, “We’re very glad to be part of this electoral effort.” (Watch video of Morse speaking at event.)

Morse’s campaign appearance followed a NOM-issued press release titled “National Organization for Marriage and Ruth Institute Join Bus Tour Supporting Carly Fiorina in California.” The release states that “Brian Brown, president of NOM, and Jennifer Roback Morse, president of The Ruth Institute, a project of NOM’s Marriage Education Fund, will both be supporting the bus tour as it makes its way around California.” In addition to supporting Fiorina, the NOM charitable group has also illegally participated in a campaign to elect California judges.

Pursuant to the federal tax code, a charitable organization – which is permitted to receive tax deductible contributions – may not participate in any campaign activity for or against political candidates.  Violation of this prohibition can result in stiff penalties against the organization and its officials as well as potential revocation of its tax exempt status by the Internal Revenue Service.  Federal and state election laws also require organizations to disclose their campaign expenditures.

Read more about it at our NOM Exposed website.


Human Rights Campaign | HRC Back Story

—  John Wright

Gay candidate for Kansas Legislature receives death threat

Associated Press

TOPEKA, Kan. — An openly gay Democratic candidate for the Kansas Legislature says he received a death threat containing anti-gay slurs.

Dan Manning of Wichita says he found the threat on his front door Saturday afternoon, Aug. 21 after returning from work. He says it contained cut-out words and letters from a newspaper, including “Kill” and “Will die,” as well as homophobic comments.

Manning, a West Point graduate who served in the U.S. Army, says he notified Wichita police, who are investigating. He says the note scared him, but also strengthened his resolve to run.

Manning faces Republican state Rep. Brenda Landwehr in the Nov. 2 election. Landwehr condemned the death threat, saying such actions have no place in America.

The Lawrence Journal-World reports that Manning says his sexual orientation hasn’t been an issue with voters he has spoken with in his campaigning.

—  John Wright