Posts Tagged ‘HR’

Comstock’s: Calif mag scrutinizes new workplace bullying law

Tuesday, March 31st, 2015

This Time, It’s Personal
Will legislation to protect employees from workplace bullying stifle demanding managers?

By Steven Yoder, Comstock’s, March 31, 2015

Carrie Clark, 63, says bullies aren’t confined to playgrounds. Sometimes, they run the whole school. 

In 1995, Clark directed an English as a Second Language program in West Sacramento’s Washington Unified School District. An influx of foreign students was forcing her staff to work ever-longer hours. She wrote several reports to the district superintendent documenting the extra load and asking for more help. She got no response, she says. So her teachers union representative suggested she put together a petition signed by program staff.

That got a reaction, but not the one she wanted. The superintendent took Clark off of the school’s committee of department chairs and canceled and consolidated classes. Clark says he called her house and left an odd, garbled message, and one day after a meeting, he followed her into an empty hallway. Towering over her, his face a foot from hers, he screamed that he wanted “no more petitions!”

Scared, Clark quit a few weeks later. She developed tremors in her right side, which she still has, started having heart palpitations and couldn’t sleep. Today, when she talks about what happened, her speech slows to a crawl and her voice quavers like a warped record. A Sacramento occupational medicine specialist diagnosed her with a post-traumatic stress disorder related to her job. After a 20-year teaching career, she’d never set foot in a classroom again. In 2002, she won a $150,000 workers’ compensation claim against the district.

There’s evidence that the superintendent targeted others who crossed him. He took a job in a district near Yuba City, and in January 1999 the teachers association president there told The Valley Mirror that the superintendent verbally threatened her and that she’d asked a court for a restraining order. She also told a reporter that she was having panic attacks for the first time in her life. (The superintendent, now retired, keeps an unlisted phone number and didn’t respond to a certified letter sent to his address requesting an interview.)


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Career Builder survey on workplace bullying

Monday, September 29th, 2014

Career Builder commissioned an online Harris Poll to survey employed full-time private sector U.S. respondents. The prevalence of bullying was 28%. Career Builder findings can be extrapolated to their sample — people with full-time jobs in the private sector working for someone else.

WBI commissioned Zogby to conduct our 2014 U.S. Workplace Bullying Survey with a sample of all adult Americans that included unemployed workers (since bullying displaces so many of its targets). The prevalence of bullying was 27%. Our findings apply to all adult Americans, a broader sample.

The two studies are worth comparing. Both investigated bullying by race and rank.

Here are the major findings from the Career Builder survey.

• Minorities, the physically disabled and LGBT workers were bullied at a higher prevalence rate

• Women were targeted more than men (same for WBI)

• Managers were bullied at a 27% rate (it was 35% in the WBI 2007 national survey)

• Bullies were bosses (45%) and coworkers (46%); the WBI rates were 56% and 33%, respectively

• 48% of targets confronted their bully (WBI found that 69% had) and 45% of those people were successful at stopping the bullying (WBI found a paltry 3.57% success rate)

• 32% reported incidents to HR but in 58% of those cases nothing was done

According to the survey, the top five tactics were:

• Falsely accused of mistakes he/she didn’t make (43%)
• Comments were ignored, dismissed or not acknowledged (41%)
• A different set of standards or policies was used for the worker (37%)
• Gossip was spread about the worker (34%)
• Constantly criticized by the boss or co-workers (32%)

We await word from Career Builder what specific language they used to define bullying in the workplace.

Regardless, this study reinforces our own work — workplace bullying is an American workplace scourge.

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SHRM opposes anti-bullying Healthy Workplace Bill

Friday, June 18th, 2010

The advocacy group for Human Resources (HR) issued an alert for SHRM members in June 2010 to oppose the NY versions of the HWB. In brief, Bob Carragher, SHRM’s manager of government relations (chief national lobbyist) and Susan Corcoran, NY state legislative director (state lobbyist) claim our legislation is “bad for business and bad for New York.”  The two issued a “Talking Points” memo related to the bills that fell into our hands. Here is the text verbatim with WBI counterpoint in italics:

Human resource professionals, by the very nature of their positions, are dedicated to advocating for the interests of all employees in their organizations.

[Not true. HR is a management support function and acts accordingly. HR is not in the employee advocacy business, only unions are. To say otherwise is disingenuous.]

One of the many daily tasks of an effective HR practitioner is ensuring a positive work environment for all.  Recognizing that an abusive work environment can have a serious effect on both the morale and health of their employees, while also seriously impacting the image and profitability of an organization, most employers (through their HR departments) have conducted extensive educational/awareness programs on the negative impact “bullying” can have in the workplace.

[Ensuring a positive environment for all?  Give me a break! By allowing health-harming bullying to continue unabated as HR departments do, HR sustains an employee health and safety risk for those not fortunate enough to be considered credible to disbelieving HR types. In 2007, our national survey found that 44% of employers did nothing about bullying and 18% actually worsened situations for bullied individuals. So, where are the “extensive” awareness programs about bullying? And if they even exist, as run by HR, why are they so ineffective as to not put a dent into bullying’s prevalence. Perhaps because Bob and Susan (above) can’t bring themselves to take bullying seriously. That’s why they put it in quotes — “bullying.” Similarly, HR workers like to define themselves as HR “professionals.”]

A. 05414B, as currently drafted, could have serious ramifications for employers doing business in New York State.  In short, the bill could:
– Strain the day-to-day employer/employee relations in workplaces throughout the Empire State.  Many employers make great efforts to provide a positive work environment, backing these efforts with formal dispute resolution processes, written codes of conduct and open door policies.

[Great efforts to create safe work environments would produce results and eliminate bullying. The very existence of bullying is testimony that either the efforts are not great or HR is completely ineffective. Ironic that the lobbyists use the term “strain” which has meaning in the occupational health literature. Job strain refers to increasing task demand while simultaneously depriving a worker control over her or his taskload. Dispute resolution refers to forcing mediation down the throats of the already compromised targeted person, codes of conduct are as empty as flowery mission, vision, values statements that ring hollow, and open doors (?) are useless if  nothing results from meetings in the rooms with open or closed doors. Open doors implies that management will listen. Not if their favorite bully “Sleezy” is being exposed. Sleezy can never do wrong. This is all drivel.]

– Undermine good faith efforts by employers to establish positive work environments.  In addition, this legislation would significantly increase litigation and employers’ exposure to liability for lost wages, medical expenses, emotional distress, punitive damages and attorney’s fees.

[Bob and Susan have not read the bill and Susan works at JacksonLewis, dragonslayers for corporate masters. According to the bill itself, employers who take care to prevent and correct abusive conduct will be rewarded with escape from (affirmative defenses for) vicarious liability. The bill when it becomes law will reward good employers. The careful reference to good faith rather than actual employer efforts that result in a policy and faithful enforcement of it is not an accident. Shrmy wants credit for trying even if they fall short.]

– Create an incentive for certain individuals to “game the system” in an effort to seek monetary gain.  With the possibility of reaping a windfall from civil awards of compensatory and punitive damages, unscrupulous individuals could be tempted to claim physical or psychological harm due to an abusive work environment, requiring their employer to incur legal fees and lost work time defending themselves against such charges.

[Here Bob and Susan are branding the majority of employees, the non-supervisory ones, as fraudulent, unscrupulous schemers. How did these people get hired? Who did the screening? Oops, that was HR. What about ethics training? Again, HR. And if a person makes a claim of psychological harm, shouldn’t HR care about that? After all, Bob and Susan stated above that HR advocates for “the interests of all employees. Balderdash. This bulleted point shows the actual contempt HR and corp defense attorneys have for employees who dare sue. Bob and Susan did not read the bill. It is not sufficient that the misconduct be abusive and health-harming, it must also be repeated and malicious.

The only real system that is gamed is the HR “sham investigation” whereby the bully is asked if he committed the atrocities. He says “no.” HR concludes the target-complainant is a liar and begins branding the target as troublemaker. As WBI research shows, 64% of targets lose their jobs for having done nothing more than being in harm’s way when a bully came calling. The “HR system” is a cruel one of health harm and job/career loss. The only schemers are bullies and their accomplices, HR.]

– Prove as a deterrent to drawing businesses to locate in New York State.  Given that New York would be the first state in the country to provide such a right, this legislation could have a chilling effect on the business climate of our state.

[This is the Bloomberg/Chamber of Commerce Big Lie. Where will they go? If they want the talent that NY state residents bring, the biz stays in the state. Otherwise, if they are big enough, they go offshore to China. If that happens, they won’t take HR with them. We say that if you have to be abusive to run a state or municipal agency or a company in NY State, then you should lose your charter to do so. Will it take the Foxconn rash of worker suicides to get American employers to stop the abuse?]

End of SHRM Talking Points

There you have it. HR, the folks with “human” in their job title choose to lobby against the humans working for them in favor of obscure, inanimate needs of an impersonal corporate entity. Little wonder they have little credibility in the C-suite. Though this lapdog, ingratiating fealty to corporate masters is designed to make them appear allies to the CEO, the toadying up, they still won’t gain the respect HR craves.

The dramatic opposition to working people captured in this lobbying document by HR cements the already negative societal impression. It should remove any lingering doubt by the most optimistic and uncritical soul that HR is not your friend or advocate. HR does not deserve workers’ trust, ever!

If HR opposes stopping abuse in the American workplace, then it necessarily seeks to promote it. Based on HR’s unconscionable reaction to bullying when it is currently reported, that is clearly the case.

Please write directly to Bob Carragher at
and  Susan Corcoran  at  to let them know what you think about SHRM’s position and the ethicality of their lobbying work.

G. Namie

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