Proving that bullying isn’t just a place for the schoolhouse is this blog. The WPI is an organization dedicated to the eradication of workplace bullying with help for individuals, research, public education, training, legislative advocacy, and solutions for employers. In addition to blog posts, you can also get sections on businesses and tools for targets.
“As the authors point out, the evolution of remote work is unlikely to revert. Leadership training, if any is even given these days, has to take into account the remote workers paradigm. This book fills that void. Leadership of people unseen can be a cold, easily aggressive endeavor. Bullying likely accompanies situations where in-person communication cues are absent. Eikenberry and Turmel rightly prioritize the role of people skills which is often minimized as “soft skills.” In remote leadership, the key is to achieve outcomes through others by overcoming barriers posed by technology without settling for mastery of those tools alone. The skills are not natural. For example, the authors implore leaders to forego a need to control and personal preferences in favor of an orientation toward the team, tailoring communications to maximize receptivity by them. They must be deliberately learned. The clear instructions in The Long Distance Leader provide the essential blueprint for success for leaders and teams. Bullying is preventable by skilled remote leaders.
Key features of the book I admire: (1) the proper balance of technology tools and caring for people, (2) calling for leaders to shelve their personal style in favor of tailoring communication with the team driven by team needs, (3) the call for leaders to unselfishly abandon their need to control others (at the heart of workplace bullying), and (4) that leadership is an earned position of trust rather than a position on an org chart.”
Gary Namie, PhD
Bullying on Virtual Teams
by Wayne Turmel
Usually, when people think of workplace bullies, they think of those with whom they share a workplace. Physical intimidation and threats come immediately to mind. Working from home often sounds like a tempting way to avoid such situations. But as we know from far too many examples, cyber-bullying is common. Just because you don’t share a cube-farm or a shop floor doesn’t mean you can’t be a victim of a workplace bully.
To be sure, working remotely and being connected electronically means that the ways in which negative interactions happen are different. Some of the most common bad behavior on remote or virtual teams include:
Exclusion – not inviting people to certain conference calls or meetings, or including them on vital information such as group emails and the like.
Withholding critical information. This can be as innocent as a simple “out of sight out of mind” example, or can be the first step to actively sabotaging someone’s work or reputation.
Gossip and lying are common methods of controlling other people and cutting them off from support or aid.
Active hostility. This can take the form of belittling people on virtual meetings and conference calls, shutting down their contributions in front of others. It can also mean sending threatening texts or Instant messages.
The same ability to write horrible things without having to be in physical proximity to the victim that enables people to cyber-bullies and trolls free reign apply at work. When you don’t have to look the victim in the eye, and can maintain anonymity, it’s more likely such behavior will occur.
A 2005 study at DePaul University by Alice Stuhlmacher revealed that when people didn’t know each other well but worked in a virtual environment (they were a name on an email distribution list or a disembodied voice on a conference call) there was increase in negative behaviors. These included lying, withholding information, escalating threats and social exclusion.
So what is an effective Long-Distance Leader supposed to do? Our role is to create a safe, productive workplace for every member of the team. The challenge when we aren’t in the same physical location is recognizing the signs that such behavior is taking place, and facilitating steps to halt it. The leader needs to assess their team and identify bullying behavior, address the behavior and restore trust in the team.
In many ways, working remotely allows you to spot the most obvious examples of harassment. Abusive or inappropriate criticism on conference calls, team meetings and email are often obvious and jump out at us. The challenge for many of us is that we want to avoid conflict (after all, the bully is probably not a pleasant person to confront) and it is far easier to avoid direct face to face discussion and settle for weak, ineffective corrective measures. How is that strongly worded email working for you?
Whether we notice the harassing behavior ourselves, or it’s brought to our attention by the victim or others, it’s incumbent on leaders to investigate and then address such behavior directly. Failure to do so can poison the entire team dynamic.
When trust is broken on a team (virtual or co-located) it can be difficult to reestablish. This is true of trust between employees, but also between the victim of the bullying and their manager, who they looked to for protection that wasn’t there. In The Long-Distance Leader: Rules for Remarkable Remote Leadership, we have a 3-point trust model that may help.
Trust is established when three factors are all true: there’s proof that everyone is aligned around purpose and intent, there’s proof that each person is competent, and proof that they are motivated positively. If any of these are out of alignment trust suffers.
The challenge on remote teams is that people may not have visibility to each other’s work. For example, if someone is quiet on conference calls, or not very good at articulating their ideas, it’s easy to dismiss the quality of their work. We may not give them credit for the quality of work they deserve. As a leader are you making it clear that they do good work and have your support? Are you sharing those thoughts with the team?
As effective leaders who want to create a non-threatening environment, we need to take the time to listen for signs of trouble, not ignore them when they arise, and actively help the team gain the positive input about their co-workers that eliminate many of the seeds of bullying. Often the bully is the most vocal and outwardly social person, while the victim is seldom heard. A manager who is rushed or distracted may not pick up on the distress signals until it is too late.
When the actions of team members rise to actionable levels, we can’t let distance get in the way. We must be proactive in addressing both the behavior itself and the measurable actions to halt it.
A unique take on the often present conflict between public and private, the spoken and unspoken, views on a topic held by individuals is found in the posthumously published works of Mark Twain.
On this Memorial Day in the U.S. we are supposed to reflect on our war dead. The favored public view is to enoble war. But war is messy. Death is ugly. Sadly too many of us may be thinking in our hearts that our “enemies” deserve only death, and not noble endings as do our sons and daughters. Enemies are considered “animals,” sub-humans.
On Memorial Day 2018, we endure the embarrassing acts of a narcissistic president who cannot seem to temporarily shift his focus from self to the selfless volunteers of our military who were killed for their fateful decisions. As he tweeted …
Happy Memorial Day! Those who died for our great country would be very happy and proud at how well our country is doing today. Best economy in decades, lowest unemployment numbers for Blacks and Hispanics EVER (& women in 18 years), rebuilding our Military and so much more. Nice!
Narcissism aside, we are an aggressive people. Mark Twain captured the vicious aspect of our nature in 1905 as America was beginning its ambitious rise to empire following the Spanish-American war.
The War Prayer
You have heard your servant’s prayer — the uttered part of it. I am commissioned by God to put into words the other part of it — that part which the pastor — and also you in your hearts — fervently prayed silently. And ignorantly and unthinkingly? God grant that it was so! You heard the words ‘Grant us the victory [in war], O Lord our God!‘ That is sufficient. The whole of the uttered prayer is compact into those pregnant words. Elaborations were not necessary. When you have prayed for victory you have prayed for many unmentioned results which follow victory — must follow it, cannot help but follow it. Upon the listening spirit of God fell also the unspoken part of the prayer. He commandeth me to put it into words. Listen!
“Lord our Father, our young patriots, idols of our hearts, go forth into battle — be Thou near them! With them — in spirit — we also go forth from the sweet peace of our beloved firesides to smite the foe. O Lord our God, help us tear their soldiers to bloody shreds with our shells; help us to cover their smiling fields with the pale forms of their patriot dead; help us to drown the thunder of the guns with the shrieks of their wounded, writhing in pain; help us to lay waste their humble homes with a hurricane of fire; help us to wring the hearts of their unoffending widows with unavailing grief; help us to turn them out roofless with their little children to wander unfriended in the wastes of their desolated land in rags and hunger and thirst, sports of the sun flames in summer and the icy winds of winter, broken in spirit, worn with travail, imploring thee for the refuge of the grave and denied it —
For our sakes who adore Thee, Lord, blast their hopes, blight their lives, protract their bitter pilgrimmage, make heavy their steps, water their way with their tears, stain the white snow with the blood of their wounded feet!
We ask it, in the spirit of love, of Him Who is the Source of Love, and Who is the ever-faithful refuge and friend of all that are sore beset and seek His aid with humble and contrite hearts. Amen.”
Shoemaker Nike landed in the news for a good reason. CEO Mark Parker suddenly started listening to employees. The Board heard from departing female executives that Nike had a toxic work environment, at least for women. There was an internal anonymous survey about misconduct. It listened to other women acting as an internal #MeToo task force who called out the corporation for years of treating sexual harassment and coercion complaints with indifference. They outed their own version of Harvey Weinstein, Trevor Edwards, a man being groomed to succeed Parker. He was branded an undesirable sexual predator like so many other high-profile men. Despite having been shamed into expulsion, Nike gave Edwards a soft economic landing — $525,000 payout and almost $9 million worth of stock.
Edwards was allegedly responsible for “behavior occurring within our organization that do not reflect our core values of inclusivity, respect and empowerment,” Parker wrote to employees. He saluted the “strong and courageous employees” who had come forward. The reporting attached below found that Nike has an anti-bullying policy that addresses misconduct in addition to legally mandated protections for special status group members. Hence, the negativity associated with disrespect.
Following the breaking news about the ejection of Edwards, a rarity in American business, Nike announced the termination of five others — including one woman executive. To WBI this meant that the MeToo complainants had reached beyond the narrow bounds of illegal sexual harassment. The primarily women complainants had had it with abusive practices by more people than Edwards, including the woman, Gina. By firing a woman on the advice of women employees, same gender abuse must have been practiced. That’s workplace bullying.
We hope for two outcomes: (1) that the Nike awakening to the much more prevalent and damaging practice of generalized workplace abuse in addition to sexual harassment is real and sustainable, and (2) that American employers see the challenge posed by early adopter Nike and start to replicate the corrections in their own C-suites.
Purging high-level bullies will never likely be a fad, but it is certainly time that major corporations (and stagnant government agencies at all levels) discover bullying and choose to eradicate it for the psychological safety of the vast majority of its workers. Stop protecting and defending abusers.
Could this be an American employer awakening? We wait to see.
The Bloomberg News and France 24 reports about Nike …
Companies Have an Aha! Moment: Bullies Don’t Make the Best Managers
by Matthew Townsend and Esmé E Deprez, Bloomberg, May 9, 2018
Nike’s ouster of a top executive casts new light on the hard-knuckled behavior common in many offices.
After Nike Inc. ousted a handful of male executives for behavior issues over the past few months, some media reports tied the departures to the #MeToo movement and its revelations of sexual harassment and assault. Interviews with more than a dozen former Nike employees, including senior executives, however, paint a picture of a workplace contaminated by a different behavior: corporate bullying. The workers say the sneaker giant could be a bruising place for both men and women, and that females did bullying, too. On May 8, Nike signaled as much when it confirmed four more exits stemming from an internal misconduct inquiry, including the departure of a woman with more than 20 years at the company.
The surprise announcement in March that 55-year-old Nike brand president Trevor Edwards—who had a reputation for humiliating subordinates in meetings—would leave following an internal investigation about workplace behavior issues suggests the coddling of tough guys may have come to an end. “Some companies are realizing that a bullying boss isn’t the best way to manage a company,” says David Yamada, a professor at Suffolk University Law School in Boston who’s authored antibullying legislation. “Maybe we’re starting to see a tipping point.”
Gary Namie, co-founder of the Workplace Bullying Institute, who consults with businesses on workplace issues, says one reason some companies have long tolerated or even encouraged such behavior is that many American managers believe the workplace is by nature rough around the edges. “Bullying is inextricably interwoven with capitalism,” he says. “It creates a zero-sum, competitive work environment where people feel they need to obliterate their competitors.”
Some former employees say that was the case at Nike, particularly among managers who used abusive tactics to safeguard their own position or authority. “There are a lot of very talented people deeper in the organization who have been marginalized both by senior and middle management trying to protect their domain,” says Shaz Kahng, who was a senior executive at Nike for six years through 2010. “People are often promoted based on relationships, not on results.”
In response to complaints, including from departing female executives, Nike ousted Edwards, who’d been a favorite to become the company’s next chief executive officer. Edwards, according to some of the former employees, at times bullied workers through insults and disparaging comments. More important, once he set the tone, other people mirrored his behavior, they say. A handful of executives who worked for Edwards have since left Nike.
“I’ve been disturbed to hear from some employees of behavior inconsistent with our values,” CEO Mark Parker said in an emailed statement. “When we discover issues, we take action.”
Nike also provided Bloomberg with the transcript of a town hall Parker held on May 3, in which he vowed the environment will change. “We all have an obligation—and it’s non-negotiable—to create and cultivate an environment of respect and inclusion,” he told employees. “And that starts with me. I apologize to the people on our team who were excluded. … We’re going to move from a place where the loudest voices carry the conversation to [one where] every voice is heard.”
The company declined to make Edwards available for an interview. He’s acting as an adviser to Parker until he retires in August, when he’ll receive a $525,000 payout, according to public filings.
Nike says it’s reviewing how it deals with complaints, redesigning management training, and beginning unconscious bias awareness education for employees this year. It’s also vowed to promote more women and minorities into leadership roles. Currently, managers are 38 percent women and 23 percent nonwhite.
Workplace bullying is often defined as behavior—including verbal abuse, derogatory remarks, humiliation, and undermining work performance—that results in physical or mental harm. About 1 in 5 Americans say they’ve been the target of it, according to a 2017 survey by Zogby Analytics that was commissioned by the Workplace Bullying Institute. Men make up 70 percent of the perpetrators and 34 percent of the targets. “It’s a significant and still underreported problem,” Yamada says. Surveys have shown such behavior is four times more prevalent than legally actionable sexual harassment, he says. “Bullying looms large.”
Ironically, Nike is one of the minority of companies that has a formal antiharassment policy that calls out bullying behavior such as verbal abuse, intimidation, humiliation, and retaliation, according to a copy obtained by Bloomberg. It also notes that harassment not based on a legally protected characteristic, such as gender or race, can still violate company rules.
One reason few companies have specific antibullying policies is that there aren’t federal or state laws in the U.S. outlawing the behavior, which makes America a laggard when compared with Western Europe, Canada, and Australia.
“Some companies are realizing that a bullying boss isn’t the best way to manage a company”
A lack of legal protections greatly reduces the possibility of liability for employers. It’s difficult to bring a lawsuit based on bullying, and businesses have worked to keep it that way. Over the past decade, antibullying bills were introduced in about 30 states, but they’ve all been defeated after opposition from corporate lobbying groups, Yamada says. A workplace bullying bill is gaining sponsors in Massachusetts’ legislature, but its future is uncertain. If there were antibullying laws, companies would be liable and do more to deter the practice, according to Namie. “It’s the only form of abuse that hasn’t been addressed by law,” he says. “It goes beyond gender to ‘I’m powerful, I can do any damn thing I want.’ ”
When executives feel entitled or untouchable, that often leads to bullying and then to other inappropriate behavior, Yamada says. In many of the workplace environments that resulted in some of the high-profile #MeToo moments, such as that at Weinstein Co., an “undercurrent” of bullying created a belief that mistreatment would go unpunished, he says. “It’s that bullying atmosphere that helps to enable and empower sexual harassment.”
According to the former Nike employees, the lack of a fear of reprisal created an environment where male executives, many married, could pursue and have sexual relationships with subordinates and assistants—behavior Nike says it tries to prevent but doesn’t prohibit. Many times the careers of those involved were unaffected, which only normalized the behavior, they say. And when there were repercussions, the men received little if any punishment, while women often faced consequences. In one instance several years ago, they say, an executive was caught having sex with his assistant on a conference table. He wasn’t disciplined, some of the people say, but the woman was reassigned.
Several former female employees describe similar experiences of encountering several slights and offenses—not one egregious incident—that increased as they moved up the ladder. One woman says her boss, a senior director, had derogatory nicknames for female staffers and would overtly favor men on the team with better opportunities. A former female manager says a male colleague had multiple complaints of bullying made against him to human resources, but the only punishment meted out was a delayed promotion. Eventually, frustration with Nike’s handling of such incidents persuaded several women to leave the company, they say.
The situation was particularly galling to employees who’d been drawn to Nike because of its cool and progressive reputation, burnished by such advertising slogans as “If You Let Me Play” and its T-shirts adorned simply with the word “equality.” “We always wished the company would live up to its marketing,” says one former female executive. “But it didn’t.”
BOTTOM LINE – Nike’s marketing positioned the company as a promoter of self-expression and equality. But former employees say it allowed a culture of workplace bullying to flourish.
Five More Executives Fired as Nike Confronts Workplace Harassment
by Agence France-Presse (AFP), May 10, 2028
Nike has dismissed additional executives as it moves to address a workplace culture marred by sexual harassment and bullying, embarrassing a brand that has self-defined around equality and empowerment.
The latest departures, confirmed Wednesday by a Nike spokeswoman, consist of five executives, including one woman, and raise the total departures to around a dozen. This includes former president Trevor Edwards, who had been seen as a CEO in waiting.
Since Edwards’ departure was announced in March, US media reports have chronicled myriad cases in which women were subjected to sexual harassment and often passed up for promotions in a boorish frat-like culture.
The revelations have come amid a broader rethink in US society over gender relations following the downfall of Hollywood mogul Harvey Weinstein and the ensuing #MeToo movement that has toppled numerous figures across business, politics and entertainment.
Remaining Nike brass have said little publicly about the staffing overhaul beyond chief executive Mark Parker’s remarks in March emphasizing the need to address “some behavioral issues” that clashed with Nike’s culture.
“I’m committed to ensure that we have an environment where every Nike employee can have a positive experience and reach their full potential,” Parker said on a March 22 earnings conference call.
The upheaval comes as Nike has experienced sales stagnation in North America, offset in the most recent quarter by a strong performance in China and other overseas markets.
CFRA Research analyst Victor Ahluwalia said it was too soon to know if the problems would further dent North Americans sales, but he predicted the company’s travails could trouble consumers.
Nike’s famous “Just Do It” slogan emphasizes empowerment, as do sponsorships of iconic athletes such as Michael Jordan and Serena Williams.
“The company was viewed as progressive and kind of millennial friendly, so for something like this to happen with a brand that comes with that kind of a message was shocking,” said Ahluwalia.
But Ahluwalia praised the company for “being proactive”, in contrast to other companies that responded to workplace scandals only after problems publicly surfaced, usually in media reports.
“Clearly work needs to be done and I think it will take time,” Ahluwalia said. “Being proactive does position the company much better for the future.”
“It is just cruelty”
Since Edwards’ departure was announced in March, others to leave have included top executives in digital marketing, diversity and inclusion and Nike basketball.
The housecleaning was spurred by a survey of frustrated female workers in Nike’s Oregon headquarters who polled their peers, finding widespread sexual harassment and discrimination and presenting the data to CEO Parker, according to a New York Times expose.
The Times article also cited women who reported problems ranging from being cursed at by an abusive male boss to excluded from key meetings, and passed up for promotions.
The staff dismissals follow an initial investigation into workplace conduct launched in March, according to a person familiar with the matter.
The latest group of outgoing executives includes Helen Kim, a vice president for North America, whose departure suggested to some experts that Nike’s focus was no longer strictly about addressing sexism but had broadened to countering the problem of bullying.
“The larger problem is the workplace bullying, or as we call it, abusive conduct in the workplace, because that ignores gender boundaries and it ignores race,” said Gary Namie of the Workplace Bullying Institute. “It is just cruelty.”
“Apparently Nike’s workplace culture is a very competitive, aggressive one that may sometimes deteriorate into bullying behaviors and sexual harassment and discrimination,” said David Yamada, a professor at Suffolk University Law School.
“Perhaps the departures signal a core shift in management philosophy and practice for the better, but it’s obviously premature to make that determination.”
Some analysts worry the problems will prevent Nike from reaching a target of $50 billion in annual revenues, compared with $34.4 billion in 2017.
“Any time you see a large group of senior people leave very quickly for any reason, you better hope they have a very strong bench that can step in quickly,” said Sam Poser, analyst at Susquehanna Financial Group.
The nation’s only comprehensive evidence-based training in the phenomenon of workplace bullying designed for professionals. Designed by the Drs. Namie and delivered since 2008. Come to San Francisco for the experience of a lifetime. It will change you forever.
Professionals from the following disciplines attend:
– Healthcare — nurses and physicians
– Mental health — psychotherapists & psychologists
– Higher education
– Schools, K-12
– HR & Management
– Diversity management
– Risk management
– Life/Executive Coaches
In addition, well healed former bullied targets seeking to re-invent themselves as training, coaching or consulting professionals attend.
Regular tuition is $2,400 per individual. Take advantage of this time-limited deep discount.
Michigan Assistant Attorney General Angela Povilaitis addressed the court in Lansing before former USA Gymnastics and Michigan State University doctor Larry Nassar was sentenced to 40 to 175 years in prison by Judge Rosemarie Aquilina on Wednesday January 24, 2018.
She’s a hero to WBI as she pulled seven lessons from this horrific case. The lessons apply also to bullying. Bullied targets will see themselves in the list.
Nassar, the perpetrator, was a “master manipulator.” Povilaitis said, “He manipulated victims and parents. He manipulated his community through the press and social media early in this case. And he tried to manipulate the police department in his interviews. He tried to manipulate prior investigators. … All while knowing the truth, that he did the things he was accused of doing.” Most perpetrators are liars.
USA Gymnastics and Michigan State never held him accountable. Povilaitis said, “History gave him guidance for the future, every previous time there had been an allegation, nothing happened. His lies worked. This court heard from several women, some decades later, who were initially determined to be confused or to be liars. He was believed over these children. … And with each time he got away, he was empowered to continue and perfect and abuse even more.”
On the lessons learned …
Povilaitis said, “we must start by believing … Research shows that false allegations are slim, that most perpetrators are serial offenders and that how a victim, especially a child, is treated when they disclose, if they are believed and supported and not blamed, can affect their well-being for years …”
“there are still people in this very community and elsewhere, I would imagine, who are saying that these women were all in it for the money or the attention. Are you kidding me? After 150 heart-wrenching, raw, graphic, visceral impact statements, how can anyone … believe that? Even to this day, even as this historic sentencing hearing is broadcast around the globe, there are still likely people who doubt.”
“The second lesson ;;; is that anyone can be a perpetrator, anyone can be a serial sexual abuser. This defendant stole, cheated and lied. He stole these victims’ innocence. He lied about his behavior and he cheated parents and the community and the world of the trust they held in doctors, prominent physicians and prominent community members. … The only person who sees this (hidden persona) side are his victims. Then the perpetrator goes back, shows only what he wants the world to see. This is how he got away with this for so long and got people to believe him over the many, many, many victims who reported.”
“The third takeaway from this week is that delayed disclosure of child sexual abuse is not unique. In fact, it’s quite the norm. “
“The fourth takeaway is that predators groom their victims and families. This is so confusing to so many women. He was so nice, he gave them presents and trinkets and desserts.”
“The (fifth) takeaway, is we must teach our girls and boys to speak up. … It is easier to put up with discomfort than cause waves. And when they are brave, nothing happens. We teach our girls and daughters to be too nice, to just ignore and put up with uncomfortable situations, to stay silent when they should be allowed to be heard.”
“The sixth takeaway from this week and a half is that police and prosecutors must take on hard cases … They cannot victim-blame or wait until they have the perfect case. They cannot wait until they have dozens of victims who have come forward. Police and prosecutors must also start by believing, be victim centered and offender focused in their work.”
About the abuse …
“It seeps and oozes and permeates into every pore and crevice of a victim’s life. It can alter their life’s trajectory. We’ve seen that time and time again this week when we’ve heard mention of depression and anxiety and panic attacks, suicidal thoughts, self-medication, self-harm, question of self-worth, and even when we heard from Donna Markham some seven days ago about the suicide of (her daughter) Chelsey.”
The fallout …
Michigan State University President Lou Anna Simon resigned but will be paid $750,000 for 2 years, then $562,000 per year afterwards if she returns to a faculty position. And she gets a 12-month paid research leave. Quite a soft landing for having treated complaints about Nassar with indifference. Read the story here.
On Jan. 26, the MSU Athletic Director, Mark Hollis, also resigned.