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

DADT report will be released tomorrow as lame duck schedule presents a major impediment

During the White House press briefing, Robert Gibbs responded to questions about the Pentagon’s DADT study from Chris Johnson from the Washington Blade:

White House Press Secretary Robert Gibbs on Monday confirmed that Obama was meeting the Joint Chiefs of Staff in the Oval Office to discuss “Don’t Ask, Don’t Tell” and the Pentagon report on the matter.

“I think the president right now is in the Oval Office meeting with the Joint Chiefs about the issue and about the report,” Gibbs said in response to questioning from the Blade. “We look forward to the presentation by [Defense] Secretary [Robert] Gates and [Chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff] Adm. [Mike] Mullen tomorrow and then their testimony later in the week.”

Gibbs said he believes the president has seen “parts of” the report on “Don’t Ask, Don’t Tell,” which is due for release Tuesday. Still, Gibbs said he would need to double-check whether Obama has indeed seen the study and doesn’t “want to ahead of” the release of report “in terms of commenting.”

The Obama administration agreed to the schedule for the Pentagon’s DADT report. The geniuses in the White House wanted it released after the midterms, hence the December 1st release date. Given the time crunch in the lame duck, Secretary Gates magnanimously agreed to release the report one day early. You do recall that on April 30th, Gates told Congress in a “strongly worded letter” that he didn’t want any votes on DADT repeal before the report was released. That provided a key talking points for opponents of repeal. Now, timing is the enemy. Unless things move seamlessly in the Senate over the next few weeks (and that never happens), passage of the DADT language is in big trouble.

The President really needs to step up his game here. He’s meeting with Congressional leaders tomorrow, but the President did not list the Defense Authorization bill as one of his priorities, according to The Hill. We need to put pressure on the President. Sign our letter to Obama, which asks him to start calling Senators, here.

And, via SLDN, Senators need to hear from all of us, too. If you live in any of these target states (or contributed to any of these Senators), call them:

UPDATED LIST: KEY SENATORS WHO NEED TO HEAR FROM REPEAL SUPPORTERS NOW:

–Harry Reid (D-NV);

–Susan Collins (R-ME);

–Olympia Snowe (R-ME);

–Mark Pryor (D-AR.);

–Blanche Lincoln (D-AR)

–Richard Lugar (R-IN);

–Judd Gregg (R-NH);

–Scott Brown (R-MA)

–George Voinovich (R-OH);

–Kit Bond (R-MO);

–Joe Manchin (D-WV)

–Lisa Murkowski (R-AK)

–Mark Kirk (R-IL)

–James Webb (D-VA)

ACTION ALERT BY REPEAL ADVOCATES: http://bit.ly/dBKRcd

The Capitol switchboard is 202-224-3121.




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