Psst. That advice you got to combat workplace bullying may not work

Much of the advice given by co-workers , friends and family to targets of workplace bullying  doesn’t help or makes things worse.

This is the upshot of an article in this month’s issue of The Journal of Applied Communication Research by Stacy Tye-Williams, a communications study professor at Iowa State University, and Kathy Krone, a professor of organizational communication at the University of Nebraska-Lincoln.

The researchers surveyed 48 targets of workplace bullying about the effectiveness of the advice they’ were given to address the bullying.  The top suggestions include: quit the job or get out of the situation, ignore the bullying, fight or stand up to the bully, or report the bullying.

The researchers say there is a  “strong possibility” that direct confrontation of a bully will result in retaliation and the target will be labelled as a problem employee.

Many targets of workplace bullying “are treated as if they are overly emotional or behaving as if they are responsible for single-handedly stopping the bullying.” This attitude “helps sustain an orientation toward organizational life that privileges rationality over emotionality and individual expression over community.”Moreover, urging  individual targets to ‘remain calm’ and ‘stay rational’ overestimates the difference a single individual can make, downplays the significance of strong emotional responses to bullying, and constrains the ability to think and act with greater freedom.”

Another problem, according to the researchers, is that targets of past workplace bullying often tell targets who are currently experiencing the problem to use strategies that proved ineffective for the original target.

The researchers say there is a need for good strategies to successfully combat workplace bullying. “We don’t have a lot of success stories out there,” said Tye-Williams.

The study defines workplace bullying as repeated verbal and nonverbal acts over a period of time intended to inflict humiliation harm.

The United States continues to be among the only developed countries in the world that ignores the plague of workplace bullying, which is a form of workplace violence that causes potentially serious mental and physical harm to workers. An estimated one out of every three or four workers experiences workplace bullying.

This blog has noted that employers are responsible for creating a safe workplace free of harassment and violence.  The author advocates adoption of  a uniform federal workplace bullying law, such as extending the anti-harassment provision of the Title VII of the Civil Rights Act to all workers and not hose who suffer discrimination. The

R-E-S-P-E-C-T: It’s Critical to Job Satisfaction

A recent survey by the Society of Human Resource Management (SHRM) found the largest percentage of employees (65 percent) felt respectful treatment of all employees at all levels was a very important contributor to their job satisfaction.

Only 38 percent of the 600 employees polled in the annual survey said they were “very satisfied” that all employees are treated respectfully.

It is the third consecutive year that the annual SHRM survey has reported that respectful treatment of workers is critical to job satisfaction. The survey found that workers differ in how they perceive the importance of respect, and how much respect they actually feel:

  • Female employees were more likely (72%) to report that respect is a very important contributor to job satisfaction than male employees (57 percent).
  • Millennials were more likely  (45 percent)  to be very satisfied with the amount of respect they are accorded when compared with Generation Xers (31 percent). It is interesting that no figure was provided in the SHRM survey for the percentage of Baby Boomers who are satisfied with the amount of respect they are accorded – which may say something about the degree of respect accorded to Boomers.
  • Individual contributors were less likely (31 percent) to be very satisfied with the level of respect shown to all employees compared with executives (52 percent).

Other top contributors to job satisfaction were compensation/pay; trust between employees and senior management; job security; and opportunities to use skills and abilities.

The report notes that an EEOC task force recently reported that encouraging workplace civility and respect could minimize the risk of inappropriate conduct escalating to a level of harassment.

The SHRM Employee Job Satisfaction and Engagement Survey polled 600 randomly selected U.S. employees in December 2016. The survey examined 44 aspects of job satisfaction and 38 factors directly related to employee engagement.  The survey has a margin of error of plus or minus 2.5% percentage points.

SHRM  is the world’s largest HR professional society, representing about 285,000 members in more than 165 countries.

More Self-Inflicted Wounds? Fox Hit With Race Discrimination Lawsuits

It was humming along, the major cable news network in America, raking in billions in profits.

Now Fox News  has lost (forced out) its visionary chief executive officer, Roger Ailes, and its top star,  Bill OReilly, both accused of sexual harassing female subordinates for decades.  Fox  paid  Ailes and OReilly tens of millions in severance to leave, not to mention millions in damages to their alleged victims.

And now Fox is reeling from a second wave of discrimination complaints – this time involving race discrimination. A Fox News spokesperson has denied the claims and said the network will “vigorously defend these cases.”

Two black women who worked in the Fox News payroll department, Tichaona Brown and Tabrese Wright, filed a race discrimination lawsuit   in New York state court on March 28 alleging  that Fox Controller Judith Slater, who was fired by Fox on Feb. 28, subjected “dark-skinned employees” to racial animus.

Eleven past and present Fox workers joined the lawsuit Tuesday, complaining that they were  humiliated, paid less than white coworkers and passed over for promotions.

Kelly Wright, a two-time Emmy award winner and former long-time co-host of Fox and Friends. Wright complains that he was  “effectively sidelined” because of his race and “asked to perform the role of a ‘Jim Crow’ – the racist caricature of a Black entertainer.”

Meanwhile, Adasa Blanco, who worked in Fox News’ accounts payable department from 2005 to 2013,  filed a separate race discrimination lawsuit Tuesday in U.S. District Court in the Southern District of New York. She claims Fox knew about Slater “for more than eight years and then feigned … to the media and public that it terminated her immediately upon learning that she engaged in discriminatory conduct.”

What if?

One is left to wonder what would have happened if 21st Century Fox, the owner of Fox News, had made it clear to Ailes a couple of decades ago that the company was actually serious about its anti-harassment policy? And what if 21st Century Fox had insisted that everyone, including Ailes, was required to follow that policy.

Harassment complaints often are difficult  for a company. They sometimes boil down to “he said, she said.”  When that happens, the Human Resources Department has tools in its arsenal to ferret out the truth.

At some point, for example, Fox could have commissioned a “360 degree” survey of all workers in Judith Slater’s department to ascertain whether these workers felt that they were being subjected to discriminatory animus. Corrective measures could have been put in place, including Slater’s ouster.

The saga of Fox News should serve as a wake-up call to every American employer.

If you don’t have an anti-harassment policy, you should adopt one. If you have one, you should enforce it,  from the top down.

Failure to adopt and enforce an anti-harassment policy can lead to unnecessary (and sometimes even fatal) wounds that are all the more painful because they are self-inflicted.

 

Missouri bill would make it harder to sue for discrimination

If you don’t like getting sued for discrimination, just make it harder to sue.

That seems to be the theory underlying a bill pending in Missouri House of Representatives that was recently endorsed by the University of Missouri system.

The proposed bill would make it harder to sue by raising the level of proof in lawsuits alleging discrimination in employment, housing and public accommodations. It also would bar the award of punitive damages against “public entities.”

The University of Missouri Backs the Controversial Measure

The Missouri legislature’s Special Committee on Litigation Reform, which held a hearing on the bill last week, appears to be less than interested in opposing views. Committee Chairperson Bill Lant cut off the microphone of Missouri NAACP President Rod Chapel, who said the measure would expand discrimination and represents a form of “Jim Crow.”   Lant, a Republican, also refused to allow a committee member to ask questions of Chapel.

Minutes before Chapel was silenced,  the Columbia Daily Tribune reports that Marty Oetting, lobbyist for the University of Missouri, told the committee that UM supports the bill, especially the part barring anyone winning a lawsuit from receiving punitive damages from public entities. The university system is currently facing two discrimination lawsuits,

The university claims workers receive sufficient protection under federal law and do not need the enhanced protections of the state’s anti-discrimination law.

The driving force behind the bill is Missouri State Sen. Gary Romaine, the owner of a “rent-to-own” furniture business that is currently a defendant in a race discrimination lawsuit.  Romaine couched the bill as a way of “reforming Missouri’s legal climate and improving our ability to grow existing businesses and attract new employers.”

The proposed bill would essentially adopt the current standard of the federal Age Discrimination in Employment Act of 1967 for all victims of race and sex discrimination. Workers would have to show that discrimination occurred “because of” discrimination rather than meeting the lesser standard of showing that discrimination was a motivating factor.