Lesson of the Boys on the Bus

Could videotaping be a solution to workplace bullying?

It was in Karen Klein’s case.

As a result of a cell phone video that went viral on the Internet, four seventh-graders in upstate New York recently were suspended for a year for bullying Karen Klein, a 68-year-old school bus monitor.

Meanwhile, a fund drive started on Klein’s behalf has yielded more than $650,000 to date.

It is unlikely that anyone would have believed what Klein went through on that bus ride home if it had not been videotaped.  The youths’ behavior is so vile that it is shocking !

The four boys cruelly taunt and humiliate Klein, even commenting about the suicide of her oldest son.  (“You don’t have a family because they all killed themselves because they don’t want to be near you.”)  They invaded her personal and emotional space, as well as her physical space. They drove her to tears and they were positively gleeful about it.

Surveys show that at least one in four American workers experience a hostile workplace as a result of bullying. Adult bullies tend to be more sophisticated than middle school boys. Most bullies in the workplace are supervisors but they can also be co-workers and customers.

Supervisors undermine the target over time with unfair criticism and demeaning comments.  They sabotage the target’s work by providing inadequate resources and unrealistic deadlines. They set out to systematically destroy the target’s reputation and self-esteem.

Targets of workplace bullying currently have little or no legal recourse to address the problem unless they are targeted in violation of civil rights laws on the basis of race, sex, religion, national origin, age, disability, etc.  Most targets of workplace bullying must either endure the bullying until they are sick, forced to quit or fired.

Other countries have adopted laws and regulations addressing workplace bullying but there is no state or federal law on the problem in the United States. Workplace bullying has been virtually ignored by the U.S. Secretary of Labor and the U.S. Occupational Health and Safety Administration.

So back to Klein’s case. The videotape of the boys on the bus drew international attention to her plight. Maybe there’s a lesson there.

Employers today routinely monitor employees to insure against theft or fraud. Why shouldn’t employees electronically monitor the workplace?

Keep in mind that several states have laws that prohibit the use of devices that record, photograph or overhear events or conversations in private places. Private areas include places where a reasonable amount of privacy is expected, such as a restroom or a locker room. Most work areas are considered public but … anyone who is seriously considering the surreptitious monitoring of their workplace should review (in advance) the laws of their state and, if they’re smart, consult an attorney.

It’s a radical idea but maybe a few viral videos that demonstrate the real problem of workplace bullying in the United States would prompt some long overdue federal attention to the problem.

Comments

  1. I agree. I think that recording of the evidence about a harassing supervisor, who is using the one-to-one sessions with the targeted employee, is a primary source to demonstrate to others what the bullying conduct looks like. Investigations looking for evidence do not grasp the hidden interactions and it is too easy for the supervisor to manipulate perceptions of the ‘difficult’ employee who they are undermining. After extensive stress sets in, the employee’s performance is then criticized. Clear evidence is needed when there is a high level of supervisory manipulation. The people with authority do not want to believe it.

  2. PTSDshock says:

    I cannot stress enough…there are no words to relay the harm that experiencing this EXACT SAME behavior at the hands of another ADULT has on a person.

    We all watched this in horror and it was so gruesome that we nearly looked away and many of us could not stand watching. Many of us across the world were so outraged that you could have jumped through the screen to intervene, so my question is WHY?

    WHY ARE WE SITTING ON LEGISLATION THAT WOULD PREVENT ANYONE FROM EXPERIENCING THIS AT WORK?

    Many targets have gone through this near daily or in fact daily. The same humiliations, name calling, threats of violence, demeaning, insulting and worse. Severe invasions of privacy that surely equate to stalking. It begins however covertly and as innuendo and as an adult you erect you boundaries and just as seen in the video when she attempted to erect her boundaries…they were ignored and trampled and the boys challenged even further… It was almost the “I dare you to get me in trouble, I don’t care” mentality.

    This is EXACTLY what I experienced and what many millions are experiencing right today….AT WORK. In my case, I was a top performer, kind to all and acknowledged openly and in written accolades for my performance and even positive character. For years, I tried to cope silently with witnessing the behavior imposed on others and for myself it was horrendous treatment. The company fully knows and supervisors indulge as well as top management.

    The company culture is set up so that the target WILL lose their job if speaking up. There is no help at all and everyone knows it. Bystanders watch and comment in private and bullies persist and employ others to shower you with verbal, emotional and psychological excrement. This likely to mask the fact that they are underperforming and regarded as having a shady and unpleasant personality.They vow to reduce you and strip you of your joy and by the time anyone let alone anyone who may see your potential and allow you to advance, gets a look at you…there will be nothing of you left to see. YES-IT IS GOING ON AT WORK…THIS SAME SCENE. The behavior is shocking and you have no recourse. Having a physical altercation to protect yourself is not an attractive option and reducing to participate in defense of yourself seems an unimaginable option for targets.

    Ultimately economic devastation and psychological demolition occurs. PTSD after years of the SAME TREATMENT JUST AT TIMES…AND I SAY ONLY -AT TIMES- ON A MORE COVERT SCALE…MEANING NOT YELLING THE INSULTS, JUST SAYING THEM AS YOU PASS BY ME OR STAND NEAR ME GATHERED TOGETHER. OR SENDING IN A VEILED EMAIL. Or yelling them out at me when the area is cleared.

    IF IT COULD BE WATCHED ON TAPE LIKE THE BUS MONITORS 10 MINUTE ABUSE, WOULD THE WORLD THEN BAN TOGETHER AND PAY THE MORTGAGES AND LIVING EXPENSES FOR THE BREADWINNERS FAMILIES WHO HAVE BEEN REPETITIVELY THREATENED AND ABUSED AND STALKED AND INTRUDED UPON FOR ——YEARS— WITHIN THEIR HOSTILE ENVIRONMENT THAT THEIR COMPANY ONLY CALLS….MEAN. AS THEY BECOME LETHARGIC AND DEPRESSED AND ANGERED AND SHOCKED?

    I’M SOOO GLAD SHE GOT THAT MONEY. THIS SAYS WE KNOW HOW DAMAGING EVEN 10 MINUTES OF THIS FROM CHILDREN IS….WHAT ABOUT 10YRS OR 5 YRS FROM ADULTS WHILE AT THE PLACE THAT WE GO TO SECURE ECONOMIC STABILITY FOR OUR FAMILIES?

    WHEN IT HAPPENS IN AN ORGANIZATION. THE CORPORATION YOU WORK FOR THAT CONSISTS OF ADULTS….IT CHANGES YOUR ENTIRE REALITY. LIFE IS NEVER THE SAME. THE POSITIVE YOU IS LOST IN LIMBO.

    BUT THERE ARE NO LAWS IN THE US TO OUTLAW THIS BEHAVIOR….WHY?

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