Here’s a new addition to your Employee Policy Handbook that you might have overlooked: “Don’t bring tasers or stun guns into work and turn them on your coworkers.” A Texas man has filed a civil suit against Fred Fincher Motors alleging that coworkers snuck up on him and zapped him with a stun gun on at least two dozen occasions over a 9 month period. Even more astonishing – he also alleges that his boss supplied the gun and filmed the incidents, which were later posted on YouTube.
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Words fail. But we are very much in favor of bullies outing themselves by posting their malfeasance on YouTube (the hubris!) so evidence exists for the targets.
Is this a case of bullying? you be the judge – according to the Workplace Bullying Institute (WBI):
Workplace Bullying is repeated, health-harming mistreatment of one or more persons (the targets) by one or more perpetrators that takes one or more of the following forms:
- Verbal abuse
- Offensive conduct/behaviors (including nonverbal) which are threatening, humiliating, or intimidating
- Work interference — sabotage — which prevents work from getting done
In a Business Week article last year, Taming the Workplace Bully, Adam Piore explores the topic of workplace bullying and includes this quote:
“In a lot of workplaces, it’s just considered part of daily workplace culture,” says Joe Grimm, professor of journalism at Michigan State University. “Browbeating, intimidation, cutting people off, and being the loudest in the room with an opinion.” In a recent book he edited, The New Bullying: How Social Media, Social Exclusion, Laws and Suicide Have Changed Our Definition of Bullying, Grimm reveals how bullying has some professionals living in debilitating fear of the office, which may sound familiar for viewers of The Devil Wears Prada, the thinly veiled account of working at Vogue, or the junior analysts at Goldman Sachs (GS) who were once forced to dress up like Teletubbies. “When bullies get out of school,” says Grimm, “they don’t stop being bullies.”
Other egregious behaviors in the news
It’s been an active news cycle for bad bosses lately. We’re not done processing the shocking sexual harassment charges filed against San Diego Mayor Bob Filner – at our most recent count, 14 women had come forward with charges. The accounts are stunning and one theme recurs: the initial reluctance of the targets to speak out. Among the reasons related for not having come forward before: they were humiliated and felt shame; they feared retaliation; they feared they might not be believed; they questioned if they had inadvertently sent signals that were misinterpreted; and they were concerned that bringing allegations might be more deleterious to their own careers than that of the offender. Some of the targeted women held power positions themselves – yest even with executive status, were reluctant to come forward. It’s a living demonstration of how much courage it can take to come forward with sexual harassment charges in the workplace, and the dynamic for making charges of bullying must be similar: humiliation, fear of reprisal, concern that allegations will be made and nothing will be done.
With sexual harassment or discrimination, there is at least some legal recourse for protected classes. For targets of bullying, particularly targets who are not in a protected class, there may be little legal recourse: currently, there are no state or federal laws prohibiting workplace bullying. There are some initiatives trying to change that, most prominent being the Healthy Workplace Bill. Since 2003, 25 states have introduced the HWB. Although no laws have been enacted, 15 bills are currently active in 11 states.
Don’t wait for a law or a lawsuit to come calling at your workplace: make sure that you have policies that reinforce a respectful work climate and prohibit harassment, discrimination, bullying, intimidation, violence, weapons, and fighting. Train managers and supervisors to recognize and deal with unacceptable behaviors – in themselves and those they supervise. In addition to policies and trainings. offer stress and anger management resources and enlist the help of your EAP in tackling these issues.
Want to ensure a winning team in your organization? In addition to help for your employees, ESI EAP offers a full suite of tools for supervisors and managers, including our ESI Management Academy. Trainings cover compliance issues, management skills and more. If you want to learn more about how ESI can provide more employee EAP benefits and more employer services, call us at 800-535-4841.