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Archive for July, 2013

Why the heck am I writing about bullying when most of my posts are about nature and environmentalism and writing and Search and Rescue?

Because it happened to me. Recently. At a place where I volunteer. By other volunteers.

If it can happen to me, it can be happening to you as well. And if this blog helps ONE person identify what’s happening to them, if it helps one person heal, recover and move on with his or her life, then it all will have been worth it.

My experience being bullied was so subtle, so insidious, taking place over such a long period of time that for a long time I didn’t recognize it for what it was. I simply couldn’t figure out what was happening to me or why.

For over a year, I felt like I was in falling into a hole, spiraling downward, losing my grip, my sense of self, my self-worth, destabilized, overwhelmed with self-doubt, uncertainly, anxiety, insomnia, paralysis.

Until a sermon about David and Goliath, about identifying, facing and defeating our own everyday Goliaths. Until prayers for strength. For guidance. Knowledge. Understanding.

Until the lifting of the veil, until the identification of the unknown monster, until facing it, accepting it, grieving, fighting defeating. I’m still healing, but I’m moving forward. Somewhere down the road, still to come, is forgiving.

Bullying. They call it ‘mobbing’ in Canada which in my case is more appropriate because it was several people, operating sometimes together, sometime individually, to varying degrees, inconsistently, at different times, over a long period of time.

Here’s one definition of bullying from Shua Life Skills:

“Bullying is a compulsive need to displace aggression and is achieved by the expression of inadequacy (social, personal, interpersonal, behavioral, professional) by projection of that inadequacy onto others through control and subjugation (criticism, exclusion, isolation, etc). Bullying is sustained by abdication of responsibility (denial, counter-accusation, pretense of victimhood) and perpetuated by a climate of fear, ignorance, indifference, silence, denial, disbelief, deception, evasion of accountability, tolerance and reward (eg., promotion) for the bully.”

From the Workplace Bullying Institute:

The WBI 3-Step Action Plan

“What Bullied Targets Can Do

Three things that are simple to list, but very difficult to accomplish. It’s an uphill, David ‘n Goliath, struggle.

Step One – Name it! Legitimize Yourself!

  1. Choose a name — bullying, psychological harassment, psychological violence, emotional abuse — to offset the effect of being told that because your problem is not illegal, you cannot possibly have a problem. This makes people feel illegitimate. The cycle of self-blame and anxiety begins.
  2. The source of the problem is external. The bully decides how to target and how, when, and where to harm people. You did not invite, nor want, the systematic campaign of psychological assaults and interference with your work. Think about it. No sane person wakes up each day hoping to be humiliated or berated at work.
  3. There is tremendous healing power in naming. Hard to believe at first, but very true.

Step Two – Take Time Off to Heal & Launch a Counterattack

Accomplish five (5) important tasks while on sick leave or short-term disability (granted by your physician).

  1. Check your mental health with a professional (not the employer’s EAP). Get emotionally stable enough to make a clear-headed decision to stay and fight, or to leave for your health’s sake. Your humanity makes you vulnerable; it is not a weakness, but a sign of superiority. Work Trauma, by definition, is an overwhelming, extraordinary experience.
  2. Check your physical health. Stress-related diseases rarely carry obvious warning signals (e.g., hypertension – the silent killer). Read the current research on work stress and heart disease.
  3. Research state and federal legal options (in a quarter of bullying cases, discrimination plays a role). Talk to an attorney. Maybe a demand letter can be written. Look for internal policies (harassment, violence, respect) for violations to report (fully expecting retaliation).
  4. Gather data about the economic impact the bully has had on the employer. Put dollars and cents to each instance of turnover (at least 2x the salary of the person affected) to include all expenses associated with replacement (recruitment, demoralization from understaffing, interviewing, lost time while newbie learns job), and absenteeism, and lost productivity from interference by the bullying.
  5. Start job search for next position.

Step Three – Expose the Bully

The real risk was sustained when you were first targeted (Targets lose their job – involuntarily or by choice for their health’s sake – in 77.7% of cases). It is no riskier to attempt to dislodge the bully. Retaliation is a certainty. Have your escape route planned in advance. Remember, good employers purge bullies, most promote them.

  1. Make the business case that the bully is “too expensive to keep.” Present the data gathered (in Step 2) to let the highest level person you can reach (not HR) know about the bully’s impact on the organization. Obviously in family-owned, or small businesses, this is impossible (so leave once targeted).
  2. Stick to the bottom line. If you drift into tales about the emotional impact of the bully’s harassment, you will be discounted and discredited.
  3. Give the employer one chance. If they side with the bully because of personal friendship (“he’s a great conversationalist and a lunch buddy”) or rationalize the mistreatment (“you have to understand that that is just how she is”), you will have to leave the job for your health’s sake. However, some employers are looking for reasons to purge their very difficult bully. You are the internal consultant with the necessary information. Help good employers purge.
  4. The nature of your departure — either bringing sunshine to the dark side or leaving shrouded in silent shame — determines how long it takes you to rebound and get that next job, to function fully and to restore compromised health. Tell everyone about the petty tyrant for your health’s sake. You have nothing to be ashamed about. You were only doing the job you once loved.

Answering critics of our approach …..

Pragmatists argue that our 3-Step Method will only get you fired. They are right in most cases. So, it is important for you to know why we suggest what we do. Our method accomplishes four goals:

  • Goal 1: Your personal health must be the priority or you will not live long enouth to take another job. You have to discover if stress-related health complications have begun and take steps to reverse them. Stress exacerbates diseases that can kill. Put your health, not your job, first. See a physician, ask for blood tests related to stress-induced harm. See a good therapist to restore your faith in your own worthiness.
  • Goal 2: The true purpose of the bullying-costs-data-collection-project (Step 2, Part 4) is to distract you from the emotional damage. Too many wounded targets crawl between the bed sheets and can’t get out. You need something to do to continue to function, to bounce back. This task of estimating the fiscal impact of bullying is not only factual and informative for the organization (which it promptly chooses to ignore), but the employer’s response to the facts will help convince you about the irrationality of the entire bullying process. You didn’t cause it and they don’t seem to care if it ever stops. They are too afraid to do the right thing.
  • Goal 3: Compel employer responsibility for putting you in harm’s way. No one is responsible for being bullied, for inviting the misery upon themselves. The employer has known about the bully before and chosen to retain him or her (attorneys call it negligent retention). Employers want a catfight between employees so that they can blame it on “personality conflict.” The reality is that employers establish all conditions of work. If there are poorly skilled managers or executives, it is because of a dereliction of duty. Employers are lazy and trust on-the-job experiences to teach people to be good and humane managers. This is wrong. The leadership team is responsible for all bullying! It would not happen without executives’ explicit or tacit approval. So, hold their feet to the fire. Expose the bully. Demand changes (for the sake of the organization).
  • Goal 4: Take control of your departure from the place. WBI research found that you have a 66% chance of losing your job once targeted. Exposing the bully is more about your mental health than being an effective way to get the bully fired. Trauma is intensified if you leave the job (voluntarily or after being terminated) if you do not leave holding your head high and pointing accusatory fingers at the wrongdoers. In other words, since you are most likely to leave, once targeted, leave by telling everyone what happened to you and by whose hands. Targets who skulk away in silence, shrouded in personal shame, suffer the most. It can take a year or more to rebound to the point of being able to seek work. Those who leave proudly, bounce back the fastest.

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“AMERICA THE BEAUTIFUL”

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Lyrics by Katherine Lee Bates | Music by Samuel A. Ward

O beautiful for spacious skies,
For amber waves of grain,
For purple mountain majesties
Above the fruited plain!
America! America!
God shed his grace on thee
And crown thy good with brotherhood
From sea to shining sea!

O beautiful for pilgrim feet
Whose stern impassioned stress
A thoroughfare of freedom beat
Across the wilderness!
America! America!
God mend thine every flaw,
Confirm thy soul in self-control,
Thy liberty in law!

O beautiful for heroes proved
In liberating strife.
Who more than self their country loved
And mercy more than life!
America! America!
May God thy gold refine
Till all success be nobleness
And every gain divine!

O beautiful for patriot dream
That sees beyond the years
Thine alabaster cities gleam
Undimmed by human tears!
America! America!
God shed his grace on thee
And crown thy good with brotherhood
From sea to shining sea!

O beautiful for halcyon skies,
For amber waves of grain,
For purple mountain majesties
Above the enameled plain!
America! America!
God shed his grace on thee
Till souls wax fair as earth and air
And music-hearted sea!

O beautiful for pilgrims feet,
Whose stem impassioned stress
A thoroughfare for freedom beat
Across the wilderness!
America! America!
God shed his grace on thee
Till paths be wrought through
wilds of thought
By pilgrim foot and knee!

O beautiful for glory-tale
Of liberating strife
When once and twice,
for man’s avail
Men lavished precious life!
America! America!
God shed his grace on thee
Till selfish gain no longer stain
The banner of the free!

O beautiful for patriot dream
That sees beyond the years
Thine alabaster cities gleam
Undimmed by human tears!
America! America!
God shed his grace on thee
Till nobler men keep once again
Thy whiter jubilee!

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