KiVa: Teaching Bystanders to Care

One of the most hurtful things about workplace bullying is the isolation felt by the target when co-workers run for cover or, worse, support the bully.

A new school anti-bullying program developed in Finland in 2007 is proving to be surprisingly successful in eliminating bullying by focusing upon the bystanders who witness the bullying but do nothing.

The program  KiVa,  is based upon the premise that bullies are rewarded by earning higher social status because of their bullying.  The program encourages bystanders to show that they are against bullying and to support the target.  KiVA empowers students to defend targets through skill-building and education, including 20 hours of activities such as discussion, group work, films, role-playing, and computer exercises.

Many school anti-bully programs show marginal results but a large scale 2011 study showed that KiVa halved the risk of bullying others and of being victimized in just one school year.  Substantial decreases also emerged for other antisocial behaviors, such as vandalism, theft, and truancy, in addition to an increase in general satisfaction with school life.

Science Daily reports that an interdisciplinary team of researchers at the University of Kansas (KU) plan to bring the KiVa program to American schools. Starting as early as the 2012-13 school year, a pilot program could kick off in selected classrooms in Lawrence, Kan. If shown to be successful there, the model could expand nationally.

KiVa was developed at the University of Turku, Finland, with funding from Finlands’ Ministry of Education and Culture. In Finland, 90 % of all comprehensive schools are implementing the KiVa program.  The KiVa program won the European Crime Prevention Award in 2009.

KiVa  takes a holistic approach to the bullying problem, including a rigorous classroom curriculum, videos, posters, a computer game and role-play exercises that are designed to make schools inhospitable to bullying.

When bullying episodes occur, a small team of trained employees addresses the incident with the victim and bully or bullies to ensure bullying stops.  Peers of the victim are challenged to provide support for the victimized classmate.

“It changes the rewards structure,” said Patricia Hawley, KU associate professor of developmental psychology.. “At the end of the day, the goals of the bully are like yours and mine — they want friendship and status. They have human goals, not pathological ones. With KiVa, bystanders are set up to win by intervening, and their status can go up. As a bystander, I can achieve goals of friendship and status by standing up to a bully.”

The implications of the KiVa model for the workforce are obvious. What if employers approached the problem of bullying holistically, with the goal of insuring that bullying behavior is not rewarded?  Teams of employees could be trained to address individual complaints, and co-workers could be  encouraged to show empathy and support to targets.  Who knows? Maybe employers, like schools, would find their efforts rewarded by improved morale and substantial decreases in other antisocial behaviors, such as vandalism, theft, and truancy. Wouldn’t that alone be worth the effort?

KiVa is a Finnish acronym for Kiusaamista Vastaan, “against bullying”)

What Makes a Good Manager?

Leadership is not about hammering an employee into the ground in a futile quest for blind subservience.  The following observations are made by Harvard Business School Professor Linda Hill, author of an influential 2007 article in Harvard Business called “Becoming the Boss”:

TO BE OR NOT TO BE … A GOOD MANAGER?

  • Give up on the myth of authority and recognize the need to negotiate your way through a web of management and co-worker interdependencies or face frustration and failure.
  • Good managers must earn their subordinates’ respect and trust in order to exercise significant authority. They need to demonstrate to subordinates their own character, their competence, and their ability to get things done before those subordinates are likely to follow their lead.
  • New managers, insecure in their roles, often seek absolute compliance to orders from their subordinates. But what they learn over time is that “compliance” is not the same as “commitment.”  The challenge for managers is to nurture a strong sense of common commitment to shared goals – rather than one of blind allegiance to the managers’ dictates.
  • Instead of focusing on one-on-one relationships, managers must shape a team culture. Focus not on friendship but on building a team culture. In that way, Ms. Hill says, “a leader can unleash the problem-solving prowess of the diverse talents that make up the team.”
  • Keeping an operation running smoothly is a difficult task, and can absorb all of a new manager’s time and energy. But if that’s all the manager does,  he or she is making a big mistake. “New managers also need to realize they are responsible for recommending and initiating changes that will enhance their groups’ performance,” she writes. “Often – and it comes as a surprise to most – this means challenging organizational processes or structures that exist above and beyond their area of formal authority. Only when they understand this part of the job will they begin to address seriously their leadership responsibilities.”

Exec’s Advice for Dealing with Bully Boss

This is part of a larger interview dated  July 17, 2010 on the New York Times web site with Dawn Lepore, chairwoman and chief executive of Drugstore.com and director of eBay and The New York Times Company. In this excerpt she discusses her experience working for a bully boss.

Q. Any bosses you had who were big influences?

A. I had a very bad boss early in my career. She was older than I was. She’d started in the financial services industry and she’d had a very hard time, so I think that probably shaped her as a leader. She was very smart but had terrible communication skills. She did not make people feel valued or comfortable or like they were supported at all. And I remember what that felt like. And I thought, I’m never going to do that to people.

Q. How long did you work for her?

A. Many years. I almost left twice.

Q. What’s your advice to people stuck working for a bad boss?

A. Life is about trade-offs. And you have to be conscious of the trade-off you’re making. I felt there were enough other positives in the environment and enough opportunity that I stuck it out. But, you know, I was unhappy. I had to kind of just take a deep breath and say, O.K., I know this is going to end and I’m willing to put up with this.

But you can’t be a victim. If you let yourself become a victim, that’s the kiss of death. So you’ve got to feel, O.K., I am choosing to do this, and when I decide I can no longer do it, then I will take action. So I will not let myself be so belittled that I think I can’t do anything. If it starts undermining your confidence, then you have to leave, because then that seeps into everything you do.

Massachusetts School Anti-Bullying Law

In April  2010 the Massachusetts’ state legislature unanimously passed what is called the toughest anti-bullying law in the nation with respect to schools,  Title 12, Chapter 71, Section 370. The law was precipitated by two cases of  Massachusetts’ youths committing suicide after allegedly being bullied. The legislation requires school employees to report and principals to investigate all instances of bullying. It should be noted that the Massachusetts’ law requires “repeated” incidents of bullying, which is not required in all bullying laws (ex. Quebec, Australia).  PGB

DEFINITION OF BULLYING  IN MASSACHUSETTS  SCHOOL ANTI-BULLYING LAW

“Bullying”, the repeated use by one or more students of a written, verbal or electronic expression or a physical act or gesture or any combination thereof, directed at a victim that:

(i)  causes physical or emotional harm to the victim or damage to the victim’s property;

(ii) places the victim in reasonable fear of harm to himself or of damage to his property;

(iii) creates a hostile environment at school for the victim;

(iv) infringes on the rights of the victim at school; or

(v) materially and substantially disrupts the education process or the orderly operation of a  school. For the purposes of this section, bullying shall include cyberbullying.