All Work and No Extra Pay?

Employers Overwork Staff Rather than Hire New

The magazine, Mother Jones, has an interesting article in its July/August 2011 issue on the “dirty secret of the jobless recovery.”

After a sharp dip in 2008 and 2009, U.S. economic output has recovered to near pre-recession levels.  The Economic Policy Institute reports that corporate profits are up 22 percent!  However, these gains reflect increases in worker “productivity” and not new hiring.

In other words, after downsizing as a result of the recession, employers  are now overworking their remaining employees rather than re-hiring the ones who were let go or creating new jobs. In a recent survey by Spherion Staffing, 53% of workers surveyed said they’ve taken on new roles at work, most of them without extra pay (just 7% got a raise or a bonus).

Not surprisingly, workers are suffering under the strain.

One part-time college teacher is quoted as stating:

“”I am exhausted … I can’t help my son with his homework because I am grading papers until late into the night. I get up very early during the week, skip lunch to save not money but time, and the workload never lets up. My employer uses and abuses full-time employees even more so than those of us that are hourly. My supervisor, for example, runs a large department. He was just promoted to a new, even more demanding position, but his position running the department will not be filled. He will now be doing what is a 60-to-70-hour job ‘on the side.’”

The magazine says Americans  put in an average of 122 hours more per year than the British and 378 hours (nearly 10 weeks!) more than Germans. The differential isn’t solely the result of longer hours—workers in most other countries have, at least on paper, a right to weekends off, paid vacation time and paid maternity leave. (The only countries that don’t mandate paid time off for new moms are Papua New Guinea, Sierra Leone, Liberia, Samoa, and Swaziland and the United States!)

Legislators should be concerned about the implications of this situation on the health and welfare of American workers and their families.  Stress is believed to play an important role in several types of chronic health problems-especially cardiovascular disease, musculoskeletal disorders, and psychological disorders. Also, according to the Journal of Occupational and Environmental Medicine, health care expenditures are nearly 50% greater for workers who report high levels of stress.

Complacent Employer Hit With $95 Million Award

Note:  On July 7, 2011, U.S. District Court Judge J.  Michael Reagan granted Aarons’ motion to reduce the compensatory damages award for Alford’s Title VII sexual harassment claim pursuant to the statutory cap from $4 million  to $300,000.00 and the Court vacated the $50 million punitive damages award. Title VII authorizes the award of both compensatory and punitive damages but provides a cap on the total amount of damages recoverable based on employer size. See 42 U.S.C. § 1981a.   Reagan states in his opinion: “The Court notes that this remittitur results solely from the statutory cap and is not an expression of the Court’s opinion or the reasonableness of the jury verdict as to Count XII.”

East St. Louis, IL –A federal jury has awarded $95 million to a young woman who alleged she was the victim of a campaign of sexual  harassment and assault by a supervisor at  one of 1,800 stores operated by the rent-to-own company, The Aaron’s Inc.

The St. Louis Post Dispatch reported on June 10, 2011 that the jury in U.S. District Court in the Southern District of Illinois awarded the woman, Ashley Alford,  $95 million in compensation, including $15 million in compensatory damages and $80 million in punitive damages.  A cap on damages in federal sexual harassment cases will reduce the award to about $41.6 million.  A spokesperson for Aaron’s said the award does not accurately reflect the evidence in the case and Aaron’s plans to appeal.

The Aaron chain’s entire profit in 2010 was $118 million.

Alford’s attorney, David S. Ratner, said the award could be an all-time record for an individual plaintiff in  sexual harassment case.

Alford, who is in her mid-20s, began work as a customer service representative at the store in 2005. She said her supervisor, the store’s then-general manager, Richard Moore, engaged in a year-long escalating campaign of sexual harassment, beginning with crude sexual jokes and  ending with assault.

In the fall of 2006, Alford alleged, Moore sneaked up behind her as she was sitting on the floor of the stockroom and hit her on the head with his penis. In another incident,  Moore  allegedly threw Alford to the ground, lifted her shirt and masturbated over her as he held her down. Moore  is awaiting trial on a criminal charge related to the accusations in St. Clair County Circuit Court.

It appears that Aaron’s was complacent. Alford called a company harassment hotline in May 2006, but an investigator never contacted her.  At some point after the call, the suit claims, she was approached by Moore’s supervisor, who confronted her in front of Moore about his alleged harassment and warned Moore to “watch his back” because of the complaint.

In their verdict, jurors found that Moore had assaulted and battered Alford, and found Aaron’s liable for “negligent supervision,” ‘sexual harassment” and “intentional infliction of emotional distress.”

In a press release, Chad Strickland, Vice President of Associate Resources for Aaron’s, Inc., said Moore’s alleged acts “are not only completely inconsistent with everything our Company believes in and stands for, but are also far outside the scope of his employment and were never condoned by the Company.”

According to its web site,  “Over 55 million households across North America know and trust the Aaron’s name. Aaron’s, Inc. New York Stock Exchange ticker symbols are AAN and AANA.”

Aaron’s stock was down .04 percent on June 13, 2011.


Service Members Option: Quit

Appeals Court says “No” to Hostile Environment Claim

New Orleans, LA –   The U.S. Court of Appeals for the Fifth Circuit has ruled that members of the armed services cannot file a lawsuit under the Uniformed Services Employment and Reemployment Rights Act (USERRA) against a civilian employer for creating a “hostile work environment” through harassment.

The appeal came in the case of Derek Carder, et al v. Continental Airlines, Inc., a class action suit filed by pilots employed by Continental Airlines, Inc. who are members of the United States Armed Forces Reserves and Air National Guard.

The jurisdiction of the 5th circuit court includes Texas, Louisiana and Mississippi.

The pilots alleged that management at Continental created a “hostile work environment”  that discriminated against them because of their military service.  Continental argued that USERRA does not prohibit harassment of military members nor otherwise contemplate a hostile work environment action.

In a March 11, 2011 ruling, the appeals court sided with Continental and affirmed a lower court decision that dismissed the service members claim on the grounds that USERRA does not permit a claim for hostile work environment discrimination.

The pilots, the court said, may sue for constructive discharge if the alleged harassment becomes sufficiently severe that they are forced to quit their jobs.

According to the complaint, Continental has created a hostile work environment through  “harassing, discriminatory, and degrading comments and conduct relating to and arising out of Appellants’ military service and service obligations.” The complaint cites a “continuous pattern of harassment in which Continental has repeatedly chided and derided plaintiffs for their military service through the use of discriminatory conduct and derogatory comments regarding their military service and military leave obligations.”

Examples of these alleged derisive comments include comments by Continental managers such as the following:

  •  “If you guys take more than three or four days a month in military leave, you’re just taking advantage of the system.”;
  • “I used to be a guard guy, so I know the scams you guys are running.”;
  • “Your commander can wait. You work full time for me. Part-time for him. I need to speak with you, in person, to discuss your responsibilities here at Continental Airlines.”;
  •  “Continental is your big boss, the Guard is your little boss.”;
  •  “It’s getting really difficult to hire you military guys because you’re taking so much military leave.”;
  •  “You need to choose between CAL and the Navy.”

The pilot argued that they could file a “ hostile work environment” because a clause in Section 4311(a) of USERRA (entitled “Discrimination against persons who serve in the uniformed services and acts of reprisal prohibited”) prohibits denial of “any benefit of employment” to persons serving in the armed forces. However, the appeals court said the phrase is narrower than the language in other federal anti-discrimination laws and not intended by Congress to permit hostile work environment claims.

So what options do service members have?

“ If an employer makes service members’ employment so intolerable that they feel forced to quit, these service members could likely make a claim under USERRA for constructive discharge,” the appeal court states.

To make a claim of constructive discharge, the plaintiff must show that his or her working conditions became ‘so intolerable that a reasonable person would have felt compelled to resign.’”) (quoting Penn. State. Police, 542 U.S. at 147, 124 S. Ct. at 2354).

Still pending in the lawsuit is a separate count that the district court did not dismiss for denial of retirement benefits based upon Continental’s alleged denial of flight time to the Appellants and other class members because of their service obligations.

Advice from Action for Happiness

If you are being bullied at work, check out Action for Happiness, a web-based initiative launched by three progressive thinkers in the United Kingdom who  question why residents of America and the United Kingdom are no happier today than they were fifty years ago, despite decades of material progress.

The organization has researched the science of happiness and determined that the main external factor affecting a person’s happiness is the quality of their relationships, at home, at work and in the community. And the main internal factor is their underlying mental health.

The group hopes to create a fundamentally different culture, where people care more for the happiness of others. The initiative calls for people to pledge to create more happiness in the world and take positive action to promote happiness in whatever way they can – at home, at work or in the community. One way to enhance your own happiness at work if you are being bullied is to change the way you think about it.

You do not have to be resigned to be treated like a nail on a board, hammered by a bullying supervisor or mobbing co-workers.  All workers deserve to be treated with basic human dignity. You can take action.

  • If you think it will do any good, complain (firmly!) to the bully and if his/her actions continue, follow the steps necessary to formally complain to your employer. Or just complain to your employer.  Bullying is NOT normal work conflict; it is a pattern of abuse that causes targets to suffer potentially serious injury.
  • If your employer does nothing,  consult legal counsel to ascertain whether there are any grounds to take legal action.
  •  Why not lobby your state to adopt a workplace anti-bully bill that will give all workers the right to be treated with dignity and respect in the workplace?
  • Seek the help of a mental health professional. Targets of workplace bullying suffer damaging mental and physical health effects, spilling over into their  relationships with family and friends.
  • The bully is seeking to drive the target out of the workplace and often succeeds. Yes, times are hard, but start looking for another job.  If you are fired, it will be much more difficult to find employment. And how much is your health worth to you? It can’t hurt to look.

Meanwhile, here is a link to the poster above, distributed by Action for Happiness . I suggest you copy it and place it at some discrete location at your desk. It will remind you that:  “If You Can’t Change It; Change the Way You Think About It.”

This isn’t your fault.   This is about a pathetic  individual(s), a bully, who is often lacking in self esteem, threatened by your competence or who suffers from some kind of mental defect  (i.e., sociopath).  This may be about an unscrupulous employer who uses bullying to achieve specific goals, or a negligent employer that is ignorant of the cost of bullying to its own bottom line.  Every employee deserves to be treated with dignity and respect.

According to Action for Happiness, the brain child of Richard Layard, Geoff Mulgan and Anthony Seldon, people are no happier today than they were 50 years ago, despite unprecedented material wealth, because society  has become increasingly competitive and selfish, with a culture that encourages us to pursue wealth, appearance, status and possessions above all else. In the 1960s, 60% of adults in Britain said they believed “most people can be trusted”. Today the figure is around 30%. The growing focus on self-centered materialism has also contributed to wider social problems, including huge increases in anxiety and depression in young people, greater inequality, more family breakdown, longer working hours, growing environmental problems and crippling levels of debt.

OSHA Adopts Workplace Anti-Bullying Policy


The Occupational Safety and Health Administration has adopted a safety program for its own workers that includes a workplace anti-bully policy.

The policy is contained in a 278-page document, the OSHA Field Health and Safety Manual, which was released on May 23, 2011. The manual outlines safety practices for OSHA’s field offices. It was drafted in cooperation with the National Council of Field Labor Locals, a union that represents OSHA workers.

OSHA’s workplace bullying policy is significant because the General Duty Clause of the Occupational Safety and Health Act of 1970 requires employers to “furnish to each of his employees employment and a place of employment which are free from recognized hazards that are causing or are likely to cause death or serious physical harm to his employees … .” However, OSHA has not enforced that provision with respect to workplace bullying, despite overwhelming research that workplace bullying may cause severe damages to a target’s mental and physical health.

The stated purpose of the workplace bullying policy, contained in the manual’s “Violence in the Workplace” chapter, is: ”To provide a workplace that is free from violence, harassment, intimidation, and other disruptive behavior.”

The manual defines “intimidating behavior” as:

“Threats or other conduct that in any way create a hostile environment, impair Agency operations, or frighten, alarm or inhibit others. Verbal intimidation may include making false statements that are malicious, disparaging, derogatory, disrespectful, abusive, or rude.”

 And, “workplace violence” is defined as:

“An action, whether verbal, written, or physical aggression, that is intended to control, cause, or is capable of causing injury to oneself or other, emotional harm, or damage to property.”.

 All OSHA employees are required to “treat all other employees, as well as customers, with dignity and respect. Management will provide a working environment as safe as possible by having preventative measures in place and by dealing immediately with threatening or potentially violent situations. No employee will engage in threats, violent outbursts, intimidations, bullying harassment, or other abusive or disruptive behaviors.”

The manual states that the Assistant Regional Administrator/Director for Administrative Programs or equivalent unit will:

1. Disseminate the workplace violence policies and procedures to all employees;

2. Provide annual training on this policy and U.S. Department of Labor workplace violence program for responsible OSHA Manager(s); and

3. Conduct an investigation and complete a Workplace Violence Incident Report for all incidents reported. The report will be submitted to the Regional Administrator within 24 hours of completion.

Congress created the OSHA  to ensure safe and healthful working conditions for working men and women by setting and enforcing standards and by providing training, outreach, education and assistance. OSHA is part of the United States Department of Labor.

Bully Judge gets Clemency (Surprise!)

Update: Judge Fuller declared on June 20, 2011 that he will retire from the bench, rather than continue working under strict supervision until the mandatory retirement age of 70. The South Dakota Supreme Court ruled earlier this year that Judge Fuller had to retire unless he agreed to undergo a six-month suspension followed by strict probation for misconduct that included mistreating lawyers, court personnel and others. Fuller claimed he could not afford the cost of the suspension and probation, which he estimated to be $174,000. He says he will start working as an attorney in July.  Fuller, who allegedly sent clerks fleeing from his courtroom in tears, was deemed fully capable of “rehabilitation”  by the South Dakota Supreme Court, which ruled that he could remain on the bench until his retirement if he followed a required plan of action, including behavioral therapy.  PGB

May 20, 2011 – The South Dakota Supreme Court has given 7th Circuit Judge A.P. “Pete” Fuller the chance he sought to remain on the bench until the end of 2013 so that he can retire at the age of 70 with full benefits.

According to the Rapid City Journal, the Court ordered Fuller’s immediate retirement unless he follows a required plan of “rehabilitation.”   He must agree in writing to accept a six-month suspension without pay and an indefinite probation when he returns to the bench.  Fuller must also agree:

  • To pay for the Judicial Qualification Commission’s expenses, including attorney’s fees. The commission had recommended Fuller retire or be removed from the bench.
  •  While on suspension, Fuller would be expected to pay for and complete an accredited course in judicial ethics and resume behavioral therapy until completed.
  • If Fuller returns to the bench, the court will randomly poll judges, attorneys, court personnel and others to monitor his conduct.
  • Any violation of the Code of Judicial Conduct or a failure to comply with the court’s conditions would result in his involuntary retirement.

Although the court granted him clemency, ” Chief Justice David Gilbertson was less than conciliatory in writing for the court in a unanimous opinion,  “Judge Fuller has not only damaged his judicial office but those of every judge in the state.”

“Fuller maligned the reputation of South Dakota’s judiciary. Insulted individual lawyers, has uttered insensitive racial and sexist jokes, has conducted himself on the bench with unconscionable arrogance, has used abuse language, has rudely mistreated employees of the Unified Judicial System, and has flippantly from the bench referred to law enforcement as a ‘bunch of racists’ with no evidentiary basis,” Gilbertson wrote.

However, at the conclusion of his opinion, Justice Gilbertson opines:  “Fuller is capable of rehabilitation.

This is the first time in the court’s 121-year history that it has taken steps to remove a judge from the bench. Fuller was suspended in October after he was charged with violating four canons of South Dakota’s Code of Judicial Ethics.  Fuller, who was appointed to the bench in 2003, fought tenaciously to keep his job, with his lawyers arguing that he thought he was being funny and had never realized  that his actions perceived as bullying.

According to opinion of the high court, two female clerks, one with 40 years of experience, refused to go into Judge Fuller’s courtroom because of his “degrading comments, swearing, anger, and disrespect … While Fuller denied using profanity, he admitted treating [the clerk’s staff] rudely and disrespectfully.” He also referred disparagingly to the presence  of women in the legal profession and called juveniles “peckerheads,” among other things.

Fuller has 30 days to decide whether he will comply with the requirements to remain on the bench.

Bully Judge Clueless for Decade?


Update: Judge Fuller declared on June 20, 2011 that he will  retire from the bench, rather than continue working under strict supervision until the mandatory retirement age of 70.  The state Supreme Court ruled earlier this year that Judge Fuller had to retire unless he agreed to undergo a six-month suspension followed by strict probation for misconduct that included mistreating lawyers, court personnel and others. Fuller claimed he could not afford the cost of the suspension and probation, which he estimated to be $174,000. He says he will start working as an attorney in July. PGB

April 28, 2011 – The South Dakota Supreme Court is considering whether to return suspended 7th Circuit Judge A.P. “Pete” Fuller to the bench after complaints that amount to bullying.

In a plea to keep his job, Fuller, 68, said “I am ashamed … My conduct and actions have affected people I love and respect.”

According to the Rapid City Journal, Fuller’s tearful demeanor was a sharp contrast to the irreverent, caustic description painted by the findings of Judicial Qualifications Commission that has asked the state’s top court to remove or retire an elected judge for the first time in its 121-year history.

The Journal says that an investigation and transcripts of two closed-door hearings of the commission record the testimony of several people who described Fuller’s behavior as verbally abusive, sometimes profane and often biased, both in formal court setting and at other times.

Court documents state Fuller gave one attorney the ” bird” and publicly referred to juvenile court as “little prick day.”

During the hearings, Fuller acknowledged that some of his conduct was inappropriate but denied other allegations, including his alleged use of profanity in front of clerks of court.

Fuller said he had enrolled in anger-management classes and now understood that others perceived his irritation and annoyance with situations as “anger and rudeness and abrasiveness, and I believe somebody even said bullying.”

“It never dawned on him that he was mistreating people,” said one of two lawyers representing Fuller.

Much of the inappropriate conduct that Fuller is accused of was never dealt with during his 10 years on the bench, and he received no feedback suggesting that his conduct was inappropriate, Fuller’s other lawyer said.

In response, Attorney Michael Schaffer, who represented the commission said:

He got feedback when deputy clerks ran out of the courtroom in tears.”

“This inquiry … comes down to Judge Fuller’s conduct. The conduct of Judge Fuller basically concerns his treatment of people in his court and his treatment of people as a judge,” Schaffer said.

Fuller’s lawyers are attempting to portray the matter as having political undertones, while stressing the importance of an independent judiciary.  Fuller allegedly referred to law enforcement officers as a “bunch of racists” during a juvenile hearing, prompting complaints from law enforcement and prosecutors.

– PGB (

See The Rapid City Journal story:

CareerBuilder:1 IN 4 Workers Bullied

This is one of the largest surveys to date and it provides still more evidence of the pervasiveness of unaddressed bullying in the workplace and the devastating impact that it can have upon the target and the employer. Other surveys have found a higher percentage, including the 2010 Z0gby International Survey, in which 35% of workers said they  eexperienced bullying firsthand .- PGB

Twenty-Seven Percent of Workers Bullied 

April 20, 2011 – A  CareerBuilder survey   of 5,671 U.S. workers reveals that more than one in four (27 percent) workers have felt bullied in the workplace, with most neither confronting nor reporting the bully.

The most common bully? The boss.

According to survey results, 14 percent of workers felt bullied by their immediate supervisor, while 11 percent felt bullied by a co-worker.  Seven percent said the bully was not their boss but someone else higher up in the organization, while another 7 percent said the bully was their customer.

 Bullying reports by gender and age

  • Comparing genders and age groups, the segments that were more likely than others to report feeling bullied were women, workers ages 55 or older (29 percent), and workers age 24 or younger (29 percent).
  • Women reported a higher incidence of being treated unfairly at the office.  One-third (34 percent) of women said they have felt bullied in the workplace, compared to 22 percent of men. Of course, this doesn’t mean fewer men are bullied, necessarily — just that fewer men report it. And, according to research by organizational behavior and leadership expert Denise Salin, women are more likely than men to self-label as a target of bullying.
  • Workers ages 35 to 44 were the least likely to report feeling bullied, with only one in four doing so … .

When asked to describe how they were bullied, workers pointed to the following examples:

  •      My comments were dismissed or not acknowledged (43 percent).
  •     I was falsely accused of mistakes I didn’t make (40 percent).
  •     I was harshly criticized (38 percent).
  •     I was forced into doing work that really wasn’t my job (38 percent).
  •     Different standards and policies were used for me than other workers (37 percent).
  •     I was given mean looks (31 percent).
  •     Others gossiped about me (27 percent).
  •     My boss yelled at me in front of other co-workers (24 percent).
  •     Belittling comments were made about my work during meetings (23 percent).
  •     Someone else stole credit for my work (21 percent).

 What are companies doing to combat this workplace bullying?

Twenty-eight percent of workers who were bullied brought the situation to a higher authority by reporting the bully to their Human Resources department. While 38 percent of these workers stated that measures were taken to investigate and resolve the situation, the majority of workers (62 percent) said no action was taken.

…. workplace bullying …  seems to be prevalent in organizations that support, accept or allow such behavior, or where employees feel that they can “get away with it” or where it is accepted as part of a “tough” climate.” Even worse, new employees and managers can become socialized into treating bullying as a normal feature of working life.

‘Queen Bee’ Boss is Obstacle to Other Women

What follows are excerpts from a study by psychologists at the University of Cincinnati concluding that female ‘Queen Bee’ bosses tend to be “cogs in the machine” to other women in the workplace.According to the researchers, a female boss is more likely to wreck a woman’s promotion prospects in male-dominated environments and men who report to a female manager get much more mentoring and support than their female colleagues. The researchers say that women who manage to break the glass ceiling may not want competition from other women and/or may want to blend in as much as possible with their male counterparts.  The excerpt is from:  Maume, David J. ,  Meet the new boss…same as the old boss? Female supervisors and subordinate career prospects,  Social Science Research Volume 40, Issue 1, January 2011, Pages 287-298.

… Drawing a 2002 national sample of non-managerial workers, men exceeded women in receiving job-related support from female supervisors and were more optimistic about their promotion chances as a result. Although cross-sectional data precludes drawing firm conclusions regarding processes that occur over-time, the results are consistent with the notion that female managers are cogs in the machine, in that female supervisors have little or no effect on the career prospects of female subordinates, and instead foster men’s career prospects.

… when women attain jobs paying wages similar to men’s, informal workplace dynamics are unleashed that seek to restore men’s more privileged position in the workplace. These processes include isolation and exclusion from informal networks and professional growth opportunities ([Purcell, 2007] and [Reskin et al., 1999]), ratcheting up job demands to determine if women will put work ahead of family life as men do ([Fried, 1998] and [Hochschild, 1997]), and harassment of a general and/or sexual nature ([Acker, 1990] and [Roscigno, 2007]). The cumulative effect of these informal processes is that women’s work effectiveness is compromised, increasing the likelihood that they will either quit their jobs or be fired.

Given gendered informal dynamics that are pervasive in the workplace, some contend that female bosses either lack the power to impede organizational preferences to foster men’s careers, or that female bosses agree with negative stereotypes of female workers ([Cooper, 1997] and [Deaux, 1985]; Wajcman, 1998). And of course, female supervisors may themselves be the victims of informal processes to marginalize them and compromise their effectiveness ([Kanter, 1977] and [Fried, 1998]). In either case, when subordinates report to female supervisors, they may not perceive them to be any different from male bosses who give male subordinates more attention and more chances for promotion as way to advance their own careers. If so, female subordinates will be more likely to quit out of frustration or be fired, even though they may hold jobs paying wages similar to men’s. Jacobs (1989) characterized this process as one of “revolving doors,” in which women enter high-paying male-typed jobs only to exit these jobs later. This dynamic could reconcile the apparent inconsistency between studies reporting an association between more female managers and a lower gender wage gap, and this study’s finding that men’s, but not women’s, career prospects are enhanced when reporting a female superior.

… Despite these caveats, this study is the first representative analysis of how subordinate career prospects are affected by directly reporting to a female supervisor. The results are consistent with much research showing that workplaces are pervasively male-oriented in their customs, policies, and structures, and that female bosses are no different from male bosses in reacting to organizational preferences to invest in men’s careers more so than women’s. Additional research is needed on the organizational mechanisms fostering or impeding women’s ascendance to supervisory positions in order to assess progress toward the goal of affording men and women equal opportunity to exercise managerial authority. Yet, irrespective of what future studies of managerial attainment show, those who expect that female bosses will dramatically change the nature of superior-subordinate relations are likely to be disappointed.

Silence Perpetuates Workplace Bullying

Many victims of workplace bullying experience embarrassment and shame, and endure the bullying until they can quit, transfer, are fired or find another job.

A 2011 Careerbuilder survey found that only 28 percent percent of workers who were bullied brought the situation to a higher authority by reporting the bully to their Human Resources department. (Of these, 62 percent said no action was taken.)

Of those who didn’t report the bully at all, 21 percent said it was because they feared the bullying would escalate.

When a target does report a bully to management,  the employer may respond with some kind of private internal procedure or investigation.  The bully may even face a disciplinary action or ultimate termination, but it’s all secret. So the bully leaves and is hired by another organization and repeats his/her behavior and devastates the life of another target.

There’s a huge downside to silence in the context of bullying.

For example, until the 1970s, society deemed domestic violence to be a private family matter and women were often advised by law enforcement and religious authorities  to simply become a better wife or partner to the abuser, who would then have no reason to abuse the victim. We know today that this advice ignores the power dynamics of domestic violence and resulted in deaths of many women and children.  By  one estimate, 3 million women continue to be  physically abused by their husband or boyfriend per year.

And,  society still deems it appropriate to shield rape victims, which is not surprising given our history of blaming rape victims, who traditionally were shamed and ostracized.

In a recent story in The Chronicle of Higher Education, a rape victim argues that silence works to shield universities from their responsibility to protect students, and has made students less safe from violence.  I think the same dynamic exists for workplace bullying. If we “outed” bullies, there would be fewer serial bullies and there would be more sensitivity in general to the problem.

If you are being bullied, consider reporting it. Research shows that bullying may exact a severe toll on your physical and mental health. affects your career and your financial well-being, and that it can even erode your relationship with your spouse and children. Also, chances are your bully boss or supervisor has bullied others, and he or she will bully again unless stopped.

If you are an employer, you may be inclined to shroud employee complaints of bullying from public view.  For example, like the universities mentioned in The Chronicle article, you may feel that silence protects you or your company.  However, there is overwhelming research showing that bullying costs employers billions of dollars every year in higher health care premiums, lower morale, absenteeism, work hours lost, needless turnover,  litigation costs, etc.  By providing cover to the bully, you  become an accomplice in the problem, enabling the bulling and further demoralizing victims and witnesses. You will continue the bleeding that a bully inflicts on an employer’s bottom line.

So think about it – who really wins when there is silence about the problem of bullying in the workplace.

The bully.