Workplace Bullying: Forging Culture Change : My Blog
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Workplace Bullying: Forging Culture Change

by Ellen Fink-Samnick MSW, ACSW, LCSW, CCM, CRP on 09/29/18

I spent many hours considering what to write on for this week’s blog, particularly with current events. Focus on the Supreme Court nominations process has captivated many, with emphasized attention to women’s rights, equity, the impact of trauma, as well as the influence of power. With my undergraduate degree in sociology and a graduate degree in clinical social work, the ‘whys’ of these disrupters affect me deeply. This is also why I am a passionate voice for change. 


The media has a range of articles on the SCOTUS happenings, and implications of the proceedings. This situation has incurred the furor of both men and women around the impact of sexual assault, the flawed nature of the selection process, impact for the upcoming elections, and the need for an FBI investigation. The events have emphasized the widening chasm of global perspectives on these issues. For now, I’ll leave the news pundits to address these matters.


However, the focus on misused power in the SCOTUS situation and the dysfunctional nature of that power has a direct connection to Workplace Bullying (WB); a topic I’ve become a subject matter expert on. The very presence of misused power drives WB. I’ve been quite verbal on the need to address WB, though often receive push back from others, with comments like:

·      ‘Bullying is part of the culture and that’s not changing’. 

·      ‘It will take someone higher up the chain of command to address WB’.

·      ‘WB goes from the top down in my organization’.

·      ‘You need to understand that if I come forward to call out WB, I’ll be fired’.

·      ‘As an intelligent woman you should understand change involves shifting the culture; that won’t happen’. 

·      ‘Why are you so riled up about this? It’s nothing new’.


I am a fierce advocate and notorious for working to effect change. Just because something has been done a certain way for a certain length of time, doesn’t make it right; for example, Civil Rights. The times evolve, we learn there are better ways and reasons why to manage situations, and view them from a fresh slant. After all, I am that professional case manager who took on any managed care organization who said those fighting words to me; “sorry, we can’t or don’t cover that benefit for the patient”;  among the worst things to say to me. I’d ask for the contract, find the loophole, and engage at the highest levels of activism to assure the patient and family got the required care and treatment. As the Program Coordinator for AIDS Services at Queen Hospital Center, I challenged the community to provide increased response to clients and families impacted by the growing AIDS epidemic. We collaborated to win the inaugural Ryan White Grant funding that year that expanded the outpatient clinic. Those reading this post who ever worked with me on any advocacy efforts know how fierce I can be. 


What Has Changed

To those who challenge the, ‘culture won’t change about WB’, here’s food for thought of all that has changed:

·      Increased literature on the topic across every sector.

·      Concerted efforts to name, define, and call out the different types of WB; traditional, lateral violenceharassmentmobbing.

·      Proactive means to assess and intervene.

·      Identification of the type of workplace cultures that support vs. negate WB.

·      Emphasized need to engage human resources toward resolution.

·      Defined strategies to address bullies: bosses and colleagues.

·      Increased litigation and wins, as in Ireland last month where a supervisor bullied by her staff successfully overturned the decision to dismiss her case for damages, with employer liability determined. 

·      Attention, formal statements, and action by entities as the U.S. Equal Opportunity and Employment Commissionprofessional associations, universities.

·      Advocacy for federal and state legislation.

·      Outcomes to track the direct correlation between WB and:

o   Physical health exacerbation

o   Behavioral health exacerbation

o   Workforce trauma

o   Suicide: ideation and completed actions

o   Costs of bullying, including:

§  the direct impact on workforce attrition 

§  the fiscal and quality impact of hiring and firing toxic bosses and staff.

§  Workers Compensation litigation costs

o   Impact on direct bystanders and witnesseswell over 75% of the workforce.


Acknowledging Reality

I understand it can be tough to speak against the inequities happening in the workplace; silence is akin to complacency, and serves no place other than to reinforce a negative hierarchy of power in the organization.


I understand why many feel unable and unsafe to address WB; we are human and can easily be made to feel helpless. Workplace bullies thrive on that opportunity to make targets feel less than they are.


I understand many do not recognize they are bullies; nobody wants to be the villain in their own story.


I understand there may be other factors to account for why someone is a bully;some think they need to bully to advance to leadership roles. Others may bully because of learned behaviors, such as, what characteristics they think it takes to be successful in a particular environment or workplace. 


I understand many are unable to accept they are actually a WB victim; few want to view themselves from a place of weakness, or in a dysfunctional situation. 


I understand many are told reaching out to Human Resources is a recipe for disaster and yields disciplinary action for the target. This is no longer current best practice; going to HR provides evidence you did your due diligence to address the issue in a professional and appropriate manner.


I understand life often tosses negative experiences our way, and we must make choices on where our time and energy go. Our vulnerability should never be fuel for someone else’s strength.


I understand an element of power is present in all organizations. However, WB is misused power run amuck. Nobody should be forced to travel on someone else’s power trip.


However Know That in the Workplace:

We deserve respect. 

We deserve to have our knowledge and expertise valued.

We deserve to feel safe. 

We deserve not to feel trapped in a toxic workplace.

We deserve to have confidence that all are accountable for their actions

We deserve to be able to confront WB without fear of retribution.


Consistent identification, advocacy, and action will shift a Workplace Bullying culture!


#mustdobetter #stopbullying


Until next time...Stay Resilient!


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