Incivility: Is it Trump’s Fault?

There has been much discussion lately about the role of  Republican President Donald Trump in the incivility that hovers like a dark cloud over our country.

However, a recent nationwide poll shows that incivility was a problem long before Trump announced his candidacy in 2015,  though he certainly hasn’t helped the problem.

Weber Shandwick and Powell Tate, in partnership with KRC Research, began its annual Civility in America poll in 2010, five years before Trump’s entry into national politics.  That year, 65 percent of Americans thought incivility was a “major problem.” The most recent poll in December 2016 found that 69 percent of Americans felt that incivility is a major problem.

It would seem that something more systemic and entrenched in American society is responsible for the increasingly sad state of life in America. My guess is that incivility has its roots in the corruption that led to the collapse of Wall Street and the worst depression in 100 years. The government stood by and then failed to prosecute financiers who looted middle class pensions and savings. The situation today is not much better. Our economy is increasingly dominated by predatory monopolies and tax averse multi-national corporations. The entire U.S. news media is owned by 15 billionaires who benefit from the status quo. Meanwhile, the opioid epidemic killed an estimated 64,000 Americans in 2016.

There are distressing signs that incivility is crossing the line into low-level violence.

Continue reading “Incivility: Is it Trump’s Fault?”

Informal Option Proposed to Address Sexual Harassment in U.S. Judiciary

A working group conceded this week that the federal judiciary’s policies for addressing complaints of sexual harassment and workplace abuse are inadequate.

However, the Federal Judiciary Workplace Conduct Working Group issued a report that makes a troubling recommendation and fails to address what to do about federal judges with lifetime tenure who engage in sexual harassment and bullying.

The group suggests the 30,000 employees of the U.S. judiciary would be more likely to complain about abuse and harassment if  “less formal mechanisms” were established to file complaints. This less formal option would provide complainants with “guidance, counseling, assistance and relief.” The group suggests it be “calibrated to the nature of the conduct” and “should exist at the local, regional and national levels.”

The informal option is troublesome because it is not transparent and contributes to a lack of accountability that is particularly imperative in a male-dominated workplace to halt serial sexual harassment and workplace abuse.

The working group was formed by the Administrative Office of the U.S. Courts at the request of Chief Justice John G. Roberts, Jr. and consists of federal judges and senior Judiciary officials. Notably absent on the panel are current or former law clerks, low-level workers who are most vulnerable to abuse and representatives from the public.

In 2017, a total of 66% of active U.S. District Court judges were male.

Continue reading “Informal Option Proposed to Address Sexual Harassment in U.S. Judiciary”

Do ‘Nice Guys’ Finish Last?

Baseball player Leo Durocher famously said “nice guys finish last.”

Do they?

There is no conclusive answer to this question but Christine Porath, in a recent article for the New York Times, argues that politeness and regard for others in the workplace pays off.  She cited a study involving a biotechnology company that found workers who are seen as civil are twice as likely to be viewed as leaders.

Unfortunately, it’s not hard to find research that comes to the opposite conclusion. At least one study shows that agreeableness affects income – particularly for women. Nice gals and guys are thought to earn less than co-workers who are not nice.

I submit that Duroucher’s question misses the point.

A smart employer, mindful of the bottom line, would not knowingly  promote a worker who  is rude, engages in workplace bullying or fails to show respect for others.  

Employers increasingly recognize that incivility or bullying in the workplace is bad for business and the bottom line. An abusive workplace exposes a company to expensive and unnecessary turnover, low morale and productivity, higher medical costs and needless risk of litigation. Moreover, research shows that workplace bullies act for their own selfish reasons, in complete disregard for the success of the employer. The success of a  bully in a workplace is directly proportional to  the employer’s failure  to effectively manage the company’s most critical resource  – its workforce.

Ray Dalio: “Firing People is Not a Big Deal”

You gotta give this guy some guy credit.

Ray Dalio, the founder of Bridgewater Associates, LP, a global investment management firm, lets you know what to expect if you want to or if you do work  at the firm.

 Don’t expect much in the way of human kindness.

 Dalio has published a 123-page document  entitled “Principles” on the firm’s web site outlining his management beliefs.  To put it kindly, Dalio’s principles reflect the outsized ego of a captain of industry who seems to have little patience for any human frailty that might get between Bridgewater and a buck.

What is particularly interesting about the document is Dalio’s obvious disdain for Human Resources personnel.  One  might imagine some hapless HR Director, long since fired, suggesting that Dalio’s management principles could be… uh … more humane.  (“Sir, Mr. Dalio, Sir …  might I suggest that firing people is a big deal to the people being fired?”)

There’s no doubt that Dalio’s principles work for him. According to Forbes he is the 44th richest person in America and the 88th richest person in the world with a net worth of $10 billion as of March 2012.  But God help you if you are an employee who happens to be a single mom with urgent childcare demands; a worker whose ‘game’ is thrown off by divorce, sickness, death of a loved one; or if you just can’t take the stress of being evaluated like a micro-circuit board on an assembly line.

 So on this Labor Day 2013, it is without pleasure that I present some excerpts from  Ray Dalio’s “Principles”:

  • Evaluate people accurately, not “Kindly.” 
  • Maintain “baseball cards” and/or “believability matrixes” for your people. Imagine if you had baseball cards that showed all the performance stats for your people: batting averages, home runs, errors, ERAs, win/loss records … You can and should keep such records of your people … . I use ratings, forced rankings, metrics, results, and credentials.
  • Remember that convincing people of their strengths is generally much easier than convincing them of their weaknesses … At Bridgewater, because we always seek excellence, more time is spent discussing weaknesses. … . This is great because we focus on improving, not celebrating how great we are, which is in fact how we get to be great. For people who don’t understand this fact, the environment can be difficult. 
  • Don’t collect people. Firing people is not a big deal—certainly nowhere near as big a deal as keeping badly performing people, because keeping a person in a job they are not suited for is terrible both for the person (because it prevents personal evolution) and our community (because we all bear the consequences and it erodes meritocracy). 
  • When people are “without a box,” consider whether there is an open box at Bridgewater that would be a better fit. If not, fire them. Remember that we hire people not to fill their first job at Bridgewater nor primarily for their skills. We are trying to select people with whom we’d like to share our lives. We expect everyone to evolve here.
  • It is your job as a manager to get at truth and excellence, not to make people happy. For example, the correct path might be to fire some people and replace them with better people, or to put people in jobs they might not want, etc.
  • It is far better to find a few smart people and give them the best technology than to have a greater number of ordinary and less well-equipped people …  Usually it is the person’s capacity that limits the scope of his understanding and control.
  • A higher percentage of the population than you might imagine will cheat if given an opportunity, and most people who are given the choice of being “fair” with you and taking more for themselves will choose taking more for themselves.
  • Use “double-do” rather than “double-check” to make sure mission-critical tasks are done correctly. When people double-check someone else’s work, there is a much lower rate of catching errors than when two parties independently do the work and the results are compared. Double-doing is having two different people doing the same task on the same job so that two independent answers are derived.
  • I  often hear people say, “It’s getting better,” as though that is good enough when “it” is both below that bar and improving at an inadequate rate. That isn’t good enough.  Everything important you manage has to be on a trajectory to be “above the bar” and headed for “excellent” at an acceptable pace.
  • Don’t try to please everyone. Not everyone is going to be happy about every decision you make, especially the decisions that say they can’t do something.

And Don’t Listen to HR!

  •  Watch out for “department slip.” This happens when a support department, such as HR or Facilities, mistakes its responsibilities to provide support with a responsibility to determine how the thing they are supporting should be done. An example of this sort of mistake is if  … people in HR think they should determine what our employment policies should be …  While support departments should know the goals of the people they’re supporting and provide feedback regarding possible choices, they are not the ones to determine the vision.
  • Assign responsibilities based on workflow design and people’s abilities, not job titles … .For example, just because someone is responsible for “human resources,” “recruiting,” “legal,” “programming,” etc., doesn’t necessarily mean they are the appropriate person to do everything associated with those functions. For example, though “Human Resources” people help with hiring, firing, and providing benefits, it would be a mistake to give them the responsibility of determining who gets hired and fired and what benefits are provided to employees.

I became aware of Ray Dalio’s management principles in a recent story by Rachel Feintzeig in the Wall Street Journal, about the cost of incivility in the workplace.  The article notes that networking-equipment company Cisco Systems Inc. in 2007 estimated the cost of incivility in its organization topped $8.3 million annually. Costs include account turnover, employees’ weakened commitment to the company and work time that was lost to worrying about future bad behavior.

 

For Employers

Bullying is a costly management problem.  Yet, all too often, instead of being the first line of defense, the Human Resources Department reinforces the bullying and further undermines the victim. The result is costly turnover, poor morale, and expensive litigation.  Stopping bullying makes economic sense for employers.  Does your company have an anti-bullying policy?  Is it strictly enforced, even when the bully is a highly valued employee?  Are employees encouraged to report bullying and do you insure they are protected from retaliation?   If not, you are inviting needless expense and risk.  – PGB

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“Bully bosses are the bane of management. They are the ones who take credit for their subordinates’ ideas, engage in abusive behavior, humiliate employees in public, talk behind people’s backs, and send others to do their dirty work. Bullies often make the numbers; that’s why it’s hard to get rid of them. When bullies resist all help, they must be removed from the organization. FROM:  Article by John Baldoni, Harvard Management Update; Sept. 2005, Vol. 10 Issue 9, p1-3, 3p.

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THE TAB FOR EMPLOYERS

It is astonishing that American employers tolerate workplace bullying.  Never-mind the devastation that bullying wreaks on the target, bullying wreaks havoc on the company’s bottom line. Bullying results in higher health costs, needless turnover, lower morale and motivation, lost work hours, absenteeism, etc. etc. etc.

Consider:

  • According to Christine Pearson at UNC-Chapel Hill and Christine Porath of USC’s Marshall School of Business (The Cost of Bad Behavior: How Incivility Is Damaging Your Business and What to Do About It (2009))  targets of bullying react in the following ways:

-48% decreased their work effort,

-47% decreased their time at work,

-38% decreased their work quality,

-66% said their performance declined,

-80% lost work time worrying about the incident,

-63% lost time avoiding the offender

  • Bullying causes needless turnover.

According to the Level Playing Field Institute, more than two million managers and professionals flee their jobs every year as a result of workplace unfairness, including bullying. The cost of replacing just one $8-per-hour employee can range from $3,500 to $25,000, depending on the industry. The  exodus of two million workers costs businesses $64 billion.

Research shows that bullying also contributes to turnover among witnesses of bullying, who suffer emotional distress that is almost as great as that experienced by the victims of bullying. Furthermore, more than a quarter of employees who leaves because of unfairness do not recommend the employer to potential employees, and many do not recommend the company’s products and services to others.

  • Bullying results in costly litigation.

Even if the employer wins, it can cost the employer tens of thousands of dollars to defend the lawsuit.

The employer doesn’t always win. In Indiana, a medical technician was awarded $325,000 after successfully suing a surgeon who bullied him in an operating room for Intentional Infliction of Emotional Distress and assault.

A lawsuit, and attendant publicity, can be harmful to a business in terms of public perception and the ability to attract quality employees.

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Five Tips for Businesses on Handling Workplace Bullying

(Excerpted from Teresa A. Daniel,  Stop Bullying at Work (ISBN 9781586441357, September 2009, $17.95)

To properly approach the bully and create individual change:

1.  Confront and monitor existing bullies.

– Talking directly to the bully about the consequences of his or her behavior;

– Training bullies about how to treat others fairly in the workplace; and

– Implementing performance evaluation and appraisal mechanism to discourage bullying behaviors, such as a 360-degree performance feedback system.”

2. Obtain a senior management commitment to a bully-free environment. Organizations need to demonstrate in visible and continuous ways that senior management is committed to addressing and eradicating the bullying phenomenon. Because of the power differential that exists in the relationship between the bully and the targeted employee, the reluctance to report bullying appears to be linked to the belief that nothing will be done and also to the fear of retaliation if something is done.

3.   Develop an anti-bullying policy. “Any policy that you develop should be customized to fit your organization’s specific culture, values, and needs. An anti-bullying policy will generally address the following types of issues: your company’s commitment to a culture of mutual respect and zero-tolerance of bullying, clear definitions of bullying, managerial responsibilities, complaint procedures, any support or counseling offered to the target, assurances that all complaints are taken seriously and will be treated confidentially, a ‘no retaliation’ provision, and who to contact to get further information.”

4.  Create monitoring, investigation, and complaint systems, disciplinary procedures, and follow-up measures. “Whether or not you elect to develop and implement an anti-bullying policy, a specific internal group or department needs to be identified as being responsible for receiving complaints and educating your employees. An investigation is a necessary response to a bullying complaint. All complaint resolution systems must include an effective disciplinary procedure that spells out the consequences for failure to abide by the company’s policy, including progressive discipline.”

5.  Train employees about conduct expectations. “Periodic training of employees must be conducted to ensure a culture of respect and accountability, and also that all employees understand the company’s expectations about their workplace conduct – what is and is not acceptable – and the consequences for failing to observe these requirements.”

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Research shows that  Human Resources often creates an environment where bullying “remains unchallenged, allowed to thrive or actually encouraged in an indirect way.” If the victim seeks help, HR  protects the employer’s interests rather than to seek a fair and just resolution. “The absence of collective voice … renders employees completely vulnerable, with no avenues for redressal … Issues of justice and morality inevitably arise … With managers being judge and jury combined, the correctness of managerial decisions remains largely unchecked … .”  FROM:  Premilla D’Cruz and Ernesto Noronha, Protecting My Interests: HRM and Targets’ Coping with Workplace Bullying, The Qualitative Report Vol.15, Number 3 (May 2010) http://www.nova.edu/ssss/QR/QR15-3/dcruz.pdf.

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In the case of despots, you need to depose them; in the case of bullies, you need to boot them. Few are worthy of rehabilitation. Power for them is both a means to an end as well as the end itself. “ – John Baldoni, 12 Steps to Power Presence: How to Assert Your Authority to Lead, (2010)

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Excerpt from the Center for the Promotion of Health in the New England Workplace at the University of Massachusetts, Lowell:

Organizational Practices that cause worker stress:

  • Favoritism
  • Inflexible rules
  • Low pay and benefits
  • Poor supervision
  • Job insecurity
  • Responsibility without authority
  • Lack of input in decisions
  • Poor chances for advancement or growth
  • Unclear responsibilities or expectations
  • Multiple supervisors
  • Lack of recognition
  • Poor communication
  • Mandatory Overtime

* Patricia G. Barnes is an attorney with experience in both domestic violence and employment law. She is available for consultation, training on creating a healthy and positive management environment for employees and speaking engagements.

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