Labor Day and the Problem with Government by Fiat

The  dysfunction of American government is on parade this Labor Day, as Republican President Donald Trump reverses labor advances instituted by his Democratic predecessor, Barack Obama.

Trump, ostensibly to eliminate job-killing regulations, has overturned a bevy of Obama-era policies that represented a step forward for women and minority workers. Many of these rules were promulgated by Obama in the form of an executive order, which lacks the imprimatur of Congress and the assurance of permanence. Obama said he was forced to act unilaterally because Republicans wouldn’t cooperate with him.

Government by fiat causes cynicism, wastes government resources and leads to the suffering of vulnerable people

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Sen. Blumenthal v. Pres. Trump: Is Trump a Bully?

A sad series of tweets and counter-tweets this week have led to cries of bullying in our nation’s capitol.

U.S. Sen. Richard Blumenthal, D-CT, was quoted on television as calling for a law to prevent President Donald Trump from firing Special Counsel Robert Mueller, who has impaneled a grand jury and may be expanding his initial investigation into Russian interference in the election.  This prompted Trump to accuse Blumenthal of being “a phony Vietnam con artist.”

Blumenthal is a man of integrity with a record of distinguished public service… but he isn’t perfect. Some years ago, in the heat of politics, Blumenthal exaggerated his military experience. Blumenthal let voters in Connecticut believe that he had served in Vietnam. He was forced to call a press conference in 2010 and admit that while he served as a member of the Marines Corps Reserves from 1970-1976 he had never served overseas.  Blumenthal was emotional at the press conference and reportedly cried.

Trump, who got five draft deferments and never served in the military, has astutely observed that the Vietnam War flap is an acute embarrassment to Blumenthal. So Trump brings it up every time Blumenthal has the temerity to criticize Trump’s administration.  On Monday, he tweeted: “I think Senator Blumenthal should take a nice long vacation in Vietnam, where he lied about his service, so he can at least say he was there.”

A few months ago,  Blumenthal objected to Trump’s dismissal of FBI Director James Comey and Trump tweeted that Blumenthal had “cried like a baby and begged for forgiveness” at the 2010 press conference. The reference to “baby” appeared to be an attempt to demean Blumenthal’s manhood. In a gross overstatement, Trump also accused “‘Richie” of devising “one of the greatest military frauds in U.S. history.”

Blumenthal has vowed that Trump’s bullying won’t intimidate him ( though one worries it may deter some of Blumenthal’s less courageous and equally imperfect colleagues). And if anyone can stand up to Trump’s tweets, Blumenthal is up for the task.   “It’s not about me… Our national security and rule of law is at risk. And that’s where our focus should be. It is not about me,” he told The Hill.

Is Trump bullying Blumenthal? Not in the traditional sense of the word. Bullying is associated with a power differential. A bully has more power than his or her victim and uses that power to repeatedly harm the victim.  Blumenthal is not a 99-pound weakling.  Blumenthal is a powerful Democrat whose intent is clear – he knows the Special Prosecutor could severely damage Trump’s presidency. And Trump poses no threat to Blumenthal, who was elected to a second term in the Senate by Connecticut voters last year with the largest vote margin in the history of statewide elections in the state. [Read more…]

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.

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).

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