It is an interesting phenomenon that workplace bullying advocates seem to have a hard time working together.
In fact, they don’t, which is one reason why after so many years there is no national solution on the horizon to the problem of workplace bullying.
The Workplace Bullying Institute, chaired by Gary Namie, has been touting a law written by Suffolk University Professor David Yamada since 2002. The so-called Healthy Workplace Bill (HWB) has been considered by more than 20 states but it has only been passed, in small part, by Tennessee. Unfortunately, Tennessee’s version of the HWB was so unfortunate that it was promptly disowned by Namie.
Even if the HWB was passed by some states in an unaltered form, it is almost inconceivable that it would be adopted by competitive, pro-business states where workers are the most vulnerable to abuse. And some say it is fortunate that the HWB has fared so poorly, because it offers scant real protection to targets of workplace bullying, especially when compared to anti-workplace bullying laws and legislation passed in other countries.
Nevertheless, the Workplace Bullying Institute has succeeded in bringing attention to the problem of workplace bullying through its state-by-state campaign.
I was part of the formation of the National Workplace Bullying Coalition (NWBC) a couple of years ago. Some of the group’s members had been put off by Namie, a seemingly gruff and territorial man who has been called a bully himself by a competitor. Despite this, the NWBC reached out to Namie and Yamada with no success.
From my perspective, it is unfortunate that the NWBC finally settled on a vague mission statement to “work with legislatures at the local, state and federal levels to refine the definition of workplace bullying and implement laws to protect workers’ rights to dignity at work.” That’s a type of frustrating all things to all people approach that reminds me of the “I’d like to buy the world a coke” commercial for world peace.
Yet, the NWBC has made progress by encouraging the EEOC to study the issue of general workplace harassment. One of the NWBC board members, Professor Jerry Carbo, is a member of an EEOC Select Task Force recently formed by EEOC Commissioner Jenny Yang. The group is expected to issue a report that sheds insight into and offers suggestions to address workplace bullying. This is an important step.
My area of focus is and always was to achieve a national solution to the problem of workplace bullying. I believe the answer lies in a combination of health and safety regulations enforced by the Occupational Health and Safety Administration and in a federal law that protects all workers from a hostile workplace environment. I advocated a national solution when I wrote my book, Surviving Bullies, Queen Bees & Psychopaths in the Workplace and I still believe it is the only realistic way to protect American workers.
For years, I have received emails every week from good, hard-working Americans who are being viciously bullied on the job and who are suffering severe mental and physical distress. Workplace bullying is a widely acknowledged form of workplace violence. Other industrialized countries took steps years ago – in some cases decades – to address the problem of workplace bullying. And yet workers in the United States, who have lost so much in recent years, still have virtually no protection, especially if they are poor or middle class.
Maybe it is naive to think we could be more effective if we worked together to demand a national solution? But workers need a real solution and they need it today, not in the distant future.