Gary Namie’s wife was the target of a workplace bully, and as a result Gary and his wife, Ruth, are on a mission to do something about bullies at work. Just check out Workplace Bullying Institute.
As Gary points out, America has come a long way in dealing with bullies in almost every environ, except the workplace. It has only been a decade or so since spousal abuse became a zero-toleration social problem. Of course, child abuse came out of the closet a long, long time ago. Recently, the destructive effects of bullies at school have been recognized and steps are now under way to deal with intimidation on the playground.
But, the bully at work still lives and even thrives. As Gary points out, there are virtually no laws on the books to prevent workplace bullying. While there are federal and state laws which prohibit discrimination based on factors like race, sex, and religion, bullying is something totally separate from discrimination. The bully picks a target, goes to work and usually drives the target out of the workplace. People who become the target of a bully may have been doing a good job at a position for years, only to find themselves harassed by a bully whose agenda is strictly personal, arbitrary and destructive. Most people do eventually quit their jobs, many after losing their mental and emotional stability.
Bullies may be a new owner who takes over an established business. Or a relative of a small business owner who begins work with the security of being related to the boss. Businesses fail to deal with these bullies because the bully has job security as the owner or relative of the owner. But what boggles my mind is how supervisors in large corporations can bully workers and not get fired!
In addition to helping people deal with bullying, Gary and his wife are pushing a nationwide effort to get states to pass legislation dealing with the workplace bully. Since 2003, thirteen states have introduced legislation dealing with this issue. You can read the bill introduced in New York here. Although none have passed it yet, Gary is hopeful that there will be success soon.