Monday, August 31, 2009

Dear Reader

I received the following email from a blog reader. I thought I'd post my response for anyone interested in empowerment.

I need advice on how to deal with jealous bullies who will not respect personal space. I have no tolerance as I have tried to be nice and assertive but they are thick and stupid and as a result I snapped and told one to f%^& off.
How does one tolerate and be assertive when it is constantly ignored?

Dear Reader,

I am going to say some things that you may or may not like, but I feel that I need to be real and honest with you here. It is clear based on the tone of your email that you are extremely frustrated with the situation you have found yourself in. I’m certain most people respond to your question with empathy, and sympathy even. I on the other hand, am going to give you advice that might be a little hard to swallow at first.

Bullies have one motivation – to overpower you.

So take a look at yourself. This is hard. It’s hard to look at ourselves when we feel attacked by someone else. But you cannot control what others do. You can, however, learn to control your own reactions.

In order to do that, you will first need to acknowledge that while you don’t deserve to be treated this way you have indeed allowed the bully to push your buttons. Ask yourself why. Why is this person pushing your buttons? Why do you let him or her push your buttons? After all, you are in control of your own buttons aren’t you?

Next, think about your reaction to the bully. What are you communicating by doing things like using foul language? In addition, be aware of your nonverbal behavior when you are in the same room with the bully. What does your nonverbal communication say? Are you being proactive by standing with your head held high and your confidence-cap on? Or are you being reactive by blurting out unprofessional words?

Once you’ve been able to identify what part you play in the interaction with the bully, think about how you help the bully meet his or her goals. Again, the bully’s goal here is to overpower you. So how do you help the bully meet that goal? The answer is certainly not “nothing” – you are definitely doing “something”. What is it?? Once you figure that out, you can change your behavior accordingly.

Finally, you’ll need to find a way to detach yourself from these emotions you are feeling. Remember, nobody makes you feel anything – feelings are a choice. They are your choice.

You are not an innocent passerby in your own life. You absolutely have the power to change your situation. Change is a choice. Feelings and emotions are a choice. Your response to the bully is a choice. Choose wisely. The bully is playing mental games with you and you have the mental capacity to win this war. I know you do.

And, if in the end, you can’t seem to get past your anger, then it’s time to leave. Your dignity is worth way more than anything your employer is paying you.

Sunday, August 23, 2009

Regaining Productivity Lost to Workplace Bullying and Abuse

By Hugh Kingsley

In respectful workplaces, employees are more productive because they are more focused in their work. In non-respectful workplaces, the employees’ productivity may suffer as they become distracted by job security, personal financial issues, and the emotional symptoms associated with bullying and abuse. This article introduces a game to help avoid workplace bullying.

DURING an economic downturn when organizations are forced to restructure in order to survive and grow, it is easy to lose sight of the human side of change. Imposed change can lead to a dramatic increase in workplace bullying and abuse as employees become fearful of job security and changes to their job descriptions. When organisations are looking for cost savings, it would be disappointing to see those cost savings lost to the costly negative effects of workplace bullying and abuse.

A study by the United States Bureau of National Affairs concluded that the loss in productivity due to workplace bullying is five- to six-billion United States dollars a year, and a study in the United Kingdom put the number in that country at 1.3-billion pounds.

Instead, organisations could look to increasing productivity and generating competitive edge by developing respectful workplaces. These are workplaces where employees look forward to coming to work and performing the duties they are paid to do.

In respectful workplaces, employees can be more productive because they are more focused in their work. In non-respectful workplaces, the employees’ productivity is likely to suffer as they become distracted by job security, personal financial issues, and the physical and emotional symptoms associated with bullying and abuse.

This article presents a case for reducing workplace bullying and abuse through positive intervention utilising game-play and "The Respectful Workplace Game", which teaches and promotes workplace respect. Game-play is shown to be an excellent method for addressing bullying and abuse in the workplace because it offers exceptional learning transfer, is non-confrontational, non-threatening, and is cost effective.

To read the rest of the article, click here.

One rude worker poisons a whole office, study finds

OTTAWA — Rudeness aimed at just one person can spread its damage “like fire” through a workplace, causing large numbers of workers to do a lousy job and even harbour dark, murderous thoughts.

Psychologists knew a blast of rudeness would distract the immediate victim. But second-hand rudeness?

Witnesses to rudeness also suffer a loss of cognitive powers and the ability to be creative, says a study by Amir Erez, a psychologist at the University of Florida’s school of management.

It’s just bad business, he says: One toxic employee can poison a whole office with a few angry outbursts and four-letter words.

“Managers should be very concerned because the negative consequences of rudeness on the job are not limited to the person who happens to be the victim,” he said. “If five other people are watching, the effects are going to spill over into the rest of the organization.”

Three separate experiments all confirmed the same effect.

The psychologists gathered volunteers to do cognitive tests (rearranging scrambled letters to form words) and a creative test (thinking of unusual uses for a brick).

The person supervising the test was rude to one volunteer who was secretly part of the plan. “What are you, stupid? Get on with it!” he snapped, and called the volunteer unfit to hold a job in the “real world.”

After this, the rest of the volunteers had trouble unscrambling words and thinking of creative uses for a brick.

Worse, their dark sides took over.

One of the scrambled words was “demure,” but several volunteers rearranged the letters to spell “murder” — even though the letters weren’t quite right. And the new ways to use brick? “Kill people,” one suggested. Trip someone, said another. Throw it through a window, or beat people up, said others. And as they thought about attacking people, they came up with fewer useful ideas.

Their short-term memories also suffered. They were less likely to help with teamwork.

All this stunned Erez, though now that he has published the results, everyone he talks to says: Sure, I’ve seen that happen at work.

“Everybody recognizes that it happens all the time,” he said.

He calls the results “very, very disturbing because it means they (people who witness rudeness) are being hostile themselves, and they’re not aware of it. Which means it can spread like fire. They watch as somebody is rude, and they themselves are primed to be rude.

“It affects mostly the ability to do complex tasks. And in the modern organization, that is what people do. They need to do complex problems; they need to be creative.”

The study is published in a research journal, Organizational Behavior and Human Decision Processes.

Erez is moving on to the retail world, measuring how rude customers damage a worker’s ability to count money, react quickly and remember a customer’s order.

“This all surprised me, because I thought the effects would all be emotional,” he said. “But pretty much, it’s cognitive.”

Saturday, August 15, 2009

Why is it always about you?

I just finished reading the book, Why Is It Always About You? by Sandy Hotchkiss, LCSW, and it is a great book. Highly recommended.

Below are some excerpts. Go forth and feel empowered to change your situation.

Our number one tool for dealing with the Narcissist is to examine our own experiences and recognize how our reactions contribute to our discomfort. The goal is to understand what is happening and interrupt the process to protect ourselves (pg. 62).

Narcissists constantly dump – or project – unwanted parts of themselves onto other people. They then begin to behave as if others posses these unwanted pieces of themselves, and they may even succeed in getting others to feel as if they actually have those traits or feelings. What it means is that you end up being treated like the dirt they’ve brushed off their own psyches, or feeling the anger, the vulnerability, and the worthlessness that they cannot tolerate in themselves. They lob onto you, you suck it in, and for an icky while, it’s yours (pg. 64).

You cannot control what others do, but you can learn to contain your own reactions once you understand what is going on. Understanding where your feelings originally came from and accepting them as your own is the first step in protecting yourself against the toxic effects of narcissism. When you become comfortable with your own feelings, you will be able to deflect the shame that is triggered by the Narcissist.

Guidelines for Survival

1. Be aware of your feelings when in the company of someone who repeatedly evokes shame, discomfort, anger… These feelings can be excellent indicators you are in the presence of a Narcissist. Once you have recognized whom you are dealing with, you will be in a better position to defend yourself.

2. When you have uncomfortable or intense feelings in the presence of a Narcissist, ask yourself what buttons of yours are being pushed. Remember times past when you have felt this way and, from this more emotionally distant perspective, consider why you respond as you do. Don’t be afraid to look at your own narcissistic vulnerabilities, because this is exactly what will make you stronger.

3. Once you’re pretty sure you’ve identified the piece of the action that is yours, think about how your feelings help the Narcissist manage shame in some way. Try not to personalize what is happening. Although it couldn’t feel more personal, it really is not. You are just a means to an end.

4. You need to find a way to detach from the feeling of diminishment the Narcissist evokes in you. Sometimes if helps to think of this person as being two years old on the inside.

5. When deflecting the shame projected by the Narcissist, resist the urge to retaliate. Don’t try to challenge or enlighten this person either. The Narcissist has a lot at stake in keeping unconscious processes unconscious. If you try to tamper with this, you may escalate the situation to your own detriment or discomfort.

6. It needs to be enough for you to know that you have put the projections back where they belong in your own mind, regardless of how the Narcissist sees the situation. If you have trouble letting that be enough, you may need more personalized assistance to work on this in greater depth. A competent therapist can help.

Wednesday, August 12, 2009

Invite to attend our complimentary webinar

Create a Healthy Workplace: Understand Workplace Bullying & Combat the Damage They Cause
September 17, 2009
9 am – 10 am PST
Cost: $0
Obtain more information and register at

Learning Objectives:
•An understanding of workplace bullying, damage caused to targets and the organization, and why it’s legal
•Insight on bullies’ and their targets
•Knowledge in the system of bullying and why it happens at work
•Knowledge in how to determine how much a bully is costing the organization
•Techniques for dealing with the bully on an interpersonal level
•Techniques for a sustainable organizational culture shift

Who Should Attend: Human resource professionals, workplace learning and performance professionals, business owners, managers, team leaders, supervisors, coaches, EAP’s, union leaders and representatives, conflict management professionals and consultants.

In Partnership with The Vianova Group

Monday, August 10, 2009

National Bullying Helpline campaign will continue
Mike Berry
10 August 2009

The National Bullying Helpline has said it will continue to spearhead anti-bullying awareness campaigns following the closure of fellow charity The Andrea Adams Trust due to lack of funding.

The Andrea Adams Trust shut last month after its funding arrangements became unsustainable. The trust said it was forced to scrap a £65,000-a-year national awarness campaign to ban bullying at work after some of the UK's largest companies ignored pleas to provide funding.

But The National Bullying Helpline charity insisted National Ban Bullying day on 7 November and National Ban Bullying week commencing 16 November, would proceed.

Christine Pratt, chief executive and founder of The National Bullying Helpline, said: "Just because The Andrea Adams Trust has failed to secure funding does not mean this is an end to the national ban bullying campaigns across the UK in November each year - in memory of the late Andrea Adams and the late Tim Field who were the first two pioneers who campaigned against workplace bullying."

Sunday, August 9, 2009

What to say in an interview when you left your last job because of a bully

I received the following question from one of my readers. I thought it was a great question so I'm sharing it with you.

I quit my job because I was bullied. Before I did though, I wrote the owners a letter describing my experience with my supervisor and they put her on warning. There is some satisfaction there, but I still could no longer work for her. I need to know what to say in a interview about the experience. Can you help?


As a former HR professional I can tell you that interviewers are always looking for a few things, no matter what position and no matter what industry. Those things are:

* that you can demonstrate you have initiative and company loyalty
* you are solution-oriented and forward thinking (that means when you have a problem, you attempt to find a solution before bringing the problem to your manager)
* you have a long list of accomplishments, rather than job tasks, to share during the interview and on your resume
* you can work in a team

During the entire interview you should be focusing on these four things. Every answer you give should provide proof that you hold these credentials. This is important because if you can prove you have initiative, are solution-oriented, are goal oriented (can achieve things), and can work in a team, what happened at your last employer won't really matter to the prospective employer because you'll make a good looking candidate.

Now comes the part during the interview where they ask about why you left your previous employer. There are a few ways you can handle it.

The first is to simply say that you weren’t receiving growth opportunities and needed to move on. This is not a very informative answer and may lead to more probing from the interviewer. It could also communicate that you are hiding something or holding back. Not good.

The second option is to provide some other reason un-related to the bully. This is unethical however, and therefore not a desired response either.

The third choice is a bit more intricate, but it demonstrates you meet the four universal criteria for a potential employee, and above all shows that you are honest. You didn't provide details of your own abuse at your previous employer, so I don't know your particular situation, but here's an example of how you might answer the question: Can you tell me why you left your previous organization?

I am a go-getter. I really like opportunities to do new projects and learn new things, and unfortunately my previous employer wasn't offering those types of opportunities to me anymore (demonstrates initiative).

For example, during my first year at the organization I developed a new procedure for handling, documenting and tracking customer complaints; conceived and was responsible for the internal company newsletter; and created and managed a file clerk position (demonstrates accomplishments). After awhile, however, these opportunities to contribute positively to the organization seemed to get taken away by one manager in particular.

I really believe I put effort into resolving this manager’s and my differences directly. I enjoyed my job and working for the company, and of course I wanted to be sure I was getting along with my manager (demonstrates you are a team player). When talking with the manager about our relationship didn’t seem to work I spoke to the company owners about it (demonstrates initiative and that you are solution-oriented). I suggested to them that I move teams so our relationship didn't get in the way of production and customer service (demonstrates company loyalty).

Unfortunately, the owners didn't seem to think this person's behavior was all that bad and only put her on warning for her behavior once I’d left the company. But, ultimately, while I got along with everyone else at the organization (demonstrates you are a team player) this particular individual really made working for that organization difficult and I decided leaving was my best option.

In my current job search I am really looking for an organization that appreciates and even praises initiative and hard work, because those are two of my best qualities (demonstrates initiative).

There are a few other things I’d like to add here.

It is ALWAYS a good idea to avoid bad mouthing your previous employer. Your response to the question about why you left must be polite, eloquent and honest. Talk around any negative feelings you have about the company and the bully, the new employer doesn’t need to hear it. And, they’ll wonder what will happen if they rub you the wrong way and you leave – are you going to bad mouth them too?

Second, always, always, always make a point of building rapport with the interviewer from the time you meet and shake hands. The interview should flow more like a conversation than an interview, and if it does, then you know you have built rapport. You can do this by being relaxed and conversational, and by asking the interviewer questions about themselves. If you spot a picture on his or her desk from Lake Tahoe, for example, mention that you’ve always wanted to go there and ask him or her how the trip was.

Also, mirror the interviewer’s body language slightly. This builds a subconscious liking for you because you seem similar to the interviewer – something we look for in everyone we meet. If he takes a sip of water, you take a sip of water. If she crosses her legs, you cross yours. Don’t be a copy cat, obviously, but follow along every once in a while.

If you build rapport with interviewers then they will find you to be a positive person that they like, and one that couldn’t possibly be responsible for what happened at the last company.

Monday, August 3, 2009

GreatPlaceJobs Q2 Employment Study: Great Workplaces Continue to Outperform and Weather the Recession Better

GreatPlaceJobs is excited to share the updated results from our ground-breaking study comparing layoff trends between top-rated and other Fortune 100 companies. The new findings, which consist of data from the first half of 2009, continue to clearly demonstrate that the biggest employers are not necessarily the best.

The study shows that the nation’s largest companies conducted layoffs at a rate of almost twice that of a group of companies recognized as great workplaces. Only 44% of excellent employers laid off workers from the beginning of 2008, while a shocking 86% of the Fortune 100 companies have laid off employees in the past year and a half.

The revenue growth rate at great workplace companies in Q1 2009 was 2.3% better than the rest of the Fortune 100, and the average stock price of the excellent employers was 1.1% higher as of June 30, 2009 (compared to January 1, 2009) than typical Fortune 100 companies.

“Despite the fact that the award-winning employers have also been hurt by the current recession, most remain committed and loyal to their employees and have not included layoffs in their cost-cutting actions,” said Miriam Salpeter, co-founder of GreatPlaceJobs. “I always advise my job-seeking clients to focus on identifying an organization to target, and this new information further confirms the fact that great workplaces, such as those who post opportunities on GreatPlaceJobs, are a terrific choice.”

The GreatPlaceJobs Great Workplace Employment Study compared the employment, financial and operating data of the Fortune 100’s largest U.S. companies with the Fortune 100 Best Companies to Work For. Though both groups suffered lower revenue levels in Q1 2009 compared to Q1 2008, the average year-over-year revenue growth rate in Q1 2009 was 2.3% better at the great workplace companies. The excellent employers saw their Q1 2009 revenues decline by 7.1% from the previous year’s quarterly revenues, while revenues at the Fortune 100 largest companies decreased by 9.4% from Q1 2008.

A clear sign of the great employers’ competitive advantage and resilience is evident in the fact that nine of the Fortune 100 largest companies from 2008 filed for bankruptcy or were bailed out by the U.S. government in 2008, while none of the great workplace companies failed on this magnitude.
A complete copy of the GreatPlaceJobs Great Workplace Employment Study and additional information about the methodology may be requested via email: For more information about GreatPlaceJobs, visit To receive regular updates about new and interesting data and reports, visit and/or subscribe to the GreatPlaceJobs blog ( and follow us on Twitter (

About GreatPlaceJobs
GreatPlaceJobs offers the largest collection of job listings exclusively from award-winning companies that have been recognized as “great workplaces.” The database currently includes tens of thousands of open jobs from excellent employers from across the U.S. GreatPlaceJobs offers job seekers both free and premium subscriptions to its database of job listings.