Chef Ramsay or Donald Trump?

This is a story from the BBC News Magazine about workplace bullying. The story compares Chef Gordon Ramsay from Hell’s Kitchen and the British host of The Apprentice, Alan Sugar. The format of Trump’s show is similar to that of Sugar’s. PGB

Just what is bullying?

By Rajini Vaidyanathan, BBC News Magazine

Everybody has been in an office where tempers were lost and swearing occurred on an occasional basis. But what distinguishes the acceptable boisterousness that characterises some workplaces with downright bullying?

Shouting, screaming, swearing, ignoring or behaviour designed to embarrass.

Has your boss done any of the above to you, and if so, did you shrug it off as normal office behaviour, or consider it something far more serious?

In a new book, Prime Minister Gordon Brown has been accused of workplace bullying after a number of alleged incidents. He is said to have grabbed staff by the lapels, shoved them aside and shouted at them.

Mr Brown admits he can get angry, and is determined and strong willed, but denies he is a bully.

So where is the line drawn between being assertive in the workplace and being labelled a bully?

Defining where that line is, and when it is crossed, can be difficult. If you’ve failed to meet your project deadline, should your boss take you to one side and sweetly tell you you didn’t make the grade, or does he or she have a right to shout at you and demand answers?

In the various interpretations of workplace bullying, there is a common thread – it is when the behaviour humiliates and offends the victim, is a personal attack, and is an abuse of power.

The Chartered Institute of Personnel and Development, which represents recruitment experts, defines it as this:

  • “Bullying at work involves repeated negative actions and practices that are directed at one or more workers.
  • “The behaviours are unwelcome to the victim and undertaken in circumstances where the victim has difficulty in defending themselves.
  • “The behaviours may be carried out as a deliberate act or unconsciously. These behaviours cause humiliation, offence and distress to the victim.”

Ramsay rollicking

But even then, it can be hard to know what distinguishes an ebullient manager from a bullying boss.

“Strong managers are given power because they are managers,” says Lynn Witheridge, chief executive of the Andrea Adams Consultancy which was set up to deal with workplace victimisation. “It’s their job to use and to wield it but not to abuse.”

For many people, the embodiment of an irascible boss is TV chef Gordon Ramsay, or Alan Sugar, who wields the firing finger in the BBC’s The Apprentice. Both have formidable characters and don’t hesitate to deliver withering comments.

But by Ms Witheridge’s definition only Ramsay’s approach could be considered a form of workplace bullying.

“He is absolutely [a bully] because it becomes personal… he uses swearing, and shouts at people saying they’re thick.”

Sugar, however, is not, she says.

“He has to pick the very best but it doesn’t get personal. He doesn’t use personal traits and accuse them of being thick… he strongly manages them.”

But others might see the behaviour of the head chef as entirely reasonable, given the pressurised environment of a professional kitchen.

Kitchen tempers

Most people understand that at busy times, it is high tension, says Jenny Stringer, acting managing director of Leiths School of Food and Wine.

“You need to be quite vocal, depending on the kitchen you need to speak loudly. I don’t think that’s what anyone means by bullying,” she says.

There’s a clear difference between yelling orders at people and operating normal quality control, and repeatedly physically confronting a single member of staff, she notes.

It’s not just in kitchens that tempers are frequently raised. Shouting at someone who is late to meet their deadline might not seem out of place in a newspaper office, or in a trading room where a certain level of robustness is expected.

Neil Addison, a barrister who specialises in harassment cases, says context is key.

“What might not be bullying in the barrack room, might be harassment in a school. If you’re training for the SAS there’s no point complaining that a sergeant is shouting at you because that’s what goes with the job.

“But if you’re a teacher in a school or a worker in an office there’s no reason for your boss to shout at you.”

Some of those who have experienced workplace bullying say the stereotype of being barked at by a short-tempered boss is missing the point. It can manifest itself in a more subtle, yet sustained, manner.

Mark, who worked for a private firm that was contracted by the NHS several years ago, became a victim.

“It wasn’t a question of pushing and shoving, but it was nasty stuff.

“There was an attempt to to show you up in meetings. Saying to your face you didn’t know what you were talking about, putting self-doubt in your mind.”

Yet when he tried to raise the issue, he was given the brush off.

Playground ring

“I tried to do the right thing and reported it to HR. They told me it wasn’t bullying. They said ‘it’s just your boss, it’s the way he is’.”

Mark eventually took voluntary redundancy, and now runs his own antiques business.

“I got to the point where I went off for a while with stress. I was unable to do my job.

“This kind of background bullying, it isn’t as overt as someone standing yelling at your face from two inches away. It hits you in the guts. You think ‘maybe I’m making this up’.”

Part of the problem could be the label of “bullying” which comes with a good deal of emotional baggage, says Lynn Witheridge.

“People are so fearful of using this word. The childish connotations of the word makes them feel weak or a trouble-maker.”

Story from BBC NEWS:

http://news.bbc.co.uk/go/pr/fr/-/2/hi/uk_news/magazine/8528422.stm

 

Published: 2010/02/22 15:32:36 GMT

Alleged Bullycide of Wisconsin Woman Prompts Bill

April 7, 2010

Amid emotional testimony, bill targets workplace bullying

By DEE J. HALL

In 2008, 31-year-old Jodie Zebell appeared to have a full life. The UW-Madison graduate was married with two young children and a part-time job as a mammographer at a La Crosse clinic, where she was praised as a model employee.

But soon afterward, Zebell became the target of co-workers who unfairly blamed her for problems at work. After she was promoted, the bullying intensified, her aunt Joie Bostwick recalled during a legislative hearing Wednesday attended by members of her niece’s family, including Zebell’s mother, Jean Jones of Spring Hill, Fla.

After her niece had a run-in with her supervisor, Bostwick said, the boss joined in the harassment, filling Zebell’s personnel file with baseless complaints about her performance and loudly criticizing her in front of others.

“This went on for a series of months,” said Bostwick, a Blue Mounds native who now lives in Naples, Fla. “It just got worse and worse.”

On Feb. 3, 2008, the day before she was to receive a poor job review, Jodie Zebell allegedly committed bullycide – took her own life as a result of depression over bullying. A Madison attorney told the family it had no legal recourse since she wasn’t protected from workplace discrimination as would be an older worker or a racial, ethnic or religious minority.

“We were astounded to find there was nothing we could do. There were no laws unless you were part of a protected class,” Bostwick said.

The tragedy sparked Zebell’s family to join a national movement seeking to ban bullying from workplaces and give victims — who prefer to call themselves “targets” — tools to stop the harassment or sue abusive employers and bullies in court.

Abusive conduct

On Wednesday, the Assembly Labor Committee heard 90 minutes of often emotional testimony on a bill sponsored by state Rep. Kelda Roys, D-Madison, that would require employers to implement and enforce anti-bullying policies — or face their abused employees in court.

Seventeen states are considering such legislation, according to the Workplace Bullying Institute of Bellingham, Wash., whose director, Gary Namie, also testified at the hearing.

Under the proposal, workers who believe they have been harmed by “abusive conduct” could sue to force the employer to stop the bullying, to seek reinstatement or to get compensation for lost wages, medical costs, attorneys’ fees, emotional distress and punitive damages.

The bill defines abusive conduct as “repeated infliction of verbal abuse, verbal or physical conduct that is threatening, intimidating or humiliating, sabotage or undermining of an employee’s work performance or exploitation of an employee’s known psychological or physical vulnerability.”

Vaguely worded bill

Representatives of business groups told the committee the bill is too vaguely worded and would invite frivolous lawsuits by disgruntled and incompetent workers.

“AB 894 paints a target on the back of small employers … (who) can’t afford to fight claims in circuit courts,” said Pete Hanson, director of government relations for the Wisconsin Restaurant Association.

Andrew Cook of the Wisconsin Civil Justice Council, a consortium of large business groups, agreed. Cook said if Wisconsin becomes the first state to pass such a bill, it would harm the state’s ability to attract business.

Emotional stories

But at the hearing, such concerns were largely overshadowed by these stories:

• A Spanish teacher testified she was “iced out and isolated” for four years by older colleagues in her school district. Once a marathon runner, Susan Stiede now suffers from clinical depression, chest pain, panic attacks and symptoms of post-traumatic stress disorder. She quit teaching in 2009.

• A nervous Stephanie Endres told of being harassed by a unnamed female boss in a state agency that she declined to name. Intimidated by Endres’ knowledge of the agency, the new supervisor circulated untrue rumors about her, Endres said, banished her to an office with no phone and separated her from her co-workers. When Endres took a six-month stress leave, the supervisor started bullying other members of the staff, she said.

• Dr. Deborah Lemke told lawmakers of an unnamed Wisconsin hospital where the nursing supervisor verbally bullied nurses on his staff. When she intervened on behalf of the nurses, Lemke said, holding back tears, she herself became a target.

Corliss Olson, associate professor at the UW-Extension’s School for Workers, said the bill is “desperately” needed.  Olson said most targets of bullying are “normal, competent people” who can be driven to disability or even death.  “This is a viciousness in the workplace that we need to stop,” Olson said. “We can and we must change our workplaces so they are civil.”

FROM: WISCONSIN STATE JOURNAL

TOP 10 REASONS FOR BEING TARGETED

1. I remained independent, refused to be controlled. (70%)

2. My competence and reputation were threatening. (67%)

3. The Bully’s personality. (59%)

4. My being liked by co-workers and customers (47%)

5. In retaliation for my reporting unethical or illegal conduct, whistleblowing. (38%)

6. I was focused solely on work and ignored the politics. 36%)

7. Bully had personal problems. (35%)

8. I am nonconfrontative and easily overrun by others. (33%)

9. I was at a time of personal medical or life vulnerability or changes. (30%)

10. I could not afford to leave the job and the bully knew it. (30%)

* From Workplace Bullying Institute (2003)(non-scientific survey of 1,000 volunteer respondents who visited WBI’s web site).

TIME MAG: NEW LAWS TARGET WORKPLACE BULLYING

Wednesday, Jul. 21, 2010


TIME MAGAZINE

Case Study

New Laws Target Workplace Bullying

By Adam Cohen
There are some very important things they don’t tell you on career day. Chief among them is that there is a good chance that at some point during your working adult life you will have an abusive boss — the kind who uses his or her authority to torment subordinates. Bullying bosses scream, often with the goal of humiliating. They write up false evaluations to put good workers’ jobs at risk. Some are serial bullies, targeting one worker and, when he or she is gone, moving on to their next victim.

Bosses may abuse because they have impossibly high standards, are insecure or have not been properly socialized. But some simply enjoy it. Recent brain-scan research has shown that bullies are wired differently. When they see a victim in pain, it triggers parts of their brain associated with pleasure. (See 10 ways your job will change.)

Worker abuse is a widespread problem — in a 2007 Zogby poll, 37% of American adults said they had been bullied at work — and most of it is perfectly legal. Workers who are abused based on their membership in a protected class — race, nationality or religion, among others — can sue under civil rights laws. But the law generally does not protect against plain old viciousness.

That may be about to change. Workers’ rights advocates have been campaigning for years to get states to enact laws against workplace bullying, and in May they scored their biggest victory. The New York state senate passed a bill that would let workers sue for physical, psychological or economic harm due to abusive treatment on the job. If New York’s Healthy Workplace Bill becomes law, workers who can show that they were subjected to hostile conduct — including verbal abuse, threats or work sabotage — could be awarded lost wages, medical expenses, compensation for emotional distress and punitive damages.

Not surprisingly, many employers oppose the bill. They argue that it would lead to frivolous lawsuits and put them at risk for nothing more than running a tight ship and expecting a lot from their workers. But supporters of the law point out that it is crafted to cover only the most offensive and deliberate abuse. The bill requires that wrongful conduct be done with “malice,” and in most cases that it has to be repeated. It also provides affirmative defenses for companies that investigate promptly and address the problem in good faith. (See “When Bullying Goes Criminal.”)

The New York state assembly is expected to take up the bill next year. At least 16 other states are considering similar bills, and some employment-law experts think antibullying legislation may have real momentum now.

Legislatures are not the only ones standing up to bullies. In 2008, the Indiana supreme court struck a blow against workplace bullying when it upheld a $325,000 verdict against a cardiovascular surgeon. A medical technician who operated a heart and lung machine during surgery accused the surgeon of charging at him with clenched fists, screaming and swearing. The formal legal claims were intentional infliction of emotional distress and assault, but the plaintiff argued it as a bullying case, and had an expert on workplace bullying testify at trial.

Ideally, employers should rein in abusive bosses on their own, but that rarely happens. Many bullies are close to powerful people in the organization and carefully target less powerful ones. When John Bolton was nominated to be ambassador to the U.N. by President George W. Bush, a former subordinate told the Senate that Bolton was a “serial abuser” and — in a phrase that has since entered the bullying lexicon — a “kiss-up, kick-down sort of guy.” (See “How Not to Raise a Bully.”)

There are reasons workplace bullying may be getting worse now, including the bad economy. In good times, abused workers can simply walk out on a job if they are being mistreated. But with unemployment at around 9.5%, and five job seekers for every available job, many employees feel they have no choice but to stay put.

Another factor is the decline of organized labor. Unions were once a worker’s front-line defense against an abusive boss. If a supervisor was out of line, the shop steward would talk to him — on behalf of all of the workers. But union membership has fallen from 35% of the workforce in the 1950s to under 13% today, and some unions are less aggressive than they once were. (See what to do if you have a bad boss.)

That leaves litigation. There seems to be a strong constituency for laws allowing workers to sue over workplace abuse. The vote on the Healthy Workplace Bill was bipartisan and not close: New York state senators favored it 45 to 16.

If states enact laws of this kind and lawsuits begin to be filed, juries are far more likely to sympathize with the bullied worker than the bullying boss — and damages awards could be large. There is one easy way for employers to head all of this off: get more serious about rooting out abusive bosses before serious damage is done.

Cohen, a lawyer, is a former TIME writer and a former member of the New York Times editorial board
Read more: http://www.time.com/time/nation/article/0,8599,2005358,00.html#ixzz11RYkRH00

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