Workplace Bullying Increasing

A new study by CareerBuilder finds that workplace bullying is on the rise, with 35 percent of workers reporting they have felt bullied on the job, up from 27 percent last year.

 Sixteen percent of these workers reported they suffered health-related problems as a result of bullying and 17 percent decided to quit their jobs to escape the situation.

 The study  found the majority of incidents go unreported.  Twenty-seven percent of  targets said they reported the bullying to their Human Resources department. Of these workers, 43 percent reported that action was taken while 57 percent said nothing was done.

 The scientific  survey was conducted online  by Harris Interactive from May 14 to June 4, 2012 and included more than 3,800 workers nationwide.

 Who Are the Bullies?

 Of workers who felt bullied, 48 percent pointed to incidents with their bosses and 26 percent to someone higher up in the company. Forty-five percent said the bullies were coworkers  while 31 percent were picked on by customers. 

 More than half (54 percent) of those bullied said they were bullied by someone older than they were, while 29 percent said the bully was younger.

 Weapons of a Workplace Bully

 The most common way workers reported being bullied was getting blamed for mistakes they didn’t make followed by not being acknowledged and the use of double standards. The full list includes:

  • Falsely accused of mistakes – 42 percent
  • Ignored – 39 percent
  • Used different standards/policies toward me than other workers – 36 percent
  • Constantly criticized – 33 percent
  • Someone didn’t perform certain duties, which negatively impacted my work – 31 percent
  • Yelled at by boss in front of coworkers – 28 percent
  • Belittling comments were made about my work during meetings – 24 percent
  • Gossiped about – 26 percent
  • Someone stole credit for my work – 19 percent
  • Purposely excluded from projects or meetings – 18 percent
  • Picked on for personal attributes – 15 percent

Standing Up to the Bully

 About half (49 percent) of victims reported confronting the bully themselves, while 51 percent did not. Of those who confronted the bully, half (50 percent) said the bullying stopped while 11 percent said it got worse, and 38 percent said the bullying didn’t change at all.

The company offers the following tips for workers who are feeling bullied:

  1. Keep record of all incidents of bullying, documenting places, times, what happened and who was present.
  2. Consider talking to the bully, providing examples of how you felt treated unfairly. Chances are the bully may not be aware that he/she is making you feel this way. (Personally, I disagree.  Most bullies know exactly what they are doing. A small percentage are actually psychopaths ,completley lacking in empathy.  Use your judgment when confronting a bully – it may work but it also could escalate the problem or the bully could lay low until he/she sees the opportunity to finish the job.) 
  3. Always focus on resolution. When sharing examples with the bully or a company authority, center the discussions around how to make the working situation better or how things could be handled differently.

Surveys consistently show that between a quarter and a third of workers have felt bullied on the job. Furthermore, there is overwhelming research  that workplace bullying can lead to potentially severe mental and physical health problems. Yet, efforts to address the problem in the United States over the past decade have proved fruitless up to now. Meanwhile, many other industrialized countries have adopted regulations or laws to address workplace bullying which place the responsibility upon the employer to insure a safe bully-free workplace for employees.

Readers can sign a petition calling up the Secretary of Labor to take action to address the epidemic of workplace bullying by going here.

CareerBuilder’s on-line site,®, is the largest in the United States with more than 24 million unique visitors, 1 million jobs and 49 million resumes.


Microsoft Brass Panned for “Stack Ranking”

Microsoft Brass Panned for “Stack Ranking”

An article in Vanity Fair attributes Microsoft’s “downfall”  in part to a widely used employee performance rating review system called “Stack Ranking.”

VF Contributing Editor Kurt Eichenwald said the  stack ranking system incentivizes employees to climb the corporate ladder – not to create new and innovative products.  He argues the stack ranking performance rating system has crippled Microsoft’s ability to innovate and contributed to its decline in the past decade.

Stack ranking, also known as forced-choice rating and “rank and yank,” is used by many leading American corporations to evaluate employee performance.

The concept involves ranking employees on a given team from “most valuable” to “least valuable.”  One technique is to ask: “if the team was on a sinking boat and we had to decide who we would put on the life-boats, who would be included?”

Employees essentially rank each other and their bosses on a zero to four scale –  four being the best. The person with the lowest average score may be given an opportunity to improve or escorted out the door. (That’s where “yank” comes in.)

The stack ranking system was touted by former General Electric CEO Jack Welsh who said corporations owe it to the bottom ten percent of their employees to let them know they have no future with the company.  It also is credited with forcing managers to make tough personnel decisions.

The problems seem obvious. What if all the performers in a given team are top performers relative to other employees in the company or field  – under the forced choice system, only one of these meritorious employees would receive an optimal rating. One potentially would be forced out.  Two would be rated as mediocre. Does this make any sense – especially for a company that wants to encourage innovation?

Not only that but stack ranking seems on its face to be unnecessarily brutal and  clumsy – the antithesis of a system that encourages teamwork.

Microsoft has been on notice since 2005 about the perils of the stack ranking system but  ignored the warnings.

According to a 2005 study of the stack ranking system at Microsoft by Stephen Gall of Walden University, stack ranking is the fourth most commonly used appraisal technique among the 75% of U.S. companies with performance appraisal programs. Gall said stack ranking should not be used to evaluate employees.

Gall said his research found that smart employees spend much of their time figuring out how to manipulate the performance review system to their least disadvantage – not working to innovate and improve the company.

Gall maintains that stack ranking provides questionable insight into an individual’s actual job performance. He says the rank number is most often based on an unsubstantiated subjective judgment by an evaluator who may feel pressured to respond according to a narrow set of guidelines.

Furthermore, Gall says stack ranking “highly politicizes an organization” and can lead to lawsuits.

If stack ranking is used, he says, stack ranking should be well documented using the 360 degree feedback method, where a variety of stakeholders provide input into the ranking based on objective (or using the least amount of subjective) criteria.

The Alexander Hamilton Institute Employment Law Center suggests proceeding carefully before rating employees as “poor performers.”

The following guidelines are suggested:

  •  Ensure that there sufficient evidence to support the claim that an employee’s performance is genuinely substandard, and that evidence is properly documented.
  • Ensure that there is no perceived or credible argument that any action or poor review can be viewed as retaliatory or discriminatory
  • Ensure fairness; Have other’s received such a rating (or been discharged) for similar circumstances?
  • Are, or can the ratings be confirmed by an objective third party reviewer?

All of which leads to the question – how can supposedly smart people, such  as those in charge of Microsoft, be so dumb?

Penn State and Restitution

Artist Michael Pilato this week painted a blue ribbon — a symbol for awareness of child sexual abuse — on the portion of his “Inspiration State College” mural in State College, PA, that once included the image of recently convicted pedophile Jerry Sandusky.

So now what? It’s over?

Although the U.S. Supreme Court insists that corporations have the same free speech rights and citizens, it is not likely that Penn State – the institution – will be indicted and hauled into court as an accessory in the Sandusky matter.

Some former Penn State officials do face prosecution. Gary Schultz, Penn State’s former vice president of business administration, and Tim Curley, the university’s former athletic director, await trial on one count each of perjury and failing to report an alleged instance of child-sex abuse in a Penn State athletic-facility shower in 2001. The men have pleaded not guilty. However, former Penn State President Graham Spanier  who was ousted by Penn State’s trustees in November, continues to draw a salary. No criminal charges have been filed against him.

It can be argued that Penn State as an institution looked the other way where Sandusky was concerned, placing vulnerable children in harms way.  Penn State’s complacency allowed Sandusky, a former assistant football coach, to use his affiliation at Penn State, not to mention the athletic department shower room, to accomplish many of his evil acts.

Penn State will be sued civilly by some of Sandusky’s immediate victims but it seems to me that the university owes a greater debt.  I propose that Penn State consider restitution for its role in the Sandusky tragedy.

Penn State has among the largest endowments ($1.7 billion) of any private university in the world. Why not use some of that money to fund a scientific research program on pedophilia?  How can society combat this insidious menace. What kinds of treatments might really work? And what should the legal system do with pedophiles, who have alarming rates of recidivism.

Also, I propose that Penn State endow a scholarship for the type of poor and vulnerable “at risk”  children who were targeted by Jerry Sandusky. Maybe even ten scholarships, one for each of Sandusky’s victims. Maybe 45 for each count for which Sandusky was convicted?

While I’m at it, here are some other suggestions for Penn State:

  • Next time someone complains to a university official (not to mention the University President) about a potential crime, consider it an opportunity to act to limit the university’s liability..
  • Even the best personnel policies in the world are meaningless if they are not followed. Personnel policies should apply to everyone on campus — not just the cafeteria staff and janitors. There should be basic procedures in place that kick in whenever a complaint is lodged with the campus administration regardless of who is involved.
  • It’s easy to forget that the university’s reputation is more important than the reputation of the football team. Hey, maybe that should be painted on the Penn State mural?

Sandusky was found guilty last week on 45 of 48 counts related to sexual abuse of boys over a 15-year period.


Workplace Bullying Affects Family Relationships

There’s an old saying: When mom is unhappy; everyone is unhappy!  (Presumably the same goes  for Dad.)

A study by a Baylor University researcher has found that workplace incivility can be so intense that, at the end of the day, the target brings it home, where it impacts the well-being of the worker’s family and partner.

The study’s author, Merideth J. Ferguson, Ph.D., an assistant professor of management and entrepreneurship at the Baylor University Hankamer School of Business, says:   “Employees who experience such incivility at work bring home the stress, negative emotion and perceived ostracism that results from those experiences, which then affects more than their family life – it also creates problems for the partner’s life at work.”

Since the employee is stressed and distracted, the partner is likely to pick up more of the family responsibilities, and those demands may interfere with the partner’s work life. The study also found that such stress also significantly affected the worker’s and the partner’s marital satisfaction.

“This research underlines the importance of stopping incivility before it starts so that the ripple effect of incivility does not impact the employee’s family and potentially inflict further damage beyond the workplace where the incivility took place and cross over into the workplace of the partner,” said Ferguson.

The study included 190 full-time workers, who all had co-workers and had an employed partner, who agreed to complete an online survey.  After completing the survey, workers were asked to have their partners complete a separate survey.  Approximately 57 percent of the employee sample was male with an average age of 36, while 43 percent of the partner sample was male with an average age of 35. Of these couples, 75 percent had children living with them.

“Unlike the study of incivility’s effects at work, the study of its impact on the family is in its infancy. However, these findings emphasize the notion that organizations must realize the far-reaching effects of co-worker incivility and its impact on employees and their families,” Ferguson said.

“One approach to prevent this stress might be to encourage workers to seek support through their organization’s employee assistance program or other resources such as counseling or stress management so that tactics or mechanisms for buffering the effect of incivility’s stress on the family can be identified,” she said.

Ferguson advises workers who are experiencing “chronic rudeness” to get help with stress management techniques. “Rudeness and instability can result in things like anxiety and depression, so we suggest people get in touch with a counselor,” she said. “If it starts impacting their physical and mental health, they should seek a job elsewhere.”

The study results were announced in an August 16, 2011 press release by Baylor, which is based in Waco, TX.