Bully Bill Blocked

Remember the anti-bullying bill New York legislators proposed a while back? Here’s a refresher..

If legislators have their way it might soon become illegal to be a bully boss – well at least in New York anyway. The legislation in question defines a bully boss as “someone who is motivated by malice and who is destructive and injurious.”  And, if approved by the NY state assembly next year the bill would allow bullied employees to sue for damages.

Well, the bill died in the New York Assembly Labor Committee. The bill would have created a cause of action for bullying in the workplace, but opponents say the bill was ill-defined and overly broad.

Bullying is tough to define and even tougher to prove. Maybe legislation would have deterred a few bully bosses and employees, but odds are, probably not many as we’d like to think. In my opinion, the problem is two-fold. It boils down to rude, arrogant, and usually incompetent people, choosing to make the lives of others a living hell – just because they can. Corporations and HR Managers who choose to turn a blind eye, compound the problem by simultaneously empowering bullies and bad bosses while stripping employees of power, pride and morale. Unless and until businesses consistently nurture positive workplaces where good management and respect are the order of the day, no amount of legislation, passed or not, will make a bit of difference.

Read more about the blocked bully bill here.

Bully bosses beware

Bully bossIf legislators have their way it might soon become illegal to be a bully boss – well at least in New York anyway. The legislation in question defines a bully boss as “someone who is motivated by malice and who is destructive and injurious.”  And, if approved by the NY state assembly next year the bill would allow bullied employees to sue for damages.

The possible passage of this new law raises several questions. How clearly defined is the line between a bad boss who’s just mean and one who’s a bully? At times I’ve felt that my bad bosses behaved maliciously with the specific intent of causing mental distress.  And while I’d definitely classify one of my former bosses as a bully, the worse thing I could say about most of them is that they were absolute idiots. Mean, rude and incompetent idiots. A few of my colleagues who’d been driven to tears by these same incompetent idiots might beg to differ. In those cases, who decides whether the behavior was bullying or simply just mean?

It’ll be interesting to see what happens if the legislation actually passes. Will it have an impact on bully behavior in the workplace or will it be just one more thing employees, fearful of the repercussions, feel they need to keep quiet about?

Click here to read more about the pending legislation.

Managing the office bully

Inc. Magazine recently posted an article about managing the office bully and contacted yours truly for some advice. In the piece Raven Hill offers tips on reining in the office bully. Here’s an excerpt from the article…

How to Manage an Office Bully: Are You a Bully?

Denise Dawson, who runs the ReallyBadBoss.com blog, describes her first boss as “the worst bully,” a cursing and screaming type who preferred to rule by fear.  “We felt like prisoners more than employees,” she says. “Morale was awful. Attrition was atrocious.”
She worked at a small, family-owned company that made bikini wax products. The lowest point came when he asked another employee to model a bikini to give him a better idea of how they could improve their products. “And she wore it,” Dawson says. “None of us said anything. We were all scared of losing our jobs.”

What Dawson witnessed may be extreme, but the fear she described is not unique. Do your employees complain of random sabotage, harassment, humiliation or isolation? There’s a good chance they are being bullied.

OfficeArrow, an online community for office managers and small business owners, created a quiz to see if you are a bully. For those who fear they are in a bully’s bull’s eye, the Workplace Bullying Institute has a checklist of early bullying signs that includes an unreasonably demanding boss, “surprise” meetings designed to humiliate, retaliatory behavior, unfounded accusations of harassment, and extreme work-related stress that interferes with your health and personal life.

Read the complete article, including a definition of workplace bullying, online at Inc.com.

What’s the difference between a playground bully and a really bad boss?

bullies About two feet six inches. When I was about eight years old, a future inmate inhabiting the body of an eight year old boy and two of his future cell mates met me in the street after school. They cornered me on the sidewalk and the ringleader punched me square in the gut. I’m not sure how child bullies operate these days, but back then, at least this one, wanted to be sure I understood why he was pushing my eight year old uterus waaay back into my spinal column. In class earlier that day, I, usually very attentive and alert, put my head on my desk. My concerned teacher asked me what was wrong and when I told her I had a headache, she immediately chastised the entire class, focusing in on the future inmate.  That one, seemingly kind act on her part, led to my first memorable encounter with a bully. 

To this day I remember the physical pain and the embarrassment of being beaten up in the street. I remember the emotional hurt associated with being bullied despite having done nothing wrong. And I remember, even at that young age, thinking through my tears “this boy is going to end up in prison someday.”  Fast forward thirty years and I remember having the same feelings about one of my really bad bosses. Although much less sure that he’d end up in prison, I recognized him for the thuggish little boy he really was, picking on his employees, blaming others for his mistakes and wielding his power like a rock hard fist. At about five-six, the major difference between him and my eight year old tormentor was about two feet, six inches.

As adults, the pain of verbal bullying and the emotional hurt suffered at the hands of bad bosses while not physical, can be just as painful. Unless you’ve had to deal with a really bad boss, it’s difficult to imagine the toll it takes on your well-being and piece of mind. Until I grew the thick skin of three time really bad boss survivor, my tormented days filled with bullying bosses would end with sleepless nights worrying about what the following day would bring.  It was a vicious cycle in which I lost sleep, hope and self confidence. It wasn’t a complete loss though. I did manage to gain weight (not so good), an understanding of bullying bosses (good), and the strength to deal with other bullies who would eventually cross my path (really good).  I realized a universal truth about bullies – their bullying behavior had much more to do with them than with me.

Although it would be sweet revenge to say that my former bullies ended up fired, in jail and/or penniless, the truth is, most of my bullies are probably exactly where I left them. My playground tormenter might be in high school now, and I know for a fact that his bad boss counterpart is still tormenting souls and crafting harebrained schemes to hide his incompetence. Thankfully though, I’ve moved on. Gone are the days when an unkind word or ill conceived plan would send me reeling for days. But the memory is still there.  And believe it or not, I’m grateful for it. The memory serves as a vivid reminder of a painful position I never want to be in again.