June 9, 2005

Work bullies & bad bosses

Most of us can remember some grade school nightmare involving a bully. My nemesis was a seemingly innocuous and almost cherubic looking boy who had the soul of Attila. There wasn't a single kid in the school or pet in the neighborhood that didn't feel the toe of his boot, either literally or figuratively. It really wouldn't surprise me in the least if I were to learn he had orchestrated all the shameful doings at Abu Ghraib. Or perhaps you might know him - maybe he's your boss.

Diane Lewis of the Boston Globe recently wrote a lengthy piece on the topic of bullying bosses using the controversy about John Bolton as her lead. As a parade of former colleagues and subordinates line up to protest his appointment as an ambassador to the U.N. on the basis of his temperament, I wonder if he wishes he had spent a bit more time honing his people skills?

The Bolton nomination seems to be enjoying some popularity as a springboard for a discussion about abusive bosses. See Amy Joyce's recent article, Big Bad Boss Tales, in the Washington Post for a rogues gallery - a badness hall of fame, so to speak.

Lewis cites a study by Wayne State University that indicates that one out of every six workers are bullied by bosses in any given year. A study by Workplace Bullying and Trauma Institute found that 71 percent of workplace bullies outranked their victims.

Bosses aren't the only bullies
The National Institute for Occupational Safety and Health (NIOSH) released a recent study on workplace bullying that has a somewhat different take on the matter. Their findings showed that bullying was more likely to be peer to peer than manager to worker. Of the 516 respondents, 24.5 percent reported that some degree of bullying had occurred at their workplace during the preceding year; 39.2 percent named an employee as the aggressor, 24.5 percent said the bullying involved an outside customer/nonemployee, and 14.7 percent involved a supervisor.

Whether the source of the bullying is a supervisor, a coworker, a customer, or the head honcho in the corner office, it can have a serious and pernicious effect on the work culture, eroding trust and goodwill. It can also be expensive. Not only will angry, sullen workers be less than productive, they may find a sympathetic hearing in court for harassment or for being victims of a hostile workplace. And if a work injury occurs, egregious behavior or misconduct on the part of a supervisor might pierce the shield that generally holds workers comp as the exclusive remedy. While "no fault" is the operating rule, when serious misconduct can be established, all bets are off. And it should be particularly noted that most states take a decidedly dim view of any retaliatory actions for claims that have been or might be filed.

Rooting out a bully culture
Employers need to take a hard look at their company culture and root out any bullying behavior. We like to think most employers want do the right thing. We believe that most people aspire to excellence, but sometimes just have trouble getting there - the devil is in those pesky details.

Presidents, business owners, and CEOs must take a leadership role by setting the tone and establishing and enforcing "zero tolerance" policies. Supervisors should be trained in conflict resolution, anger management, and preventing harassment. A system for reporting, investigating, and resolving complaints should be established. Employees should be informed of how to report a complaint, and be assured that they will not be retaliated against for doing so. While HR should play a key role in this process, it might be beneficial to have an Employee Assistance Program (EAP) on board, too, so that employees have recourse to an external source if they are too intimidated to pursue a complaint internally.

More reading on the topic of bullying:
Beware: Bullies at work
Are you working for a bully?
Bullies at work
Rough, raunchy or rude: Workplace bullying increases health care costs, lowers productivity
Workplace Bullying & Trauma Institute

| 1 Comment

1 Comment

Jan 11 2005

To Whom It May Concern.

Wow what an experience.
I was employed at Gal Power Systems in Mississiauga to work on diesel
generator systems.
I was working on a pair of 16 v 92 Detroit diesel generator sets at
4160 volt at a facility called the South West Regional Center in
Chatham Ontario.
I was requested by the project manager Moe Gallick of the Ontario
Realty Corporation to supply and install some fuel system components
at an Ontario Provincial Police transmitter tower close by.
When I went there to do the work I saw that this was an old abandoned
site no longer in use.
I was let into the building and began work.
As I was working I noticed the building had a an unusual amount of rat
poison or toxic chemicals distributed inside the building.
No breathing equipment or protective clothing were supplied by either
my employer Gal Power Systems, The Ontario Realty Corporation or the
Ontario Provincial Police.
Mr Gallick did not spend very much time in the building.
I did not complete the work.
Shortly after this I had to seek medical attention within the Ministry
of Health and was off work for close to a year.
This was a deliberate act.
I almost died.
This act of incompetence was the end of a series of poisonings that
started a couple of years earlier when I was working at Harper Detroit
Diesel on a project at Mississauga Hydro , probably continued when I
was hired by Thomson Technology in British Columbia and almost ended
in my death at Gal Power Systems.
Talk about bad politics or a toxic work place.
That's kind of the ultimate.
Some people say there is no corruption here in Canada.
The harrasment to date in my workplaces is unbelievable and
intolerable with off colour and
snide comments about my mental health.
There is much more to the story.

Gerry Duffett
14-4218 Lawrence Ave E Box 218
Scarborough Ontario
Canada M1E4X9

Pager # 416-612-5689


Jan 11 2004

To Whom It Might Concern.

Here is a copy of a letter I sent to the Toronto Sun newspaper about
an article that was published.This incident that happened to me is an
odd health and safety issue.
Here is a situation where a union might have made a difference. I
will be sending more letters to various groups in the up coming year.

Hi Mr Margolis.

I found your article about Edwin P. Wilson all too frightening and
hits me personally way too close to home. I was working at Harper
Detroit Diesel in Toronto and one of my co workers or somebody in my
customer base or the competion started poisoning my food over a period
of months.
I almost died.
I had worked in the diesel generator industry for twenty two years as
a field service technician at a variety of dealers and distributors
based mostly out of the Toronto area. In this position I worked in and
around all types of generator set applications such as apartment
buildings, schools, retail stores, hospitals, marine units, motor
homes, data centers, airports, telephone switching centers, or just
about anywhere you would find a generator set.This position also took
me into a lot of high security buildings or buildings that you don't
need to know exist. Some of the customers I have dealt with include
Metropolitan Toronto Police, the Ontario Provincial Police, the
R.C.M.P., Bell Canada, Transport Canada, Navigation Canada, Public
Works Canada, Department of National Defence, the Ontario Realty
Corporation, Nexacor Realty, AT&T, Cantel, C.I.D.A., External Affairs,
and many, many more. I did quite a bit of work on high security micro
wave and fibre optics communication links all around North America.
This is where this poisoning comes from. One person I worked 15 yrs
with on these systems, who I had not seen in 4 yrs, called me at home
one night in the middle of this series of poisonings, who I didn't
even know had my home phone number and asked "aren't you dead yet". I
wound up on the West Coast of Canada standing in a parking lot with
what were suppose to be Chinese Nationals from F.E.T.A.C. being
photographed by the
R.C.M.P. as part of a smear campaign.The worst part of all of this is
Gerry Duffett almost died, thats me. The next worst part of all of
this, is this is my tax dollars paying these freaks. I wonder how
many times a day this goes on. I still don't know who poisoned me. I
was off work for almost one year. I can now 5 yrs later barely hold a
full time job. The harassment in my work place is unbelievable as far
as off colour and snide comments about my mental health. There is much
more to the story. My pager # is 416-612-5689.

Thank you.

Gerry Duffett.
14-4218 Lawrence Ave E Box 218
Scarborough Ontario
Canada M1E4X9


Just in the last couple of years a new fibre optics system was
installed in Ontario to link all the power generation stations to one
central control center code named Ledcor.
Don't tell anybody you know that, somebody might try to kill you.


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This page contains a single entry by Julie Ferguson published on June 9, 2005 12:04 PM.

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