Workplace Bullying: A Growing Epidemic

Workplace Bullying: A Growing Epidemic

Van Allen

Distributed by Shakespir

Copyright 2016 Van Allen

Workplace Bullying: A Growing Epidemic

Copyright 2016 Van Allen



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Cataloguing Information:

Allen, Van

Workplace Bullying: A Growing Epidemic/Van Allen

BUS037020 BUSINESS & ECONOMICS / Careers / Job Hunting

BUS030000 BUSINESS & ECONOMICS / Human Resources & Personnel Management

LAW013000 LAW / Civil Rights

LAW054000 LAW / Labor & Employment

PSY021000 PSYCHOLOGY / Industrial & Organizational Psychology

Table of Contents

Title Page

Publishing Rights


Workplace Bullying: A Growing Epidemic

Bullying: A Major Public Health Concern

Workplace Bullying: Take Action



Checklist for Model Companies


About the Author


If you always treat your employees like thoroughbreds, then you’ll never end up with a team of jackasses.

~Van Allen

This eBook is available 100% free to download from www.Shakespir.com, iTunes iBooks, and Barnes and Noble (www.BN.com). Just search for “Van Allen Workplace Bullying” and share with others. Also leave positive reviews at whatever eBook retailer you use. Thank you.

The author of this series, Van Allen, currently works as a high-level director for a very large company.


I based this training series on my experience as a corporate trainer, speaker, consultant, EEO officer, HR professional, and Civil Rights department chief. I’ve given more than 100 presentations covering a wide variety of topics such as sexual harassment, workplace violence, pay discrimination, employee engagement, culture change, LGBT rights. I’ve even taught classes on desert survival and urban combat tactics. I have a Bachelor’s in Psychology from Texas A&M University and a Master’s in I/O Psychology from the Chicago School of Professional Psychology. I’m a retired US Marine Captain and so I have a PhD in combat tactics.

I’m a business outsider who understands people and production. I wouldn’t call myself a business wizard; rather I would call myself a people wizard. I try to translate between people and corporate systems and try to understand where the people part of business intersects with the machines of business to find the right balance between successful production and employee satisfaction. Yes, we can have both!

I wrote this series to serve as a trainer for employees or anyone who feels threatened at work and for business leaders, managers, lawyers, labor professionals, and other business professionals. Company trainers and leaders are encouraged to use the information here to create training slides, videos, lesson plans, and company policies.

There’s enough information here to help people who feel like victims at work. There’s also enough information here to help company leaders begin to create the kind of workplace we don’t hear enough about: harmonious, synergistic, synchronistic well-run places to work, places where bullying isn’t tolerated, employees feel valued, and production results exceed goals. Guess what, these sorts of workplaces are not myths. They are real possibilities.

Disclaimer: I’m not a professional writer, a purveyor of the rhetorical. I’m just sharing what I know and trying to help. I try to write in my own style…a little gritty, but mostly business casual, rarely bloviated. I know all the writing rules and I try not to worry about them. I don’t have a team of proofreaders and editors. Just me. Read this expecting to get some valid useful ideas and to be entertained a bit.

I didn’t write this to impress literary agents or publishers or to get into business school. This isn’t a college dissertation. It’s a business article by an independent author, hoping to seed intelligent discussion. So pardon any colloquialisms and especially pardon my temerity since I know I know what I’m talking about.


Please be sure to see Checklist for Model Companies at the end of this book.


The CFO asked the CEO, “What happens if we invest in developing our employees and the leave us?”

The CEO said, “What happens if we don’t and they stay?”


“Make sure you have the lowest expectations possible if you’re not putting in all the time to train and practice and if you’re not doing all the work it takes to be prepared and you’re not using all the tools available to improve things.” ~Van Allen


“Running a business is hard, but it’s harder if you’re stupid and even harder still if you surround yourself with stupid people to work with.” ~Van Allen

Thank you for joining the revolution!

{Return to Table of Contents}

Workplace Bullying: A Growing Epidemic


One day, Jonathan Martin decided he had enough bullying at work and he did the unthinkable; he quit his job and filed a lawsuit. Internal and external investigative reports carefully peeled back all the onions and highlighted the abuse he experienced at work from his team and his supervisors. Jonathon, a six foot, five inch tall, 315 pound grown man quit a job because of bullying. Even more shocking, he walked out of a job playing professional football in the NFL for the Miami Dolphins, because of workplace bullying.

People on the outside asked: How could anyone bully an NFL player like him? He’s so big and strong!

Jonathan Martin became a promising standout at Stanford in 2012 by all regards. He had played football for a significant part of his formative years. Heavily recruited out of Stanford, he could have played for any number of NFL teams. However, and soon to his obvious dismay, the Miami Dolphins drafted him.

Much to his chagrin, the Dolphins, their football field, locker room, busses, and private jets, Jonathon’s workplace, the places where Jonathon thought he would have a chance to do what he loved, quickly became places that he loathed going to. He soon dreaded going to work and once at work, he couldn’t wait to leave. He reported the problem and that only seemed to make things worse. Ultimately, Jonathan realized that no amount of money and fame, no job would ever be worth the cost of his human dignity.

People wanted to know: How can he say he’s bullied by people on his NFL team? Aren’t they all paid to be bullies?

As described in a fascinating New York Times article, “A Classic Case of Bullying,” Jonathan became the frequent target of workplace abuse by a handful of people on the team. The abusers included the primary abuser, Richie Incognito, known as the ringleader, three or more football players, trainers, and coaches. In an organization of 100s of people, just a handful of people embarrassed the entire organization and possibly the entire NFL too. And this is just what we know about the team. How much more happened before Jonathan joined the team? How much more has gone unreported?

At work, Jonathan and others faced a deep and ugly culture of workplace bullying by multiple threatening agents of the organization using multiple forms of bullying from physical threats to psychological violence to cyber-bullying to racial and gender identity harassment.

People would say things: Why would a man like that quit? He should have just punched those guys in the face if he didn’t like what they said and did to him. He should have just manned up!

Then came the brazen excuses. Then we heard from the enablers of this destructive and counterproductive workplace bullying culture. Then we saw into the obvious contradictions in their rationalizations.


p<>{color:#000;}. Our players were just passionate and misunderstood.

p<>{color:#000;}. If Jonathan wasn’t tough enough to endure this, then maybe he wasn’t tough enough for the NFL.

p<>{color:#000;}. We have never tolerated abuse and bullying.

p<>{color:#000;}. I’m not sure if what they were doing could be called abusive…it was just a little harmless hazing and rough-housing.

p<>{color:#000;}. They were just having fun and Jonathan took it the wrong way.

p<>{color:#000;}. The same thing happened to plenty of other players and none of them complained or quit or filed a lawsuit.

p<>{color:#000;}. For as much as we pay these players they really shouldn’t have anything to complain about.

p<>{color:#000;}. Every sports team does stuff like this and people have made us out to be the bad guys.

p<>{color:#000;}. It’s just boys being boys; they work hard and they play hard.

p<>{color:#000;}. Nobody got hurt…physically.

p<>{color:#000;}. This was all just a part of team-building and getting the team to bond and become closer.

p<>{color:#000;}. This kind of stuff happened to me all the time when I was a player 20 years ago and I survived it and I was successful.

p<>{color:#000;}. Young people of this generation are soft.

p<>{color:#000;}. We need these sorts of things in the game to blow off steam and take the pressure off.

p<>{color:#000;}. It’s the NFL and that means it’s the no sissy league. Nobody forced him to join the NFL.

p<>{color:#000;}. Our players are all very young and sometimes they do stupid things.

p<>{color:#000;}. Young people today don’t appreciate the value of hard work.

p<>{color:#000;}. Is this really what you want to talk about? Don’t we have more important things to focus on?

p<>{color:#000;}. One man’s bullying and abuse is just another man’s tough-love and encouragement to do well.

p<>{color:#000;}. This is all Jonathan’s fault.

p<>{color:#000;}. We’re really sorry, if we offended anyone.

p<>{color:#000;}. Can we all just get back to playing football?

p<>{color:#000;}. This is just another symptom of the sissification of America!

p<>{color:#000;}. Nobody ever became great because people took it easy on them.

p<>{color:#000;}. These kids have it easy today; when I first started working, I had to walk to work barefoot through the snow uphill both ways to get to work and back home all for $2 and hour and I never complained.


Bullying has been front and center in the news and on social media for a long time now. Unfortunately bullying still exists out there. We still need to do more and pay added attention to this solvable problem. When you are bullied at work, it can feel like you are dealing with your own personal and private war on terror. It’s intense. Is that a term you want associated with your workplace, terrifying?

How do you think Jonathan felt on his daily drive to work? Imagine with each passing mile as he got closer to his job, his depression deepened. Imagine he would pull into the parking lot and pause in his car gathering himself for another day of crap and chicken shit. Imagine how many times he felt like calling in sick. Imagine if he ever felt the need to become violent at work and to exact some sort of payback on his tormentors, his supervisor, the bullies and the ringleader. Is his experience unique? Can it be easily dismissed?


My son, a high school student, a junior, and a middle linebacker on his varsity football team, sat in the cafeteria one day and another kid came by and told him to get up and leave. The kid had harassed my son for a while related to some girl they were both in competition for. I gave my son a few pointers on how to deal with the kid if the harassment didn’t stop. My son told the kid to bug-off. The kid called my son the n-word and punched him in the face.

My son, the middle linebacker, a pretty big kid, much bigger than the bully, and who took years of martial arts, actually followed my instructions and stood up and went to the principal’s office to report the incident. Unfortunately, I have had to have the “what-to-do-if” conversation with my son on multiple occasions. My family rule goes something like this: No fighting at school. We’ll let our lawyers handle anything worth fighting over. Oddly enough my son called me from the principal’s office and said to me the principal advised him to “Grow up and handle your own problems.”

I said to my son, “Give your principal your cell phone right now.” With the principal on the phone, I calmly clarified my expectations of the school and the district and I stated defending yourself from racist bullies was not part of my son’s curriculum. I then said if the principal refused to do his job and took no action in this matter, then the next phone call to the school would be from my attorney.

I had a dreadful feeling of one day having to go down to the police station to pick up my kid and bail him out after he choked the shit out some kid in the school cafeteria. That never happened, thankfully.

The lead principal called me later that same evening to apologize for their poor initial handling of the issue. My complaint wasn’t the only complaint against this particular bully (make sure you know this is a typical pattern with bullies—they usually prey on multiple victims). The school suspended the bully for two weeks and required him to attend behavior modification classes at a correctional campus before he could return to the general school population. His parents were required to participate in his rehab also. The bully never bothered my son for the rest of their time at the school. I’m left to wonder how many times in that one school did the kids, the teachers, the staff, the district get it right versus how often they got it wrong and when they get it wrong, how often the kids suffered more because of that.


Playground bullies cause:

p<>{color:#000;}. Increased dropout rates

p<>{color:#000;}. Poor educational attainment

p<>{color:#000;}. School fights

p<>{color:#000;}. Student gangs

p<>{color:#000;}. Student depression

p<>{color:#000;}. Student suicides

p<>{color:#000;}. And more…


Many of these problems are likewise magnified with workplace bullying. Bullying may seem normal, but it’s not. Don’t let its frequency make you think that’s just how it’s supposed to be or that everyone does it, so it can’t be wrong. It’s not normal.


Because of workplace bullies:

p<>{color:#000;}. You won’t get your best ideas from your brightest people.

p<>{color:#000;}. Valuable people assets leave to go work on better teams for better companies that ensure fairness equally.

p<>{color:#000;}. You end up with a homogeneous team full of people who are either the bullies or the bullied.

p<>{color:#000;}. You receive a lackluster performance evaluation, an ignominious blemish on your resume.

p<>{color:#000;}. The whole team ultimately has to work harder to make up for stupid enervating bullying tactics and problems.

p<>{color:#000;}. Team problems go unresolved and actually increase.

p<>{color:#000;}. You spend more of your time dealing with problems that have an adverse effect on the actual work that has to be done.

p<>{color:#000;}. The product you end up with only satisfies the bully, not your customers.

p<>{color:#000;}. You end up with a work environment where employees (and possibly you) hate to come to work and just can’t wait to leave.

p<>{color:#000;}. Employees and team members have increased numbers of absences.

p<>{color:#000;}. You could very well end up with incidents of workplace violence.

p<>{color:#000;}. You will have more employee complaints, increased corporate liability, potential charges of a hostile work environment, civil rights complaints, and other employee legal actions.

p<>{color:#000;}. You end up with a workplace where only the bullies are happy to work there.

p<>{color:#000;}. You end up losing your job because you didn’t do anything about what you saw.

p<>{color:#000;}. You get physically attacked by an employee or coworker.

p<>{color:#000;}. You lose your job because of something stupid you are doing at work.

p<>{color:#000;}. You could go to jail.


Just like high school bullies, workplace bullies bring their own brand of unacceptable and unneeded friction, dirt, shit and grit to the workplace. Corporate tolerance of workplace bullying can often mean there’s tolerances for a lot of other employee abuses: sexual harassment, physical assaults, discrimination, cheating, sabotage, retaliation, and other appalling shenanigans and possibly criminal behavior. Compare this to a harmonious, synergistic, synchronistic well-run workplace.

Workplace Bullying is a strong sign of a really bad workplace and a really bad business in need of major interventions and corrective actions, possibly in need of a complete corporate culture rewrite. Hardly anyone disputes this, but unfortunately, workplace bullying is still spreading and becoming its own silent epidemic, more common than not, robbing American businesses of billions of dollars in lost productivity, according to the Center for Disease Control.

One risk of highlighting such an extreme case like the Miami Dolphins/Jonathon Martin bullying case is that some will think this is what workplace bullying looks like and unless it looks like this, then it might not be true workplace bullying. Hopefully, this discussion opens your mind about the wide range of things that can easily fit the definition of workplace bullying.

As we continue this discussion in the next two chapters, I hope we will all come to a better understanding of this issue while at the same time absorbing some lessons learned and skills needed to deal with workplace bullying no matter where you work, no matter what your role is in the organization, and no matter what the bullying looks like.



{Return to Table of Contents}

Bullying: A Major Public Health Concern


The Center for Disease Control (www.CDC.gov) promotes October as National Bullying Awareness Month and says bullying is a major public health concern. Bullying often involves physical or non-physical actions including psychological aggression and verbal or mental abuse. Workplace bullying, also termed workplace aggression can often include acts of retaliation, cruelty, harassment, tyranny, abusive supervision, and serious forms of incivility.

Workplace bullies can verbally harass employees, text them, stalk them at work, overwhelm their email inboxes, leave notes on their cars, desks, and on their social media pages (electronic or cyberbullying), spread rumors about people causing social and professional rejection and isolation, corner people in the restroom, the elevator, or the break room, throw out their lunch or otherwise contaminate it to spite them, exclude employees from work or social events, show up uninvited to places they go outside the workplace, and even slash their tires or attempt worse acts of physical violence, abuse, and aggression. None of these behaviors are conducive to high productivity in a harmonious productive workplace. Some of these behaviors are quite possibly criminal. All of these behaviors have the potential to be horrible insults to human dignity, leaving some people scarred and injured on the outside and on the inside. Yes, this crap is a major public health hazard! It’s toxic! Almost no one with a modicum of business intelligence disputes that.

Workplace violence, aggression, abuse, and bullying often have multiple connecting root causes. Sometimes it’s about sexual orientation or race or gender or national origin. Sometimes more simply it’s about competition for limited benefits or retaliation for some perceived slight such as receiving a promotion. Often it’s something even less obvious such as a hairstyle or jealousy over the kind of car a person drives and the lifestyle they live or possibly the school or college they went to. Bullying behavior is learned growing up, from families, sports teams, college clubs, the military, and yes, even at church.

Imagine this bullying encounter: “I know the supervisor really likes you, but I’m going to keep a tight watch on everything you do, because I hate kiss-ups and teacher’s pets. So you just watch your back. I’ll be riding you like Zorro.”

One supervisor I worked with actually thought a certain amount of employee suspicion, tension, and bickering was a good thing because “it keeps everyone on their toes and makes the employees focus their angers toward each other and not on management.”

As victims, witnesses, and bystanders to bullying, employees can often feel guilty with no outlet or reliable avenue for safely dealing with the problem without making things much worse. Affected people can even show symptoms of post-traumatic stress syndrome. How about that for corporate liability? Workers comp claims or retaliation lawsuits hit the corporate bottom line in more ways than one. More so, a dramatic outburst at work especially if it’s violent can leave everyone traumatized. Where the most significant effect of workplace bullying tends to be realized against the corporate bottom line is when your talented employees show high turn-over and end up leaving to go work for your closest competitors.


Workplace Shenanigans

A nurse complains that coworkers have spread rumors about her sleeping with other employees.

Joan has a gold tooth and people at work publicly describe her as “ghetto.”

Someone leaves a dead cockroach on David’s desk with a sticky on it that says, “You’re next.”

Sam finds his cellphone in the breakroom refrigerator frozen in a block of ice.

Mary says, “Have you ever noticed, Mr. Ortiz only hires the prettiest women to work on his floor?”

Chandra’s boss tells her to just shut up and smile in staff meetings.

Darrell always saves the most remote onsite audits for the employees he doesn’t like.

Morgan changes Bill’s report and adds errors to make Bill look bad.

Chip tells Randy the only reason Randy was hired was for affirmative action.

Jeff says, “I don’t want to travel with Gina. Seeing her ugly face at work is more than enough for me.”

Jolene is sleeping with her boss. She wants to end it, but she’s worried about losing her job.

Bailey goes to the breakroom and throws everyone’s food into the trashcan because she doesn’t like how messy the fridge is.

Every time Janice runs just a little late, people say she’s on CP time.

Steve asks job applicants who they voted for in the last election and only hires Republicans.

When Ray talks to Frank, he always yells at him. He doesn’t raise his voice to other employees.

Carroll had a cosmetically enhancing medical procedure and it’s very noticeable. Pete keeps making inappropriate comments when he sees her.

Hector has a hard to pronounce last name that the CFO always makes a joke about.

Phyllis has five employees. She refuses to help one of them with work assignments because she doesn’t like him. She’s overly critical of his work and she never gives him any credit for work he does.

Jerry has been out sick a lot. When he’s in the office, the other employees give him shit because they have to do his work when he’s out.

Fred is having a few drinks at the bar after the meeting. He invites his entire team to join him, except Peggy. Peggy is the only woman on the team.

Tim knows the meeting is at 10:00am, but he tells Joe it’s at 10:30am.

In her help ticket, Rita says she doesn’t want Indian IT people working on her computer.

Mohammed provided a statement in a company investigation and several managers were thereby let go. His supervisor has started treating him with disrespect in the office.

Juan finally gives Kevin an assignment on Friday with a Monday deadline. Mike has been holding on to the project for a week.

Cherie can retire any day and her supervisors conspire to overload her with work to force her to retire.

Devonte refuses to give production bonuses to employees he doesn’t like.

Sheila explains to Emily the bathroom for her is on the other side of the building and the one closest to her cubicle is for managers only.

Ollie tells Jeanie, one of his only female accountants, that he expects her to keep the breakroom clean on a daily basis.

Jim tells Carl to buy his own supplies even though the company provides supplies to the employees.

Mitch tells Karen she could make more sales if she dresses prettier and dolls herself up better.

Henry pauses the elevator with Gail on it so he can yell at her there where no one can hear him.

Sanghita corners Ramiria and harasses her for dressing too cute at work.

Brian sends out an email with a joke that insults certain people.

Carrie and her close friends often go to lunch and make fun of coworkers.

Rigby likes to hover over Diana’s desk depending on what she’s wearing.

Alice criticizes Shelly relentlessly when no one else is around, belittles her, and threatens to fire her.

Rajesh burns scented candles in the office because he knows it annoys Sheldon.

Whenever Karen is late with an assignment, Will makes a note in her performance file. When others are late, he makes no performance note and he usually gives them more time without question. He usually forces Karen to work late to complete her assignments.

Gary feels like he should have gotten the promotion and now he undermines everything his new supervisor tries to do.

Susan has a nasty habit of yelling at the janitors and treating them like their stupid.

Yuri tells women at work that he’s the lady’s man. He says he can help then get better hours and better shifts.

Gordon can’t seem to go one day without someone saying something about how short he is. He’s heard some ugly and mean spirited things that just aren’t funny anymore.

Rachel and Sharon are teammates. Rachel often tells their supervisor that she doesn’t like Sharon’s work and Sharon is a slacker.

Several employees make fun of Tirak’s heavy Malaysian accent.


When you look at the laundry list above, you may be tempted to say some of the actions don’t seem all that unusual or harmful. Are we talking about examples of workplace bullying or are we talking about examples of people being people? When does being mean and uncivil turn into workplace bullying? The better question is when will any number of these things have an adverse effect on business productivity? Because if it’s not helping business productivity, then it’s probably hurting it. Another great question is at what point will any number of these things start a cascading effect and turn unfortunately ugly for any one employee?

Regrettably, all workplaces have their incidences of incivility. No workplace is immune from employee attitude and personality confrontations. As a consultant, I would ask why you would wait for someone to label any behavior workplace bullying before doing something about it. If you see employees yelling at each other, you need to intervene. If you hear about an incident, you need to set the tone for your team, your section, your department, your company. Let each employee know you do not have any tolerance for those sorts of problems. Establish the culture and then drive the culture you know you need.

Experts describe bullying commonly as any sort of mean, obnoxious, threatening, unfair, abusive, or intimidating behavior that tends to be persistent and is not just short term. However, a currently accepted popular definition is less important than the reality of what employees actually experience at work. Workplace bullying may be too big for words to define or capture.

Nonetheless, any good manager with proper training and a touch of common sense ought to know bullying when she or he sees it and so should you.

When any version of this juvenile behavior is persistent and tolerated in the workplace, expect workers to show drops in productivity with higher turnover, take more sick days, and submit more health care claims. These adverse worker problems alone can often be the biggest drag on an organization’s budget and success, showing an inverse relationship to corporate profits and sustainability, not to mention corporate climate surveys. Shareholders, owners, and investors will often want to know specifics about these sorts of problems in the company because of their direct connection to the bottom line. How can someone say they are a great manager when a significant number of their employees are unhappy, feel threatened at work, and resent working for them?

To further the discussion, we need a deeper and better understanding of bullying in the workplace while at the same time absorbing lessons learned and skills needed to deal with it appropriately no matter where people work and no matter what the inappropriate behavior looks like.


Here are the key findings of www.workplacebullying.org’s 2014 Workplace Bullying Survey:

p<>{color:#000;}. 27% of employees have current or past direct experience with abusive conduct at work.

p<>{color:#000;}. 72% of the American public are aware of workplace bullying.

p<>{color:#000;}. Bosses are still the majority of the bullies.

p<>{color:#000;}. 72% of employers deny, discount, encourage, rationalize, or defend it.

p<>{color:#000;}. 93% of respondents support enactment of a Healthy Workplace Bill.


Just like playground bullies, workplace bullies can cause a substantial amount of stress to the people they target and to witnesses and bystanders too. Dealing with bullies at work is a dangerous health hazard. Work is where people have to spend an inordinate amount time each day, week, month, year.


When working where workplace bullies thrive…

Do you immediately feel grateful for caller ID?

Do you let their calls go to voicemail?

Do you close the door to your office more?

Do you take more breaks?

Do you feel like you want to drink an adult beverage before dealing with him or her or them?

Do you search job ads, looking for a way out?

Do you lose sleep at night?

Do you wish the bully would find a new job?

Do you wish something bad would happen to the bully.

Do you ask other managers if they would like to swap employees?

Do you ask other managers if you can join their team?

Do you take more leave than normal?

Do you hesitate to schedule team meetings?

Do you cringe at the thought of partnering with them on a project?

Do you feel happier when that person calls in sick?

Do you wish you could telework 100%?

Do you experience any increased amounts of illnesses?

Do you imbibe more than otherwise?

Do you just wish someone would stand up to the bullies and make it right?

Do you wish you could surround your individual workspace with sandbags, barbed-wire, and booby-traps?


Too often employees and supervisors cave-in to workplace bullies because it’s just easier in the short-term, in the moment. People acquiesce from blatant intimidation, abuse, and coercion, possibly because of apathy dealing with tough situations. Workplace bullies are super aggressive about what they want. In a team situation, bullies try to make others work harder and feel like crap if team options or ideas are not in line with what the bully wants. Plus, sometimes supervisors and other employees suffer from deficiencies in backbone fortitude and deficiencies in courage. Bullies thrive in these sorts of environments. If it were easy to deal with bullies, then there would be no need to talk or write about this. But what about deficiencies in corporate backbone fortitude and corporate courage?

Lost productivity? Randomly losing good employees? Drops in profits? Increased stress and drama at work? Increased liability from employee relations claims? Increased time spent dealing with problems with less time spent on production? Where on any corporate mission statement would all of this be described?


Here are a few lines from an email I reviewed: “Not only is he here ONLY thanks to Affirmative Action, but in three months he’s already filed a complaint. He should instead thank us for hiring him. The nerve of some people! I’ll take care of him.”


Does anyone honestly expect something like this helps improve productivity? If it’s not helping, it’s hurting. Blaming the complainer is a classic sign of a counterproductive workplace. Are employees at all more likely to be more productive when they go to work in a place where abject fear keeps the employees in line? Is Darth Vader the quintessential “get it done” manager? Is Genghis Khan the leader all should aspire to be? Is Adolph Hitler some sort of business genius? Is this what they teach in today’s business schools? NO. NO. NO. NO. NO. NO.

News headlines focusing on complaints of workplace abuse and bullying are easy to find. Employees from the federal government, police forces, airlines, department store chains, restaurants, clothing stores, and every industry have reported workplace abuse and bullying. Why do companies develop dysfunctional cultures like this?

One reason is people see this behavior on TV and in the movies. They see politicians bullying their opponents in the news and in the debates and they cheer and marvel at the politician’s “tell-it-like-it-is” attitude. They see Abby Lee Miller on Dance Moms and they applaud her track record, her winning results. They remember Bobby Knight and they say his results are all that counts. They see football fans fighting in the isles.

There’s this underlying American culture that celebrates cantankerous rebellious historical figures. Many people have a fantasy ideology about big dogs with big barks and big bites, about making or breaking people, about being a hard-nosed iron-fisted coach who knows what it takes to win, and about tyrannical bosses who don’t care about the people working for them. There is a very confusing part of our culture that says you should never let kindness come between you and victory. Nice guys finish last. We see bullies win and we think we want some of that success. But some of this is Hollywood playing out some uncommon and unrealistic paradigm that works very well in the TV world, in fiction, but absolutely fails to deliver in the business world, especially today.


My daughter is a budding tennis player. One in a while she plays a tournament match against a rude and unruly player. Part of my coaching to her helps prepare her for these players. Once we had a match where not only was the player being a jerk and a bully, but the girl’s parents and family were doing it too. Their daughter played my daughter in the tournament finals and my daughter admitted that the booing and yelling by the girl’s parents were distracting her.

I spoke to my daughter about bullies and about how it’s a real shame they think it’s okay to try and intimidate a 14 year old girl. I told her to grind it out and beat the girl so we could send these noisy loud obnoxious people home as losers.

My daughter won and then I let the people and the tournament director know that they had crossed the line with their taunts during the match. The local tennis association agreed to make new rules about sportsmanship and behavior. Still you have to wonder how many times intimidation and psychological aggression worked for those people. How often does it work? We see how it plays out in sports, but what about in business?


There’s no real science that ever showed that chipping away at people’s human dignity is what will motivate them to produce their best work. That didn’t work for slavery, the Nazis, doesn’t work for sweatshops, and doesn’t work for prison chain gangs. It simply is not true, especially today in the typical workplace where employees bring a significant value of talent and human resources and have multiple options to go work somewhere else.

If people are a company’s number one asset, then the managers and executives should act like it more often and the workplace should say this in everything the company does from the ground up. The corporate culture that respects human capital will pay infinitely more dividends than the ones crushing spirits and acting like the workplace is a scene out of Glengarry Glen Ross, The Godfather, The Sopranos, The Empire Strikes Back, or the Jim Rome Radio Show (all of which, I absolutely love). If you always treat your employees like thoroughbreds, then you’ll never end up with a team of jackasses.

With bullying and also workplace bullying acknowledged as a major public health concern much like obesity, smoking, heart attacks, and violence against children, how long before someone can claim their workplace as a hazardous work environment to their insurance company? How long before working at a poorly funded and understaffed hospital is seen as a high or uncommon workplace risk? How long before the profession of high stakes sales becomes something that an insurance company refuses to underwrite? How long before candidates for CEO can be analyzed to calculate corporate risk, because some CEOs get it right, but a lot of CEOs get it wrong? We need to make bullying fixes now and the sooner, the better.

Furthermore, instead of asking job applicants who they voted for, serious business leaders should ask applicants at all levels to describe what they would do if faced with a workplace that fostered bullying and then check to see if that’s what they did at their last workplace. Keep in mind the best way to keep workplace bullying out of your company is to not hire any bullies.



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Workplace Bullying: Take Action


Kerwin, a tall thin Caucasian man about 36 years old and a graduate of a local business college, showed up for work on time every day. He did exactly what was asked of him to the best of his ability. Several line managers described Kerwin as “a dependable steady player. Not a real homerun hitter, but a reliable team player.” Those same line managers described Kerwin’s line manager, Mario as “an asshole. He’s got some issues. He needs to mature some and he’s still got a lot to learn.”

One day Kerwin missed his sales goal. After deriding, mocking, and ridiculing Kerwin for more than 30 minutes in front of the team, “to set an example,” Mario wrote the word “Loser” on Kerwin’s forehead with a sharpie.

I asked Kerwin, “Why’d you let him write on your face?”

Kerwin said, “Mario had written on someone else’s face before and I just never thought it would happen to me. I was just shocked by it all. I didn’t know what to do. I was so mad. I was in shock. I couldn’t act.”

But Kerwin did act. After staring into a mirror in the restroom for a few minutes, he took off his red silk tie and flushed it down the toilet. He then walked out to the parking lot and retrieved a nickel-plated 38 Special from under the seat of his blue VW Jetta. He crossed the hot parking lot and stopped in front of Mario’s red BMW sports car for more than five minutes. Now sweating and shaking, seething with anger, Kerwin crossed the parking lot again, went back inside his building, entered his sales floor, and knocked on Mario’s office door.


You are the unfortunate target of a workplace bully or maybe someone you know is the target. What should you do? We know that bullies do not make good managers. We know that good managers do not have to bully their employees. Some managers feel like employees only do their jobs when they’re bullied.

A manager told me, “We’re not hiring qualified people. I have to lead them in the way they understand and sometimes that means I have to do or say things that a bully would do and say. We would never accomplish anything if I didn’t bully the staff. I would rather win as a bully than lose as a nice guy.”

Is this manager correct? Can this sort of bullying be justified? How would you know? What comes first, the bully or the bullied? If what the manager said is true, can you see that the problem may be in who the company hires? What should we expect if the company will not change its hiring?

Think about this. Is there ever a time when bullying is the right thing to do? Once at a youth football game we noticed a man, a stranger with his camera taking pictures of the little girl cheerleaders. The moms came to us and asked us to go shoo the man away. We did, using bullying tactics. Where we justified?

Remember what I said about our bullying culture? Remember how often bullies get exactly what they want? The tough aspect of the discussion is that I can’t refute the idea that bullying works. What situations can you think of where bullying IS the best answer to the problem? Is there ever a time where out-bullying the bully is the way to go? Might there be a time when you need something and the only way to get it is to act and sound like a bully?

Remember my conversation with the high school principal. With the principal on the phone, I calmly clarified my expectations of the school and the district and I stated that defending yourself from racist bullies was not part of my son’s curriculum. I then said if the principal refused to do his job and took no action in this matter, then the next phone call to the school would be from my attorney.

Did I put pressure on the principal? Did I do anything that could be considered bullying? Did I add some psychological aggression to the matter? The difference is all in the timing, the reaction to the matter at hand, and the duration of the exchange. Typically bullying has to be unwarranted, unsolicited, and long in duration.

My youngest son didn’t brush his teeth like I asked him to. I told him I would turn off the TV, confiscate his game device, and then brush his teeth myself if needed. He said, “Dad, you’re acting like a bully.”

Are there times when bullying is the right thing to do? Parenting at times seems consistent with and connected to bullying. I agree; however, this is not supposed to be the norm of parenting and certainly it’s not supposed to be the norm for workplace relationships. But what about military drill instructors or police academy instructors? I agree that in some situations bullying often is more normal. But where exactly do you work?

What about coaches, fitness trainers, and even neighborhood associations? Is there some merit to the argument that these bullies can get people to do things they may not want to do? Maybe yes. However, the run of the mill workplace should not be confused with a football field or a battleship under attack. When a fitness coach or an accountability buddy uses heavy pressure tactics and aggressive comments to make someone run further and faster, keep in mind that the people involved have volunteered to be treated that way with an agreement to help them accomplish a goal. How many of us would willingly give the people we work with the permission to do and say whatever they feel to motivate us at work? How many writers would volunteer to let me yell at you if you didn’t write 1,000 words per day? Can I get paid to do that? Would you pay someone to do that? The best question is what kind of work would you produce?

How many of us are bullied at home? Studies show that bullies first learn bad behavior at home. How many are bullied in the bedroom? How many are bullied in their love relationships or by their families? How often do we hear about child TV and sports stars bullied by their agents and parents? How many people are bullied at a car dealership or at a car repair shop? How often are waitresses and flight attendants bullied? What about doctors and nurses? Read my memoir, The Old Man in the Hospital for a look at what nurses can go through. At times, my doctor has said things to me that sound like things a bully would say.

Even as a work coach, I find myself adjusting and rethinking things when dealing with difficult people at work. Admittedly, I have a personal code that says I will be super nice always, except when that doesn’t work. I have been known to turn up the heat when I can’t get what I want otherwise. It’s a very rare thing when I have to turn up the heat at work. I never do it in a way that insults someone’s human dignity.

Even police agencies have seen the need to address bullying and to develop policies protecting officers’ human dignity…not to mention the human dignity of the people they are sworn to protect. If there were a test for bullying potential, would you want to hire the applicants with the highest bully scores to be police officers? No, you wouldn’t. You want officers who are balanced, level-headed, and intelligent enough to know when to apply appropriate force in all situations. Not just any bully will do.

A large volume of psychological studies show how effective peer pressure works to influence people’s behavior. The science shows that bullying works, but there is something that works better. Treating people with respect, encouraging words, clarifying expectations, appropriate supervision, and especially talented leadership are much more effective than peer pressure, bullying, psychological aggression and harsh treatment.

I sat in on several labor relations meetings and watched as the loud, obnoxious, insulting people always made things very hard for the more civil people in the room. The jerks, the bullies always had the advantage and always seemed to get what they wanted. Some of these people were not bullies, but under the right circumstances they defaulted to a style that worked better than other tactics. Can you blame them?


After a few training sessions where we focused on new negotiation skills, we turned the tables a bit. Here is the example we trained to that works very well when dealing with bullies in negotiations. I call it the sky and the moon technique. You might call it the meet me in the not so middle technique.


When you know THEY are going to fight everything you propose, then your best strategy is to propose the sky and the moon. Give them something to really go crazy about. Then you can seem to meet them in the middle of the road by caving in on a few of their demands. If you really want 50, then ask for 110 and then make THEM feel really good about the fact that they only gave you 65.

Let’s play out this negotiation tactic with mastery, simplified…


For starters, what you’re after is at least 50. So start with asking for the sky and the moon


“I want 110.”

“You’re a tyrant. You have no soul. You’re a monster communist. No way are we going to give you more than half of what you want, you evil dictator!”

“Okay, I feel your concerns. You have valid points. I want you to meet me at 75 and we can both save face.”

“You’re a jerk. We are not your peons. You’ll take 65 or else we will keep calling you names.”

“Okay, I’m at your mercy. I’ll take 65. Compromise is the sign of a strong team.”

“See! We made the tyrant cave in.”

Barry Goldwater once said, “Moderation in the pursuit of justice is no virtue.” So, use the sky and the moon technique when working with bullies and you’ll have them caving in to your ideas every time. …if you have to work with bullies. The good news is that most people are really poor negotiators especially in the face of bullies. The bad news is that you are like most people too.


One more practice?


Okay, for starters, what you’re after is at least 4 new people added to your team. So, start with asking for the sky and the moon.


“If you want me to finish this work before the summer, then I need 10 new people. There’s just no other way.”

“You’re out of your mind. You’ve lost it. You’re clearly misusing your resources and maybe what I need is a new manager. No way could I give you more than half of what you want!”

“Okay, I feel your concerns. You have valid points. I want you to try to work with me. If we get 7, I think I can make it work, but you’ll need to be very forgiving about the deadlines. I’m willing to accept less than what we need. You just can’t expect to have it both ways. What’s it going to feel like if we fail?”

“I don’t like your attitude. You’re clearly off your rocker. You need to remember who’s in charge here. You’ll take 6 people or else.”

“Okay, I’m at your mercy. I’ll take 6. Compromise is the sign of strong leadership.”

“I’ll be making a note in your performance evaluation about your need to improve your communication style. I don’t like it when my employees talk to me like that.”

“You’re the boss. I’ll work on communicating respect better.”

Obviously, the sky and the moon technique works in a lot of situations, with bullies, with car salespeople, with negotiating salaries, or negotiating contracts. If you want the upper hand, try it.


One more time?


Okay, your boss says, “This report better be on my desk in two weeks or else there will be hell to pay.

You say, “Boss, there’s no way I can get this to you in two weeks. It’s the kind of report that needs this and this and this and that, and all that will take at least four weeks.”

She says, “You’re the most incompetent… You better have it to me in three weeks.”

You get the report done in fifteen days and she changes her mind and says you’re a superstar.

Did you see that? In one case, you would be the goat. In the other case you are a superstar, all because you managed the expectations and used the sky and the moon technique. If you had completed the project just one day late, you would have let the team down, but because you changed the expectations (managed them) you brought the report in almost two weeks ahead of schedule.


Sometimes bullies are like sharks in the water, lurking around, looking innocent, until they strike. You have to know what to look for to spot them. Look for high turnover, low employee satisfaction, and complaints. Look for a team that’s dysfunctional. Look for high talent, high production employees leaving to go work somewhere else, even for less pay. A majority of people say they would gladly trade salary for better treatment, more equality, fairness, and employee protections.

Unhappy employees and dysfunctional teams could be the result of something else, or they could be the result of unhappy employees who would rather be somewhere else because of an environment that accepts or tolerates bullying. What kind of production do you think will come from these unhappy employees? What will come from them is something much less than their best and much less than acceptable, is my prediction, even if you bully them, are you so sure you are getting their best effort?


There is no justification for heaping abuse on low performers. If they can’t do the job, let them go before you lose your job for something stupid. We all want to work in a workplace that’s fair, where we are treated well, and where human dignity is respected at all levels of the company. It’s fair to be fired when you can’t do the job. It’s not fair to be treated like shit and ridiculed and humiliated and disrespected because you can’t do a job or because someone doesn’t like you.

Employee 1 says to employee 2, “You’re the reason we didn’t get a production bonus. You’re slowing us all down. You’re incompetent. Nobody likes you.” Employee 1 now starts being mean and abusive to employee 2 and encourages others to do the same until the employee raises the level of his performance.

Look, are we all adults or is this something that happens on elementary school playgrounds? We need to use adult intellect to solve workplace problems. Do any of us know employee 2’s breaking point? How much can he suffer before he starts drinking heavily, goes to the car to get his gun, commits suicide? Whose problem will it be when he breaks?


Yale psychologist, Stanley Milgram did a now famous study that highlighted bullying and how it might work in some corporate cultures. The study showed that most people with only a small amount of encouragement especially from someone in charge will commit very heinous bullying as part of a culture of peer pressure. Milgram noted that people do not need a lot of pressure to mistreat others, especially if they believe the others are not performing up to the standards.

The key to breaking up this peer pressure bullying culture starts at the very top of the corporate pyramid. But too often that person at the top of the pyramid for whatever reasons, possibly because they are power-mad or power-tripping, is the chief proponent of the bullying culture to harass and get rid of people they don’t like. The truth we have seen in these cases proves that more than likely who the boss likes and who they don’t like has very little if nothing to do with performance and has everything to do with just being the kind of person that they get along with the most and being the kind of person who will always cave-in to the status quo and the culture of peer pressure.


While unacceptable and not normal for a workplace, you would be hard pressed to find anyone who has never witnessed some form of workplace bullying. It happens so regularly that we dismiss it like the other line managers where Kerwin and Mario worked. What did the line managers say to dismiss Mario’s bullying? They said he’s got some maturing to do. They said he’s a jerk. Did any one of them call Mario what he was, a bully? Did any one of the other line managers show compassion for Mario’s employees and take action to do something about Mario’s bullying? And what about Kerwin? When Mario wrote something on someone else’s face, what did Kerwin and the other employees do about that? Then again, what if they in fact reported it to upper management and upper management did nothing about it? Turns out, someone once wrote “loser” on Mario’s face when he was a salesrep.



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Don’t hire bullies. The most predictive factor in whether or not a person is going to be a bully is if they have already been one. Do your homework and research employees and managers before you let them in the door. Nothing will spoil your workplace faster than a bully, so invest the right resources and time in this.

Don’t promote bullies. Don’t incentivize bad behavior.

Don’t hesitate to let bullies go. Reduction in force, lay-offs? Check the complaint files and start with bullies and other policy violators. If you need to keep them, reassign them to work that is less likely to help them be bullies. If you want to change the culture, start by replacing bad managers…set an example at that level first.

A coworker of mine, a lateral line manager, was a known bully. She was just a mean witch to all her employees. Eventually, the company transferred her to the research team to work solo on research projects. No more employees for her, but that was only after four years of high turnover, a huge number of complaints, and thereby losing all the great people hired to be on her team, not to mention the bad company reputation those employees shared when they were gone. Losing talented employees is a massive negative cost to a business operation. Out goes the talent and the organizational intelligence and in comes people who don’t have a choice to work some place better.

Don’t give in to bullies. Don’t reinforce bullying behaviors. I stood in line at the ticket counter for an airline and a man in front of me seemed to be losing his mind. He was late and missed his flight and he was so irate, I just knew they would call security. I even stepped back some so there would be no mistaking who the asshole was when security showed up. Much to my surprise, the ticket person did not call security. She gave the man everything he wanted based on what he was screaming about and then comped him several upgrades and points, just like that. I was floored.

When I got to the counter I asked to be likewise comped. The lady said she couldn’t do that. I said, “It’s interesting how that man acted like a complete ass and jerk and got everything he wanted, but nice people get nothing.” The lady gave me a chit for a free adult beverage.

Don’t work for bad companies. Investigate the company you are applying for a position with. I had a job interview with a company once and two weeks before the job interview, I stopped by the company unannounced and just asked for some information and assistance. I could tell from the minute I walked into their front door that the place was being run like a sweat shop. Everyone I saw looked depressed. Everyone had their heads down and basically seemed as if they were waiting for the bell to ring so they could get the hell out of there. I checked a few websites and found several lists of employee complaints.

During the interview, I asked very careful questions about what I found. They said they needed to bring in new managers to help bring about a culture change and they needed people who could help turn things around and help lift employee morale and improve employee engagement. The job would have paid more, but I took a pass on it. I just didn’t need to put myself in a job that looked like a shark tank. It just didn’t look good. I would rather come in on the other side of a culture change. I told myself to check back there in a few years.

I had a chance to get another job and the hiring official finally got around to interviewing me at about 9pm on a weekday. I admitted to the hiring official that I had trouble with the fact that she was still in the office at 9pm. I wanted to know if that was normal. Is the job a 9-5 job or is more expected, weekends, holidays? She tried to explain that the company was behind on a lot of its goals and so working late was a temporary matter. She also tried to encourage me that someone with my background and expertise should be able to keep up with the work and get out each evening at a reasonable time.

I decided to pass on that job too. If the company puts that kind of pressure on high level managers, what kind of pressure do they put on rank and file employees? The job would have paid more and came with a few extra perks, such as tuition reimbursement, but it seemed to me the extra pay and perks were to make up for the not so spectacular workplace and environment.

What if the company provided a way for applicants to stop by and see the workplace in action, to talk to their potential manager, to speak with employees to find out what kind of workplace, team, and what kind of manager they would be working for? The last employee I hired asked to do this. I thought, “She’s a smart one. She’ll be impressed with what we’ve got going on here.” She came by, a one-day field trip, full disclosure, and later accepted my job offer.


Strategies for the Employee

Tip: Do all of these together.

The number one strategy for dealing with a bad workplace situation is to look for a new job. Keep moving. Keep working on your credentials. Keep working on your next career option. If you sense the workplace is counterproductive and not up to your expectations, start shopping around and testing the waters. You don’t HAVE TO work there.

Talk to the people you know and ask them how they like working at their companies. Ask them if they think you should apply. Ask them if they are happy there. Check the internet. Mario’s company was so bad, that employees had started an online site for posting day to day complaints about all the shenanigans going on there. Check Twitter. Check the internet.

The next strategy is to consider waiting things out where you work. How often do bad actors come and go where you work? If mangers and team members change jobs every three years, then optimistically maybe you are less than three years away from having a new great manager or new great team member. I have done this before, and it was a good thing, and I have tried to wait things out and things eventually got worse. Lately, I personally won’t wait things out. If I find myself in a bad place, I immediately will start looking for and working on getting to a better place. Maybe because I’m older and I’m getting a sense that life is too short to go to work everyday at a hell hole.

As an employee, you should have a file that you keep. If something in the workplace happens, you should make sure you are keeping track of that. You need to keep track of coworker and supervisor issues. Someone sends you an awful email, add it to your file. Someone gives you bad instructions and then blames you later, keep all of that in your file. Someone likes to steal all the credit while deflecting all the blame, keep track of this. A coworker sabotages your food left in the fridge, track it, take a picture of it, and hang on to the info because you never know when you’ll need it. Your supervisor keeps making jokes about you that are not professional, keep notes, write down who all the witnesses are, and save the info for later. When workplace bullies cause you to see a doctor or lawyer or mental health service or even your pastor, keep track of it. Keep a journal, keep a file, keep all the evidence, and keep the info current.

The next strategy is to work the system. Make sure you understand your company’s policies and procedures; make sure you follow them. Make sure you do your part to help the company make the right call.

Another strategy to deal with workplace bullying is to seek the aide of coworkers. Form a coalition, a team, a protective league. There’s strength in numbers. Ask your other coworkers to help you deal with the bully. Ask your manager to help you.

Before a team meeting, call for a small pre-meeting and ask very specifically for coworkers to show solidarity against the bully or bullies. You could possibly meet with the bully and ask them one on one to cut it out. Ask for a meeting with your supervisor. Ask for a meeting with the bully’s supervisor. If the bully is a supervisor, ask for a meeting with the bully’s supervisor. Ask for third-party mediation.

As tough a guy as I think I am, there are people I have to work with that I usually coordinate and organize the work so there are other people around to help keep us from clashing too much. Consider balancing out your teams and not putting bullies in a place where they will have too much influence. Know your people. Know who can work well together and who can’t. One of my employees didn’t take any shit from bullies and was just a joy to watch when bullies tried their crap. I liked to pair up the bullies to work with her, because she had the answer for just about anything they pulled. Let your boss know who you work best with and who you don’t. Make sure you know who your employees work best with and who they don’t.

Continue to use the company chain of command to make others aware of the problem. You may have to speak to three or more higher levels of management to get someone to take your matter seriously. So don’t stop if you find resistance with the first discussion of the matter. Your strategy is to remove the corporate excuse that no one knew the person was a bully and if they had known they would have surely done something about it.

Go online and research tips, strategies, and answers to questions you have about workplace bullying. You will find a wealth of information about what to do as a company, a bullying target, and as a witness to bullying.

Additionally, be ready to talk to an attorney, even if it’s just to ask questions. HR professionals and business consultants are also dependable resources for asking questions. You may just need these resources to check to see if you’re dealing with a tough hard-nosed person, or if you’re dealing with someone who has crossed the line.

Peruse the websites for the EEOC (www.eeoc.gov), the US Department of Labor’s Civil Rights office (www.dol.gov/ofccp), your state and local government, and the Better Business Bureau (www.bbb.org).

Lastly, don’t dismiss the option to take your situation public. There are a number of community activists groups, chambers of commerce, and even local news agencies that can help when things get really bad.


Bullying the bullies, does it ever work?

It hasn’t been my experience that out bullying the bully solves the problem. Is this the same thing as forming a coalition or a league of coworkers? No. Forming a coalition to deal with a workplace bully is another form of peer pressure. In most cases, when a bully sees solidarity among his or her targets or peers, the bully will back down, they back off. The coalition works to encourage better behavior from the bully. Solidarity is a signal to the bully that aggressive intimidation isn’t working.

However, trying to out bully the bully usually leads to a game of one-upmanship. Things can quickly escalate until both sides have violated enough company policies eventually they are both let go. What usually works the best is to rat out the bully and do it fast, do it often, and do it consistently. Tell someone, and then tell somebody else, and then tell someone else. Then get your coalition to start telling people and keep ratting out the bully until someone does something about it. Bullies can be popular in corporate environments right up until they start to be the source of lots of complaints. As complaints start to pile up, the bullying can only be seen as counterproductive, a risk and a potential high liability cost to the company.


In the Jonathan Martin case, lawyers, consultants, media pressure, and accountable corporate leaders ensured appropriate actions were taken before tragedy struck. While plenty of people were embarrassed, the parties ultimately reached agreeable solutions. Fortunately resolutions were reached before something more tragic happened.


Once inside Mario’s office, Kerwin yelled at Mario, shoving his desk and kicking over his trashcan. He then walked out of Mario’s office and rode the elevator up one level to the corporate office. There he entered the CEO’s office and placed his empty 38 Special in the CEO’s inbox and took a seat, sitting there with the word “Loser” written in permanent ink on his face. The CEO had Kerwin escorted away and placed him on paid administrative leave.

Kerwin filed a complaint. Outside investigators were called in. Weeks before investigators arrived onsite, employees staged a full walkout, which was covered by local news agencies. Investigators uncovered a litany of problems. The company settled with all complainants for a total of $1,200,000 split between 30 employees. How do you think it would look for your career to have a $1.2mil settlement against your company for your immature behaviors?

The company Kerwin worked for then implemented an aggressive policy on bullying, requiring training for all levels of employees in all of its divisions. The company fired Mario, two other line managers, and Mario’s supervisor. Did they throw them under the bus? Yes. The company voluntarily agreed to perform checks in all of its divisions nationwide and settle complaints when found.


I sat in my office one day with my door closed. Jimmie opened my door without knocking and started yelling at me. He slammed the door after walking in, then slammed his fist on my desk, and kicked a dent in my trashcan. I didn’t hear a word of what Jimmie had to say. I called building security and they escorted him out of the building and I placed him on administrative leave. I eventually served him with a week of unpaid leave. When he returned to work I warned him that any further behavior like that would result in escalated actions from me.

My boss initially accused me of overreacting to the issue. He said Jimmy was probably harmless. I informed my boss that I had adhered to company policy. He wasn’t familiar with the policy. I told my boss that if he thought Jimmie was okay, then he could assign Jimmie to work for him. He didn’t want to do that. He told me that he had known Jimmie for years and that’s just how Jimmie is. He gets a little hot around the collar at times, but he’s just blowing off steam.

I insisted to my boss that I had every right to come to work and not feel threatened by my employees. My boss laughed at that, commenting that I was so much bigger than Jimmie. How could I feel threatened by a smaller man? I had to remind my boss about the company policies and remind him that no part of my job description states that I should ever have to defend myself from a threat while at work. The company policy stated the appropriate response was to call security if I felt threatened. I encouraged my boss that I would treat all threats the same way until Jimmie got the message. After a few more write-ups for threatening behavior against me and other employees, Jimmie was facing a 30-day suspension followed by termination. Jimmie quit rather than having the termination on his record.


I spoke to a young lady about her complaint of sexual assault. She described how she went to her manager’s apartment and then something happened. I called the manager in to hear his side of the story. He said, “I already know what this is about and you can talk to my attorney.” He handed me his attorney’s business card.

I called the attorney. He said I was harassing his client and there were no merits to the complaint against the man.

I then called the victim back and she told me she wanted to rescind her complaint. It took some time, but I found out that the attorney had called her. He threatened to drag her into court and she could explain why she was at the man’s apartment and she could deal with what her husband would say when he found out and he said he would track down any old boyfriends of hers and get them to testify about her character. He threatened that she would lose and he would get the court to make her pay his client’s attorney fees.

Since this isn’t a discussion about Law, I’ll spare you the full details, but threatening (bullying) a witness like this is a serious violation of legal practice standards. It took a long time, but I dealt with the bad lawyer and the bad guy. The lawyer who soon also attempted to bully me with rambling cavernous diatribes and then attempted to impugn my own integrity was investigated by the appropriate bar association and sanctioned and suspended. Turns out, my complaint wasn’t the only one against him. The bad guy went to jail for 25 years because I found a number of other victims to testify against him. All it would have taken for this bad lawyer and this bad guy to keep getting away with what he was doing was for me to cave in to a bully, even for just a little.


Bullying happens. It will likely keep happening. We all need to know it when we see it and we all need to insist on better workplace behavior. No one looks at an awful workplace and says, “Yeah! Give me some of that!” Even bullies don’t like working with or for bullies.

We all want to work in a workplace that’s fair, where we are treated well, and where human dignity is respected. Workplace aggression, bullying, and abuse are an epidemic today, but they are not supposed to be the norm for the American workplace. Americans should expect civility, synergy, harmony, and synchronicity from a well-run company. Bullying and environments that foster bullying are counterproductive. Harmony, synergy, and happy employees enhance production. Still, bullies plague environment after environment and it never takes more than one or two to ruin it for others.

While many of us grew up at some point and learned adult means for dealing with challenges, many people are still back at the schoolyard playground somewhere stuck in their childhood using mean words and shoving and big bullying kids get to make all the rules.


Time, training, proper incentives with disincentives, and more so than anything else, leadership, is the difference-maker.




US Dept of Labor OSHA

The CDC and Workplace Violence

American Psychological Association

National Workplace Bullying Coalition

National Institute for the Prevention of Workplace Violence


Please review my Checklist for Model Companies in the next chapter.



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Checklist for Model Companies


p<>{color:#000;}. The company has a strong “No Bullying” policy and deals very seriously with instances where employees are abused or mistreated.

p<>{color:#000;}. The company provides all employees with training about forms of bullying that are not tolerated such as cyber-bullying, and bullying outside the workplace.

p<>{color:#000;}. The company reads their managers the riot act about prohibited practices.

p<>{color:#000;}. The company provides managers and employees with routine training related to treating employees with respect and dignity.

p<>{color:#000;}. The company provides its managers with management training on how to foster a work environment of trust and empowerment while still ensuring the best performance from employees.

p<>{color:#000;}. The company has a widely known and easy way for employees to report or discuss workplace problems.

p<>{color:#000;}. The company’s policy does not require the person being bullied to confront the bully in any way before reporting an incident.

p<>{color:#000;}. The company’s policy includes required remedial training when problems are identified.

p<>{color:#000;}. The company policy requires added higher-level supervision where employee problems warrant it.

p<>{color:#000;}. The company’s policy allows for the expulsion or suspension of bullies whether they are managers or employees if training and added supervision fails to work.

p<>{color:#000;}. The company’s policy allows for the reassignment of managers and employees to prevent further acts of workplace aggression.

p<>{color:#000;}. The company provides training at all levels related to employee engagement and preventing harassment and hostile work environments.

p<>{color:#000;}. The company uses anonymous surveys or anonymous online systems to provide additional avenues for employees to let Corporate Accountability Leaders know if something is awry from its policies.

p<>{color:#000;}. The company uses background checks when hiring employees and managers to know if they have workplace complaints filed against them.

p<>{color:#000;}. The company maintains complaint information in its employee files.

p<>{color:#000;}. The company conducts unbiased investigations into reported problems.

p<>{color:#000;}. The company does not delay taking action and keeps track of all actions taken.

p<>{color:#000;}. The company protects the identity of victims and complainants.

p<>{color:#000;}. The company follows its policies.

p<>{color:#000;}. The company chooses to help victims rather help perpetrators.



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I’d call this a Mickey Mouse operation, but then I would really hate to insult Mickey Mouse.

~Bobby Knight


If I hadn’t been so incredibly hard on you, then you would have amounted to nothing. So you should thank me for being as hard on you as I was for all the years you were growing up.

~My Mother


People are basically the same the world over. Everybody wants the same things – to be happy, to be healthy, to be at least reasonably prosperous, and to be secure. They want friends, peace of mind, good family relationships, and hope that tomorrow is going to be even better than today.

~Zig Ziglar


All of us deserve to be encouraged.

Take the time to encourage the people around you.

If all you have to offer someone is criticism, the problem is YOU…not them.

But be encouraged, it’s an easy problem to fix.

~Van Allen


Pressure makes diamonds, but it can also make an awful mess.

~Van Allen


I’m an Egalitarian. I believe in better inclusion, opportunity, equality, diversity, fairness, security, and I believe in mutual respect of human dignity.

~Van Allen


You’ll get mixed up, of course, as you already know. You’ll get mixed up with many strange birds as you go. So be sure when you step. Step with care and great tact and remember that Life’s a Great Balancing Act. Just never forget to be dexterous and deft. And never mix up your right foot with your left.

~Dr. Seuss; Oh the Places You’ll Go


Thank you for reading my work. If you enjoyed it, please leave positive reviews with your favorite eBook retailers.

~Van Allen

About the Author


I’m a former Captain in the US Marines. In my 21-year military career, I developed expertise in both combat training and criminal investigations. I have served as a Senior Investigator, Legal Advisor, Recruiting Officer, Civil Rights Investigator, and Program Director. While in the Marines, I completed a bachelor’s degree in Psychology from Texas A&M University. Later I completed a Masters in I/O Psychology from The Chicago School of Professional Psychology. Originally from Houston, Texas and currently residing in Frisco, Texas, I fancy myself a secret physics, statistics, and data nerd. I’m also known today for being a part-time tennis strategy and coaching genius…by my kids…sometimes. If you ever want to talk about business strategies, criminal law, or zombies and conspiracy theories, drop me a line.


If you have stories about workplace bullies or if you would like to share ideas with me or get my advice, send me an email. I would love to hear from you. Just remember, there’s more of us than there are of them. Let’s help each other.



[email protected]

Follow on Twitter @GrProject43X

Follow on FaceBook/VanAllen



Previously Published


Hire the Right People and Win Big



Zombie Outbreak Survival Guide

I Tawt I Taw a Putty Tat


Jasper and Van

The Old Man in the Hospital


Coming soon:

A Civil Rights Case Study – A tell-all case study from a recent investigation

The Secret Society of the Great Pumpkin – A memoir of an investigation at Texas A&M

Van’s First Bike – A memoir about my first bike

Clickers – Alien Invasion (full length novel due in 2017)


These eBooks are distributed by Shakespir and available at iBooks, BN, and Shakespir.com.



Workplace Bullying: A Growing Epidemic?

Copyright 2016 Van Allen

Published by Screaming Weasel Productions

Workplace Bullying: A Growing Epidemic

This book is a technical aide for those who face corporate bullying, workplace bullying, and workplace aggression. Many victims of workplace bullying become violent. Some victims can suffer from post traumatic stress disorder (PTSD). There’s enough information here to help people who feel like victims at work. There’s also enough information here to help company leaders begin to create the kind of workplace we don’t hear enough about: harmonious, synergistic, synchronistic well-run places to work, places where bullying isn’t tolerated, employees feel valued, and production results exceed goals. Guess what, these sorts of workplaces are not myths. They are real possibilities. Chapters: -Workplace Bullying: A Growing Epidemic -Bullying: A Major Public Health Concern -Workplace Bullying: Take Action -Prevention -Checklist for Model Companies

  • Author: Van Allen
  • Published: 2016-08-29 00:35:11
  • Words: 13218
Workplace Bullying: A Growing Epidemic Workplace Bullying: A Growing Epidemic