eMusings Newsletter


         VOLUME THREE, ISSUE 11     


3 Human Elements









     This month, we're taking a look at well-being in the workplace...at least a slice of it. I admit when the topic was first suggested, I was less than enthusiastic. There's a lot of info and research already available on well-being. I thought, surely by now companies have made the connection between well-being and the bottom line. Surely they understand that if employees don't have well-being in the workplace, it's bad for business. Turnover goes up, and customer satisfaction and loyalty and profitability go down.  Do we really need to revisit the topic? Apparently we do.  


     I recently came upon some research that was new to me...and that made me look at the topic of well-being again. It turns out that a growing number of workers in the U.S. are taking their lives on the job. Workplace suicides jumped 28% in 2008; suicides and attempted suicides were up 75% in 2009. There are a number of reasons, which include stress, loss of friends who are laid off and were a key part of the employee's social network, even simple changes like being reassigned within the same company and reporting to a new leader. All of these things contribute to the overarching concern that people simply lack well-being at work. As Charles Lattarulo, clinical director for employee assistance provider (EAP) Harris, Rothenberg International, said, "We've had people kill themselves at work and then leave a note saying 'I blame the workplace.'"


     One of the major contributors to the lack of well-being in the workplace - and a leading cause of workplace suicide - is bullying. In this emusings, we take a look at workplace bullying - how to spot it and some things to do about it. And we'll also highlight the single most important thing you can do to help ensure your own well-being at work.




 Jennie Ayers

Senior Partner, BoldWork  
In This Issue
Workplace Bullying Undermines Well-Being
Keep Your Bucket Full!
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"Workplace Bullying - It's Flourishing and It's Dangerous"                                                                          by Jennie Ayers                                          

(691 words - estimated reading time: around 3 minutes)



I was at my local big box pet food store a few days ago. When I started to check out, there was a newbie cashier at the register. The wiener dog lady ahead of me (I'm not being derogatory - she had the cutest miniature daschund in her cart) was making a return. The newbie was unsure what to do and called for help. A young assistant manager strode out of the office. (I'm not psychic. He had on a name tag that clearly said "Asst. Manager".) This guy proceeded to "train" the cashier on how to take a return. But his tone of voice was harsh and he kept sighing like he was completely exasperated which only unnerved the cashier further until Mr. Assistant Manager finally took over the transaction, literally moving the cashier aside. After he completed the transaction he turned to the cashier and said, "That's the way you do it," rolled his eyes at me and slithered back to his office. I'm confident no "training" took place and the cashier felt humiliated.


At the time, I thought the assistant manager was a total jerk. But the idea that he was also a bully hadn't registered. Then I came across the stats on workplace suicide and started doing a little digging, and it hit me that we seldom label certain workplace behavior as bullying, even though that's exactly what it is. Oh, there are books like, "How to Work for a Jerk" - but that's a much different perspective than the chronic needling away at self-worth that often accompanies true bully behavior.


More than 15 million people are bullied on the job every week - and bullying is near the top of the list when it comes to undermining our well-being at work. A report by the Employment Law Alliance found that nearly half of all Americans report that they've been bullied on the job at some time. Those stats may sound shocking, but bullying isn't illegal - and too often, bullies are smart, successful and productive on the job so management is slow to hold them accountable.


What is Bullying & How Can You Tell You're a Target?


cartoon bullying image You're being bullied at work if anyone repeatedly tries to intimate, degrade, humiliate or undermine you. Bullying can be overt; more often than not, it's subtle. Maybe your boss makes unreasonable demands of you, sets impossible deadlines and provides little support. There could be a steady stream of sarcastic remarks (which people try to pass off as humor... what's wrong with a little humor in the workplace?). Does your boss try to pit you against another employee in the spirit of "friendly competition"? Maybe it's not your boss who's the bully - maybe it's a peer; someone who tries to turn others against you or isolate you from other co-workers.

Getting bullied at work often involves an abuse or misuse of power, and organizations that cling to a "command and control" style of  leadership can provide the perfect climate for bullying. And bullying can become entrenched within an organization and accepted as routine workplace behavior in companies that don't have healthy WorkClimates.  


What to Do?


If you're the one being bullied, recognize that you are NOT the source of the problem. Bullying is about control and power; it's not about your performance. Create a paper trail - time sheets, previous performance reviews, emails - anything that will help you contradict the denial that's sure to come from the person who's bullying you. And then...speak up.


Ultimately, we're all accountable for speaking up. If you see someone at your workplace being bullied, say something. It can make a difference.


In 2008, Jodie, a 31-year-old clinic worker in Wisconsin, became the target of co-workers who unfairly blamed her for problems at work. After she was promoted, the bullying intensified - her boss joined in, filling her personnel file with baseless complaints about her performance and criticizing her in front of others. This went on for months. On February 2, 2008, the day before she was to receive a poor job review, Jodie took her own life.


No one spoke up for Jodie.


"Keep Your Bucket Full!" by Jennie Ayers 

(432 words - estimated reading time: less than 2 minutes)

Since we're focusing on well-being at work, logic dictates that we give you some pointers on how to up your wellness quotient on the job. I started making a list of six things we can all do to help us feel better (and therefore perform better) at work. Three things in, I realized I was bored writing it. Chances are, if I'm bored writing it, you're going to be bored reading it...so I stopped. (I think I hear sighs of relief.)


smiling bucketForget the list. Here's the ONE thing I know will help you increase your wellness at work...and in life. Keep your bucket full. The most powerful way we have to deal with stress and a lack of well-being - whether in the workplace or at home - is to make sure our psychological needs are being met. When they are, we're able to function effectively. We feel empowered and strong when our bucket is full. A full bucket serves as a reservoir we draw on when we get stressed - and having that reservoir to draw on does more to ensure our well-being at work than any other single thing.


When our bucket gets low, we know it. We don't communicate as well, we become forgetful, irritable, push our beliefs, over-control, make mistakes, manipulate...we've all been there. And when someone we work with - or a family member - has a less than full bucket, we know that, too.


Maybe you already know that. I didn't...until someone shared with me the whole bucket concept a few years ago. At the time, it was like turning a light on inside my head. I still feel as strongly about filling my bucket - and I try to at least a little "filling" every day.


So...what is it that fills our bucket? Well, we know from research that one of our most basic psychological needs is our need for positive recognition....and that this need has a powerful, lasting impact on our lives. Positive recognition can come from many sources - our co-workers, our leaders, our families, our friends - we can even be our own source of positive recognition. And when we offer positive recognition to others that, too, fills our bucket.


Recent research from Gallup shows that 65% of workers say they received no recognition at all on the job the previous year. No wonder people are so miserable in the workplace. Not only are they being asked to do much, much more with much, much less - no one's bothering to acknowledge their efforts. That's a perfect formula for undermining well-being.  


If you're not receiving positive recognition at work, speak up. Ask for feedback from people who matter to you. Don't hesitate to boost your self-confidence by giving yourself positive feedback. Focus on strengths. Celebrate good outcomes.  






boldworklogoAt BoldWork, we specialize in helping businesses and organizations optimize the performance of the people who work for them.

Typically, our clients come to us when they are seeking to change, to solve problems or to challenge a status quo that no longer works. Most importantly, they call us when they want to create a WorkClimate that increases motivation and strengthens employee engagement.

Please take a moment and visit our website at www.doboldwork.com to find out more about us and what we have to offer. Or contact us for additional information at info@doboldwork.com