The Value of a Good Name

Research shows that workplace bullying costs American employers billions each year in absenteeism, higher health care costs, lower productivity, and unnecessary litigation.

However, the cost may be even higher in terms of reputation, especially in this age of social media.

According to the Ethics Resource Center  (ERC), a non-profit center that researches high ethical standards in public and private institutions. a good name matters for many reasons, some measurable and some not. In a new report entitled, Building a Corporate Reputation of Integrity, the ERC says:

  •  Consumers prefer to deal with a company they trust.
  • Employees prefer to work at a company they are proud of.
  •  Increasingly, investors believe trustworthy, ethical companies are a safer place to put their money.

In workplace bullying situations, lawsuits generate bad publicity that can tarnish an organization’s reputation, and targets of bullying and witnesses to bullying often bad mouth their employers after they leave.  Even one disgruntled employee who shares his gripes on social media can potentially inflict enormous damage to a firm’s reputation.

A  2010 survey by Deloitte found that nearly half of workers who plan to seek out a new job say they have been motivated by a loss of trust in their employer. Some 46 percent also complain about a lack of transparency in internal communications and four of ten say they have been treated unethically.

According to the ERC, corporate executives surveyed by Weber-Shandwick, a global public relations firm,  estimated that 63 percent of their companies’ market value is due to reputation. A good reputation may be even more important for consumer product firms, where consumers cast verdicts on reputation with their pocketbooks, withholding business from companies they believe are ethically deficient and rewarding those with good reputation. Research by Edelman, another global PR firm,  found that nearly three-quarters of consumers say they will actively avoid doing business with a company they don’t trust, while 85 percent will go out of their way to buy from a company they trust.

The ERC says ethical leadership is a key to building and sustaining a good reputation:  “ERC research consistently shows employees are more likely to act with integrity when an organization’s leaders are honestly and visibly committed to ethical performance.”

Employers Should Review School Bully Laws

Imagine a place where a target of bullying can complain to a designated, trained management representative who is prepared to follow a clear protocol that is designed to immediately halt the bullying and to protect the target and witnesses from retaliation.

Imagine a place where supervisors are trained to achieve constructive and humane solutions to conflict.

The nation is mobilizing to protect school and college age targets of bullying and the protections listed above are becoming more commonplace.

According to the New York Times, 45 states have laws against bullying. However, these laws are intended primarily to protect students.

Clearly the public response to bullying is greatly influenced by the age of the target.  There appears to be less enthusiasm for efforts to protect workers and employees, possibly because of misguided fear of additional costs,  interference by the courts in private enterprise, and litigation. As a result, targets of workplace bullying  have little or no legal recourse, especially if they lack protected status under state and federal discrimination laws (which address discrimination on the basis of race, age, sexual and gender identity or disability).

School bullying laws effectively extend legal protections on the basis of  place (educational institution) rather than race or religion.  This is what workplace anti-bullying advocates seek – status blind protection for all workers who are targets of bullies in the workplace.

On Sept. 22, 2010, Tyler Clementi, a freshman at Rutgers, jumped to his death from the George Washington Bridge; three days earlier, officials said, his roommate surreptitiously streamed video of him in an intimate encounter with another man. It remains unclear what role the video may have played in Mr. Clementi’s suicide but news coverage of the episode provided impetus to efforts to enact laws against bullying and harassment.

Just two months later, New Jersey’s legislature  – with just one dissenting vote – approved what is called the nation’s toughest law against bullying and harassment in schools. The bill was signed into law by NJ’s conservative Governor, Chris Christie. The law was endorsed by the NJ School Boards Association, which concluded that schools could largely carry it out with existing resources.

While a national campaign is underway to provide a civil remedy for workplace bullying, there are things employers can do now to address the problem.

School anti-bullying laws can not only provide guidance to states with respect to potential workplace anti-bullying legislation, they can  provide guidance to employers who want to take voluntary measures now to combat the problem.

Surveys  show that more than a third of employees say they are or have been bullied and many suffer severe psychological and physical health consequences. There is no question that workplace bullying costs U.S. employers billions each year – one estimate is $300 billion –  in higher health costs, absenteeism, poor morale, needless turnover, litigation, etc.

Even in the absence of a law, a diligent employer should review school antibullying laws with an eye to formulating voluntary policies to  halt workplace bullying.

According to NJ’s tough 2010 law,  the definition of “harassment, intimidation or bullying”  includes the creation of a hostile educational environment for the student by interfering with a student’s education or by severely or pervasively causing physical or emotional harm to the student… .”

The law requires public schools to:

  • Establish bullying prevention programs or approaches.
  • A detailed procedure must be included in each district’s policy concerning the investigation of incidents of harassment, intimidation, or bullying;
  • Appoint specific people in each school and district to run antibullying programs.
  • Investigate any episodes starting within a day after they occur.
  • Train teachers, administrators and school board members to deal with bullying.
  • Each school district must form a school safety team in each school in the district to foster and maintain a positive school climate within the schools;
  • A school administrator who fails to initiate or conduct an investigation of an incident, or who should have known of an incident and fails to take action, is subject to discipline;
  • The superintendent of schools in each school district must appoint a district anti-bullying coordinator and sets forth the responsibilities of that individual;
  • Superintendents must make public reports twice a year detailing any episodes in each school, and each school will receive a letter grade to be posted on its Web site.
  • Harassment, intimidation or bullying is grounds for suspension or even expulsion from school.

“Other states have bits and pieces of what this New Jersey law has, but none of them is as broad, getting to this level of detail, and requiring them, step by step, to do the right thing for students,” said Sarah Warbelow, state legislative director at the Human Rights Campaign, a national gay rights group.

Imagine a workplace where a target of bullying can complain to a designated, trained management representative who is prepared to follow a clear protocol that is designed to immediately halt the bullying and to protect the target and witnesses from retaliation.

Imagine a workplace where supervisors are trained to achieve constructive and humane solutions to workplace conflict.


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Employer Picks Up the Tab?

Here’s a 2/15/11 article in The New York Post about an alleged bully boss.  Whether or not Mr. Dingle prevails,  this story should give employers pause to think about the high cost to THEM of alleged bullying – higher health costs, sick leave, complaints to human resources that tie up personnel, lost work hours, poor morale, bad publicity that may discourage quality job applicants and taint the organization, turnover, and, of course, costly litigation.  As a lawyer and consultant with experience in employment law and domestic violence, I have done substantial research in this area and believe that training, monitoring and early intervention could resolve many of these problems before they reach the critical stage.  PGB

‘My boss’ voice made me vomit’


The mere sound of his boss’ voice made his stomach turn.

Housing Authority Superintendent Anthony Dingle was so sickened by higher-up Demetrice Gadson’s constant berating that he would literally vomit, according to a lawsuit.

“I was constantly being attacked by her. I felt like attacks could come at any time. Every time I heard her voice, it triggered a sickening feeling in me,” Dingle said through his lawyers, Michael Borrelli and Alexander Coleman.

Dingle, 48, claims that his boss became verbally abusive after he blew the whistle on her for alleged shenanigans.

He says he was forced to go to a doctor because of the abuse to get “prescribed medication to calm his stomach and to get his intestinal system properly functioning,” the Manhattan Supreme Court suit charges.

A colleague even told him that Gadson relished in his suffering, the suit alleges, saying, “I did not know that I made men throw up” — and then laughed hysterically.

Gadson, 43, who is deputy director of the Housing Authority’s Manhattan Management unit, was so heartless that she even chastised Dingle as he grieved for his dead uncle, the suit says.

While Dingle was attending his uncle’s funeral in South Carolina, Gadson allegedly fired off e-mails to him that ripped him for not requesting overtime to address certain issues and accusing him of “not knowing his role.”

“She showed me a complete lack of respect,” Dingle said through his lawyers.

Dingle’s health continued to deteriorate, the suit says, and he suffered from a bleeding prostate that was treated by a urologist.

He was so beaten down emotionally that he sought out a shrink.

“Mr. Dingle began seeing a psychological therapist, and he continues, to date, to see this therapist on a weekly basis,” the suit charges.

The suit, filed late last year against the Housing Authority and Gadson, alleges the boss began verbally bashing Dingle after he complained about her to higher ups while he was superintendent at the Polo Grounds Towers in Harlem.

It follows a federal suit filed by Dingle against both last year. In that suit, the judge dismissed the case against the Housing Authority while the claims against Gadson remain pending. The Housing Authority declined to comment.

Reached by telephone, Gadson declined to comment.

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