Resolved … Don’t Be Evil

The vast majority of workplace bullies don’t think of themselves that way. They justify or make excuses about their behavior. However, I suspect that many workplace bullies – at least those who are not actual psychopaths or sociopaths – do know on some level that what they are doing is wrong.

Every manager should consider the following:

  • How would you feel if your mother, child or partner was treated the way you treat your target? Not so good? Then what you are doing is wrong.
  • Are you flattering yourself?  Are you really a perfectionist trying to get the best out of your workforce or are you a petty tyrant satisfying a personal need for power and control?  If the latter, your actions are damaging both the target and your employer.
  •  There is a fine line between workplace abuse and other forms of abuse, including intimate partner abuse, child abuse and elder abuse. Especially for those in a supervisory position, when you zero in on a subordinate target, visualize a small child who is about to be smacked.
  •  Yes, some employees deserve to be disciplined and/ or fired but there is a difference between exercising legitimate supervisory authority and bullying. No employee ever deserves to be treated disrespectfully or bullied.
  • If you are an employer who is using bullying strategically to avoid a legal obligation – such as paying workers compensation – you are taking a serious risk. Sometimes targets of bullying do not simply fade into obscurity. They hire lawyers and sue.  And whether they win or lose, you will pay.
  •  Bullies are “ fortunate” to work in the United States, which unlike many other industrialized countries for decades has ignored  overwhelming research that workplace bullying causes potentially severe mental and physical damages to targets. But times are changing. Educated employers do not tolerate bullying because they know that they ultimately pick up the tab in terms of needless turnover, absenteeism, higher health costs, litigation, etc.
  • If you are a Human Resources “professional” and you turn a blind eye when a worker complains to you about being bullied – or make things worse for the target – you are part of the problem.  You are acting unethically and doing a great disservice to your employer.

New research is showing that workplace bullies are often their own worst enemies.  American is growing less tolerant of this kind of management style.  It’s one thing if a manager gets an isolated complaint but it can quickly end a promising  career when there are multiple bullying complaints. For all of the above reasons and many more, I propose the following resolution for workplace bullies in 2012:

  DON’T BE EVIL!

The Veil over the U.S. Supreme Court

In Cleveland, puppets are being used by a TV station to reenact excerpts from a political corruption trial that is closed to the public … Why not have puppets reenact  U.S. Supreme Court hearings?  Big Bird could play Chief Justice John G. Roberts and Abbie Cadabby could play Elena Kagen. PGB

 

Our society is increasingly divided between the “haves” and the “have nots,” with the vast majority of Americans now strongly disapproving of the way that government is operating.

The President and the U.S. Congress receive much of the blame because they are seen fumbling in prime-time under glare of the television spotlight. But there is another equally or even more powerful branch of government that manages to stay out of the spotlight – the judiciary, led by the U.S. Supreme Court.

If you think that corporations have disproportionate influence in American government, you need only look to the Court’s 5-4 decision in Citizens United v. Federal Election Commission, 558 U.S. 08-205 (2010), holding that corporate funding of “independent” political broadcasts in elections is protected speech under the First Amendment. That ruling alone has spurred a tsunami of money into partisan election politics from corporations seeking to advance their interests.

Most people today “watch” their news on television or the Internet. Refusing to be televised is akin to insisting in 1440 that the bible be penned in ink by monks, longhand, rather than printed on the newfangled Gutenberg printing press. However, federal judges are elected for life and if they don’t want to be televised then who’s going to make them?

Now the Court is getting another opportunity to affect the balance of interests between corporate America and the average American. The Court has agreed to review the constitutionality of President Obama’s health care law, which is being challenged by 26 states and the National Federation of Independent Business.

A recent USA TODAY/Gallup Poll found that 72% of the people surveyed think the Court should allow cameras to televise oral arguments on the health care law, which are scheduled to be held in March.

Courts in the United States generally are unsympathetic to issues surrounding workplace abuse and unfair dismissal,  especially when compared to courts in many other industrialized societies.  Last summer, for example, the U.S. Supreme Court refused to certify a class action involving 1.5 million workers at Walmart who allege sex discrimination in violation of Title VII. The Court’s ruling will have an enormous  impact upon the ability of workers to secure fair treatment in the workplace.

Unfortunately, most non-union workers are clueless about how few  protections they really have until  they are escorted from the building with their possessions in a cardboard box.  Televising the proceedings of the U.S. Supreme Court is important to the goal of having an informed and educated public. Or is that what the Court is afraid of?

Political Environment Anti-Union

A new report by Center for Economics and Policy Research (CEPR) has concluded that union membership in the United States is at an all-time low because of the “broad national political environment” and not, as some have theorized, because of globalization and technological changes.

One reason that so many American workers are vulnerable to bullying, harassment, and unfair termination is the low rate of unionization in the United States.

There is no law in the United States against workplace bullying and non-unionized workers are the mercy of a judicially created rule of law called the Employment at Will rule, which means they can be fired for any reason – even a bad one – as long as it does not violate a collective bargaining agreement, the law, or a recognized public policy.

Whatever one thinks of unions, there can be no denying that unions mean clout for workers.  Unions represent workers at the bargaining table, and they defend workers in grievance proceedings. Unions historically have led the way toward improving working conditions for all workers.

“In half of the rich countries we studied, the share of the workforce covered by a collective bargaining agreement has remained constant or even increased since 1980 –despite being exposed to the same kinds of pressures from globalization and technology that we experienced here in the United States,” said John Schmitt, a senior economist for the CEPR in Washington, D.C.

In a, 11/17/11 report entitled Politics Matter: Changes in Unionization Rates in Rich Countries, 1960-2010, Schmitt and co-author Alexandra Mitukiewicz review unionization data covering the last five decades for 21 rich economies.

The report demonstrates that national politics are a major determinant of national unionization rates in recent decades, more important than globalization and the new economy.

The researchers found that  countries typically identified with social democratic parties – Sweden, Denmark, Norway, and Finland – generally saw small increases in union coverage and only small decreases in union membership since 1980. Countries such as the United States, the United Kingdom, and other liberal market economies with less protective labor-market systems have generally experienced sharp drops in union coverage and membership. Countries referred to as continental market economies, including Germany and France, saw small drops in union coverage and moderate declines in union membership.

Of course, this probably comes as no surprise to public sector workers who are fighting to retain union bargaining rights, or to unions battling to keep American companies from relocating overseas or to states that are hostile to unions.

According to the U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics, the union membership rate in the United States -the percent of wage and salary workers who were members of a union–was 11.9 percent in 2010, down from 12.3 percent a year earlier. The number of wage and salary workers belonging to unions declined by 612,000 to 14.7 million. In 1983, the first year for which comparable union data are available, the union membership rate was 20.1 per- cent, and there were 17.7 million union workers.

See No Evil at Penn State

Coach Joe Paterno and Penn State President Graham Spanier were fired, effective immediately, on Nov. 9, 2011 by the PSU Board of Trustees. The troubling culture at Penn State was in evidence when students sympathetic to Paterno erupted into violence at the news until they were subdued by police with tear gas. Meanwhile, more victims of alleged pedophile Jerry Sandusky surfaced. PGB

SEE NO EVIL …

In light of the horrifying and unfathomable nature of the pedophile scandal at Penn State University, it is easy to forget that Penn State is a workplace.

The leader sets an important tone for a workplace in terms of signalling what behaviors will and will not be tolerated.  Which raises a question.  What did Penn State President Graham Spanier know of the incident in 2002 in which Jerry Sandusky, a retired long-time football coach at Penn State, allegedly showered and engaged in sexual conduct with a young boy at Penn State’s  football building?

According to a grand jury report, Spanier said he was told that a staff member had reported that Sandusky was “horsing around” with a young boy in the shower in a way that made the staff member “uncomfortable.”  However, Spanier says that he did not  know that Sandusky was engaging in inappropriate sexual behavior with the boy.

Wasn’t it enough that Sandusky was engaging in horseplay with a young boy in the shower area?  That a staffer was made to feel “uncomfortable” witnessing the behavior?  Did Spanier have an obligation to inquire further?

Spanier obviously felt that something improper had occurred. In response to the incident, Spanier said he approved of a plan to take Sandusky’s locker room keys away and to inform him that he could not use Penn State’s athletic facilities with young people, an order that officials later agreed was unenforceable.  Was there any protocol at Penn State for investigating and disciplining alleged misconduct on campus?  Sandusky was still a professor emeritus at Penn State, and had an office there.

Sandusky is the founder of The Second Mile, a charity dedicated to helping impoverished youth who have absent or dysfunctional families. Sandusky allegedly abused at least eight boys through his contact with the club, which hosts sporting camps and events at Penn State.

According to a grand jury investigation, in addition to Spanier, the following adults were allegedly aware of the 2002 incident:

  • A 28-year old Penn State Graduate Assistant who said he saw Sandusky nude in the shower and thought Sandusky was having sex with a boy. (He reported the incident to Paterno.)
  •  The graduate assistant’s father.
  • Penn State Coach Joseph V. Paterno (who reported the incident to his bosses).
  • Penn State Athletic Director Tim Curley.
  • Penn State Senior Vice President for Finance and Business Gary Schultz.
  • Dr. Jack Rayovich, executive director of the Second Mile Club.

None of these people, including Spanier, reported Sandusky’s conduct to the police or to child protective services.

Incredibly, this was not the first time that Penn State officials had notice that Sandusky was engaging in questionable behavior with children in a shower on the campus.

Schultz told the grand jury that he knew that Sandusky was investigated by child protective services in 1998 for allegedly showering with young boys and behaving in a sexually inappropriate manner. According to the grand jury report:  “Schultz testified that the 1998 incident was reviewed by the University Police and ‘the child protection agency’ with the blessing of then-University counsel Wendell Courtney (who)  was then and remains counsel for The Second Mile.”

Spanier, who was appointed president in 1995, denied knowing of the 1998 University Police investigation of Sandusky.

There was yet another incident at Penn State in 2000 in which a janitor allegedly saw Sandusky having sex with another boy, this one aged 11 or 12.  The janitor  told his co-workers, who expressed fear they could lose their jobs, and then he told his immediate supervisor Jim Witherite. No one called the police that time either.

State police commissioner Frank Noonan was quoted Monday as stating:  “Somebody has to question about what I would consider the moral requirements for a human being that knows of sexual things that are taking place with a child, … Whether you’re a football coach or a university president or the guy sweeping the building. I think you have a moral responsibility to call us.”

Both Schultz and Curley have been arrested for allegedly lying to the grand jury and failing to report the alleged 2002 sexual assault to authorities as required by law.

Spanier may avoid arrest but it remains to be seen whether he can avoid responsibility for the tsunami wave of bad publicity that has washed over Penn State’s campus because the highest ranking officials there saw no evil.