Monday, September 13, 2010

Workplace Bullying at Cal

I want to give a little time to something that caught my eye a few days ago on a blog post at Remaking the University- there was a comment that read in part (I have placed in bold the portions I would like to address) :

"OK, all you UC Berkeley department staff people: listen up. There will be no staff meeting (like in the old days of, oh, two years ago) to announce job/personnel changes. You will be called into your manager's office alone, the better to intimidate you and deprive you of the fellow-feeling of your peers....Union member? Use 'em if you got 'em. Insist that the meeting be re-scheduled with a union rep present (we are now, after all, Teamsters). Not a union member? Remember: bullies back down pretty easily if you stand up to them. You are, almost certainly, smarter than they are. You have the moral high ground, and you can form a coherent sentence. Blind them with clarity! "

Also, there was a reference in another comment section on that site to "The M.O. of the change managers.. is to withhold information from staff; to isolate us and pick us off one by one. To make us invisible. We aren't even numbers! You can see that we're scared for our jobs. We hear about assistance with "outplacement", "workshops to prepare employees for re-entry into the job market", "Opportunities for existing staff" in new configurations, but no real solid information about what to expect. It's clearly an intentional strategy to keep us in line,and it's heaven for petty tyrants."

There were so many other critical issues in the actual blog posts that I wanted to address immediately, so I was delayed in addressing these particular comments. Most importantly, I would like to shed a little light on Workplace Bullying handed down to us from experts:

Workplace Bullying is not easily dealt with merely by confronting the bully. In fact, it may be supported by certain segments of management in organizations that are under funded or have to fight for resources (does that remind you of some place in particular?;-)

"Director Gary Namie says many people have reported that bullying in their workplaces has worsened since the recession.

People aren't free to choose another job or move freely in the marketplace, so it's hard to get out, he says. Experts say the added stress of the recession can cause normally good people to react in hurtful ways.

Namie defines bullying as repeated, health-harming mistreatment by one or more people that takes the form of verbal abuse or conduct that is threatening, humiliating or intimidating. While a typical tough boss may set demanding but legitimate business goals for the good of the organization, a workplace bully strives to make someone miserable or drive them out of the company for his or her personal satisfaction. Those actions can result in severe physical and emotional consequences.

We're really talking about abusive conduct, not just inadvertent glances or simple gossip, Namie says. The distinction comes from the impact the action has on the other person- one which produces stress-related health complications. Health difficulties can range from loss of sleep and headaches to panic attacks, heart attacks, clinical depression and even post-traumatic stress disorder. These become common because someone is threatening your career, your livelihood and your character day after day through persistent and consistent degradation, says Judy Fisher-Brando, Ph.D., author of Workplace Bullying: Aggressive Behavior and Its Effect on Job Satisfaction and Productivity (LAP Lambert Academic Publishing, 2010),

Bosses, peers or even subordinate employees can be bullies. Though motivations vary, they often stem from narcissism, jealousy and a need for control. Consequently, bullies tend to target non-confrontational, smart and popular co-workers to tear down the co-worker and even destroy his or her career with the company. Namie also notes that the aggressive nature of the workplace often rewards bullying behavior, which furthers the cycle and the difficulty for targets to fight back.

Namie coaches targets to first name the situation. Naming it -the situation- as bullying helps to externalize it and legitimize it in your eyes, he says."

You can read more here The Bully At Work posted on

There is an upcoming conference in South San Francisco that is very reasonable priced and hosted by pioneers on the subject, Drs. Ruth and Gary Namie, here is more info on that event -it takes place 7-9 pm Tuesday, Oct 19th, 2010 and in Sacramento on 7-9 pm Wednesday, Oct 20th, 2010.

For further discussion on Bullying and Bullying in Academia (which is particularly well documented in the UK- where they also call this behavior "mobbing") please see my blog list below.

An important site to note : Minding The Workplace a site hosted by David Yamada.

Help is out there - but sometimes it is hard to find it when one is in the midst of trouble. We hope these resources provide some immediate relief and/or helpful information for you.

If you would like to leave a comment - including an anonymous comment- about this subject please feel free to drop us a line.

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